David Bowie performing Ziggy Stardust live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973. Taken from Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture.
David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars, The Ziggy Stardust Tour, Leeds University / Kirkstall Rolarena, Leeds, June 1973
The year was 1973 and I was a 19 year old Town Planning Undergraduate Student at Leeds. It was the year Britain joined the EEC and the year the IRA brought their bombs to England. Strikes were common place and unemployment and inflation were on the rise. It was not a time of great positivity in the UK but for a student exploring independent life, with an actual ‘student grant’ (yes a grant not a loan) and a part time job to get by on, it was an exciting and optimistic time.
Musically, around this time in 1973, Pink Floyd released ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and No. 1 in the charts was Slade with ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’. On the downside we had to endure other chart toppers such as Donny Osmond and his brother Little Jimmy, Gary Glitter (twice), David Cassidy and Peters and Lee.
So far, apart from the Stones and Led Zeppelin, no artist/band had impressed me like David Bowie. His music was special, different. His image, his new alter ego ‘Ziggy’, ethereal. (I Love Bowie’s description of Ziggy Stardust – ‘Japanese Theatre meets American Science Fiction’.) I have to say it took me a little time back then to feel comfortable raving about a skinny exhibitionist in make-up and a leotard and who looked a bit like a girl. But hell, he had charisma and anyway some blokes I knew had started wearing earrings and make-up. Also, his band, the Spiders from Mars, led by guitarist Mick Ronson were awesome. My LP was already well played…’at maximum volume’ as instructed on the back of the sleeve.
The hype around Bowie and the Ziggy Stardust tour certainly worked on me. As soon as I heard Bowie was coming to Leeds University, I got my ticket. I couldn’t wait.
But, alas…….on the day of the planned concert, I heard an announcement on Yorkshire TV that Bowie had called it off. Apparently, at at the soundcheck/rehearsal it was decided the stage was too small. What? This was a venue played by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who and Pink Floyd so my first thought was, ‘What a prima donna. F***k you Bowie, give me my money back’ (which, incidentally, he did later on).
I read somewhere that the size of the stage may not actually have been the reason for the cancellation and that the band had tour fatigue and were indisposed in their hotel. Whatever! I missed the Gig.
But, on June 29th, four weeks and another cancellation later, Bowie returned to Leeds to play at the Kirkstall Rolerena, a former ice-rink that had been converted to roller skating.
And I missed that also, because I had booked a week’s holiday with some friends in Bournemouth. A few of my fellow students did make it to the concert and they said it was unbelievable, fantastic etc.. I remember how they waxed lyrical for weeks afterwards about the staging, the lighting, Bowie’s singing, how tight the band were, Bowie’s costumes, his stage movement, the crowd participation and not forgetting the girl fans. I’ve since heard other accounts from people who were there who said the sound wasn’t the best and the venue was a shit-hole but that didn’t make me feel any better for missing Bowie smashing it back then.
Sadly, despite his long career and amazing future performances I never did get to see him live.
Here’s what I missed..
Hang On to Yourself
Watch That Man
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
All the Young Dudes
Oh! You Pretty Things
The Jean Genie
The Width of a Circle
Let’s Spend the Night Together
White Light/White Heat