The most recent Christmas issue of French Vogue, dedicated to ‘Noël en Musique’, had on its cover a photograph of Kate Moss done up as Ziggy Stardust. The picture is a monument to improbable staying power. It’s more than two decades since Moss was photographed by Corinne Day for the Face, those instantly iconic black and white images of a skinny 16-year-old on Camber Sands, wearing no make-up and very few clothes, grinning through her freckles and pointy teeth, all at once so English, so ordinary and so glamorous. And it’s four decades since David Bowie – wearing a lot of make-up and very few clothes, grinning through his pointy teeth, all at once so English, so ordinary and so glamorous – released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. ‘Five years, that’s all we’ve got,’ he sang on the album’s opening number. Nobody in 1972, least of all Bowie himself, could have predicted where he would be in five years’ time, let alone forty. Yet Bowie’s towering and contradictory status, as both the most derivative and the most influential British pop musician after the Beatles, seems unassailable: Lady Gaga, Hot Chip and C Spencer Yeh owe as much to him now as the Sex Pistols, Kate Bush and Joy Division did in the late 1970s.
LRB 5 April 2012 | PDF Download