Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a 1973 documentary and concert movie by D.A. Pennebaker. It features David Bowie and his backing group The Spiders from Mars performing at the Hammersmith Odeon, 3 July 1973. The DVD release was later retitled Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture.
Bowie had taken the stage persona of Ziggy Stardust, a science fiction based, theatrical, enigmatic, androgynous character and produced two albums during this period. The evening of 3 July was the last show in the English concert tour promoting Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane and the 60th gig in a tour of Britain that started on 12 May, though an American tour was already being booked for the autumn. Very few in Bowie’s entourage knew of his decision to drop the Ziggy persona and cancel performing for a while; in the band only Mick Ronson had been told a few days before the final night.
At the end of the evening, aptly just before the song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”, Bowie announced that, Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do. The phrasing was deliberately ambiguous, but most of the audience and many London newspapers and magazines took it to mean that Bowie was retiring from music. In fact, he had killed off his Ziggy persona but not his music career.
Pennebaker had been asked to come to London and film just a few songs but when he saw the first of the two London shows he realised that “there was a full-length film here asking to be made”. Though he had only scant knowledge of Bowie’s music, apart from Space Oddity, he was impressed by the star’s onstage charisma and the range of his songs and quickly prepared to shoot the entire second gig, without knowing that it would include a dramatic final coup. Jeff Beck participated on three songs (two of them forming a medley) midway through the concert but was edited out from the final cut at his own wish. The expanded version of “The Width of a Circle” was shortened by a few minutes for the soundtrack on vinyl and CD.
30th Anniversary DVD[
Opening Credits/Intro – Incorporating Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony arranged and performed by Wendy Carlos from A Clockwork Orange
1 Hang on to Yourself” (Bowie) from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
2 Moonage Daydream” (Bowie) from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
3 Ziggy Stardust” (Bowie) from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
4 Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” (Bowie) from the album Space Oddity
5 All the Young Dudes” (Bowie) originally penned for Mott the Hoople
6 Oh You Pretty Things” (Bowie) from the album Hunky Dory
7 Watch That Man” (Bowie) from the album Aladdin Sane
8 Changes” (Bowie) from the album Hunky Dory
9 Space Oddity” (Bowie) from the album Space Oddity
10 My Death” (Jacques Brel, Mort Shuman) from the Brel album La Valse à Mille Temps originally written by Brel as “La Mort” and translated into English by Shuman and Eric Blau
11 Cracked Actor” (Bowie) from the album Aladdin Sane
12 Time” (Bowie) from the album Aladdin Sane
13 The Width of a Circle” (Bowie) from the album The Man Who Sold the World
14 Band introduction – Spoken word
15 Let’s Spend the Night Together” (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) from the Bowie album 16 Aladdin Sane originally performed by The Rolling Stones
17 Suffragette City” (Bowie) from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
18 White Light/White Heat” (Lou Reed) from The Velvet Underground album White Light/White Heat
19 Farewell Speech – Spoken word
20 Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (Bowie) from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
End Credits – Incorporating Pomp and Circumstance by Edward Elgar
The following is the official press release:
“Cowboy Pictures today announced the theatrical re-release of a Pennebaker-Hegedus Films and RZO Music’s ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, featuring David Bowie as the original gender-blurring icon Ziggy Stardust. The release boasts the most visually and aurally stunning prints of the film ever made, featuring Dolby 5.1 surround sound mixed by Tony Visconti. John Vanco of Cowboy Pictures and Henry Wrenn-Meleck of RZO Music negotiated the deal. The film will open July 10th at the Film Forum in New York City, followed by a national rollout this summer and fall. Legendary music filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, Depeche Mode 101), captured David Bowie’s final live performance as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in 1973, filming Bowie both performing and back stage . “Riding with Cowboy once again” enthused Pennebaker. “Fantastic, and with a film I’ve been wanting to let loose again for a long time. Beautiful brand-new 35mm prints and an incredible sounding 5.1 re-mix by Tony (Visconti). I can hardly wait. What music, what a performance – it’s pure magic.” Named as one of the Greatest Albums of All Time in Rolling Stone and VH-1 polls, David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” celebrates its 30th Anniversary on June 6th 2002. To mark the occasion, on July 16th, EMI will release an enhanced version of the album containing an additional twelve songs. The original was Bowie’s first Top 10 album, staying in the Billboard charts for a staggering 106 weeks. Just one year after that album’s release, Bowie’s final appearance as Ziggy was captured in Pennebaker’s feature. For more information regarding the album re-release, contact Heather Bohn at EMI Publicity, (ph: 323-692-1112 ; fax 323-692-1249; [email protected]).
“We are honoured to be a part of bringing this historically significant piece of popular culture to life again,” said Henry Wrenn-Meleck of RZO Music. “Being able to remix classic concert films in Dolby 5.1 surround sound is one of the very few recent technical innovations that can truly transform the cinematic experience for audiences,” said Cowboy President John Vanco. “One could even argue that this new ZIGGY has been improved so much that it is now closer to the original live concert than to the original concert film.”
Co-founded by John Vanco and Noah Cowan, Cowboy Pictures is a New York-based specialised film distributor that handles foreign films, documentaries and American independent features. Among many others, Cowboy released Aviva Kempner’s all-American documentary The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen’s Benjamin Smoke and David Gordon Green’s George Washington, Lucrecia Martel’s La Cienaga and Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl. They currently have George Butler’s The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Academy Award nominee Promises, Chris Smith’s Home Movie and Shohei Imamura’s Warm Water Under a Red Bridge in release. For more information, please contact Julie Fontaine at (212) 925-7800 x104 or [email protected]” – New York, May 29, 2002
(1983/2002, 91 mins)
Directed by D.A. Pennebaker.
Produced by Pennebaker Hegedus Films and RZO Music.
Starring David Bowie.
With: Mick Ronson (guitar, piano, vocals),
Woody Woodmansey (drums),
Trevor Bolder (bass).
Camera; Mike Davis, Jim Desmond, Nick Doob, Randy Franken, D. A. Pennebaker.
Music remixed by Tony Visconti.
Restoration Executive Producer: Henry Wrenn-Meleck
A Cowboy Pictures Release.
NEW YORK, NY at the Film Forum July 10th
PHILADELPHIA, PA at the Prince Music Theatre July 25th
LOS ANGELES, CA at the Fairfax 3 August 9th
SAN FRANCISCO, CA at the Castro Theater August 9th
BOSTON, MA at the Brattle August 23rd
BROOKLYN, NY at BAM September 5th – 2 days only
MILWAUKEE, WI at the Times Cinema September 13th – Fridays only
HOUSTON, TX at the MFA 11 Jan 2003 – weekends only
This digitally remastered glam-rock classic features David Bowie as his gender-bending alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, in his final performance, given at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1973. The original album which inspired the show, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” – named as one of the Greatest Albums of All Time by both Rolling Stone magazine and VH-1 – celebrates its 30th anniversary on June 6, 2002…. The Ziggy Stardust album is being reissued as a multi-disk set by EMI this summer.
Outfitted in some of the most outrageous, form-fitting, colorful outfits this side of Mars, David Bowie helped invent glam-rock in the early 1970s. With striking red hair, longer legs than a flamingo and a face of strikingly androgynous beauty, his Ziggy Stardust was an inspiration for the recent glam-rock spoof, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” In the movie he performs some of his greatest hits, including “Changes,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Suffragette City,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide,” and “Ziggy Stardust,” as well as Lou Reed’s “White Light/White Heat” and the Jagger-Richards classic, “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
D.A. Pennebaker, one of the originators of cinema verite in the United States, continues to be one of its leading practitioners. His concert movies, DON’T LOOK BACK with Bob Dylan and MONTEREY POP with Jimi Hendrix, are among the most beloved music movies of all time. Partnered with Chris Hegedus since 1974, he has made movies on blue grass music (DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN), Broadway musicals (ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY) and pop music (DEPECHE MODE 101) as well as the roller-coaster ride that is modern political campaigning, THE WAR ROOM.
Did you know before you filmed Ziggy Stardust that you would be filming David Bowie in his last performance as that character?
DP: No. I think people in the record company probably knew. I mean, RCA got me to go there, since I didn’t really know David Bowie at all before I started filming, and I’m sure they had some sort of intimation as to what was going on, but that was sort of beside the point, since he had already done a grand tour with that band, both in the U.S. and in England. It never occurred to me that he would discontinue performing as Ziggy on stage; it was just some sort of arrangement he had made with his press people and management beforehand. Again, I didn’t feel like this was any sort of huge loss to the music world. At the time, I think they all wanted to make something more out of it, and I don’t really know why, because they really weren’t very big on making the film. David wanted to make the film. RCA really didn’t, though: They wanted to sell it off to ABC for one of those late-night shows that showed music films. That was all they really wanted from it. Originally, they came to me because they had this invention in New Jersey that the head of RCA had invented, a machine that showed something on a disc. So they wanted the first hour or first half-hour of the film to be the first thing shown on this new machine. And I had to go out and talk to all these technicians and tell them why it was important to put someone like David Bowie on a disc. And none of these people had the slightest idea who David Bowie was. I mean, they were all just engineers. So it was kind of a peculiar problem. But then the more I looked at it and showed it to people, the more I felt that it was really a theatrical film. It was totally unlike Don’t Look Back in that it never really broke the private life of David particularly, but he wasn’t really that interesting, in a way. He was kind of a businessman more than anything else. I mean, he may very well have been interesting, but it wasn’t really anything you could put on a screen. So it came down to that incredible stage performance, which I felt was worth trying to sell as a theatrical film. But it took me many years to get everybody to agree to that. What finally happened was that David came over, and we spent a month remixing tracks so it would work as a film. Became the special man…
The Night Bowie Got Ziggy With It By JAMI BERNARD
Daily News Movie Critic
E-mail: [email protected]
ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1983). A documentary by D.A. Pennebaker. Running time: 91 mins. Rated PG. At Film Forum.
From the vantage point of 30 years later, David Bowie’s sinuous androgyny and the short-lived glam-rock movement of which he was a leader seem benign and very, very far away. But the music, now digitally remastered for extra sonic boom, can still blow your socks off. This time warp is brought to you by renowned documentary maker D.A. Pennebaker, whose previous work included capturing a 1965 Bob Dylan in “Don’t Look Back” (1967) and Janis, Jimi and company at 1967’s “Monterey Pop” (1969). Ziggy played guitar — and dress up — in this documentary of Bowie’s glam days. He wasn’t able to release his “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” until a decade after its 1973 filming, due to struggles with the soundtrack mix and over finding a release platform (it ended up as a TV Movie of the Week).
Today’s rerelease, coinciding with Bowie’s latest CD, “Heathen,” has all the bells and whistles of modern technology but looks almost quaint. Bowie has the skinny, un-pumped body of the ’70s; in his Ziggy gear and makeup, he resembles, disconcertingly, the late Linda McCartney. As Bowie takes the stage of London’s Hammersmith Odeon in the guise of his Ziggy Stardust alter ego, one of the many and various incarnations that account for the spectacular staying power of his career, his movements are restrained yet provocative. He teases the audience, yet doesn’t cave in to the campy drag-queen excess you’d expect of someone dressed in a succession of second-skin body sheaths.
If anything, he seems reserved, especially in contrast to the frenzy of the fans. (Pennebaker captures only the females, but you know from the Todd Haynes’ film “Velvet Goldmine” that the men were out in force and just as ecstatic.) Bowie knew how to play his audience, and the documentary shows him as a fiercely concentrated performance artist on and offstage, who micromanaged everything from his makeup palette to the length of his kimono sleeves. This documentary is a rare window into the apparatus and limitations of glam-rock, and shows Bowie arriving at the tail end of his interest in it.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars directed by D.A. Pennebaker
Digitally remastered for its 30th anniversary theatrical re-release, D.A. Pennebaker’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars comes on as a slightly dusty, but still darkly glittering jewel of a film, capturing the feeling of a night in 1973 that marked the end of an era in rock and social history. The film documents a day in the life of Ziggy Stardust (a persona adopted by David Bowie the year before), both backstage and in concert. While the distractingly clumsy concert footage and once-shocking costumes and make-up of Ziggy and his entourage may seem dated to jaded modern eyes, Bowie’s creation of the perfect plastic pop persona seems all too familiar these days, and quite prophetic in retrospect. Most importantly, the heart of the film – the music – is improved upon by Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time producer, whose remix of the soundtrack corrects the sound quality concerns that delayed the movie’s initial release, truly making this a must-see for all music fans.
ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS by Phil Hall (07/08/2002)
1973, Un-rated, 91 Minutes, A Cowboy Pictures Release
Few films have undergone a more prolonged gestation period than D.A. Pennebaker’s rock documentary “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Filmed during the July 3, 1973 final concert of David Bowie’s landmark “Ziggy Stardust” world concert tour, the film was in post-production until 1983 due to Pennebaker’s inability to achieve an adequate soundtrack mix. By the time the film was completed, it had only a few 16mm screenings set up by the filmmaker himself (mostly in American college towns) and then had a one-time TV broadcast on, of all things, ABC’s “Movie of the Week.” Plans for a late-1980s theatrical release were squashed when the film was given a quickie video release. Finally, three decades after the footage was shot, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is being theatrically released in a digitally remastered edition.
Yet despite its unusual history, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is not an entirely successful movie. Watching the film today, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona can easily seem very quaint and perhaps a bit silly. The brouhaha from 30 years back about the glam rock trappings clearly overlooked one basic fact: although Bowie and his bandmates were tarted up in make-up, jewelry and androgynous clothing, there was absolutely nothing outrageous about the way they performed on stage. If anything, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is perhaps the straightest of straightforward concert films imaginable.
By the time Pennebaker filmed the concert, Bowie was ready to jettison the Ziggy Stardust persona he fashioned for himself. Indeed, during the show he blithely announces this will be his final live concert performance (and for years afterwards, Bowie seemed to keep Pennebaker at arm’s length as the filmmaker constantly sought his input to help finish the movie). Bowie’s readiness to move on to something else may account for the stiff and rather indifferent performance he gives during the first part of the concert, with juiceless renditions of “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” and “Space Oddity.” Bowie and the film actually don’t come into full-force until the midway point, when his rendition of Jacques Brel’s intense “My Death” is punctuated when the audience crashes in by singing the final line, causing a startled Bowie to crack a spontaneous grin and issue a jolly thanks. After this unlikely intrusion, Bowie’s electric personality is at full charge as he vamps the audience and puts raw emotion into versions of his “Suffragette City” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” and in covers of Lou Reed’s “White Light/White Heat” and the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
As a concert documentary, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is something of a mixed bag. On the downside, Pennebaker and his camera crew have a strange habit of being in the wrong place: the picture is constantly being focused while Bowie and company are in full swing, or the camera is placed too far away to adequately capture the presentation, or the performers’ heads are sometimes lopped off by poor framing. The film also has so many cutaways to screaming and moaning teenage girls in the audience (and nary a man in camera range) that it is easy to imagine Pennebaker culled his reaction shots from a David Cassidy concert rather than a David Bowie show.
To its credit, however, the film has some rich backstage moments: a distracted Bowie, puffing on a cigarette, gets his make-up, jewelry and costumes applied by an army of nameless dressers; Bowie’s then-wife Angela, a life-size platinum blonde kewpie doll, exclaims breathlessly and joyously in a Melanie Griffith-style voice about the multitude of fans and limousines outside the theater; and a hirsute and chubby Ringo Starr chatting with Bowie as the latter prepares to get into yet another form-fitting gender-bender costume.
And, of course, there is the Bowie music. Even when the renditions don’t quite catch fire, the intelligence and maturity of Bowie’s work still challenges and captivates, and it is not difficult to overlook the film’s faults once the music begins. Whereas so many rock offerings of that era seem dated today, Bowie’s music remains timeless. Bowie fans who recall when “Ziggy Stardust” was still new and those who weren’t even born at the time can share in the vibrancy of the film’s soundtrack, which has been brilliantly remixed by Tony Visconti for this edition.
Through a stroke of brilliant scheduling, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is being released at the same time that Bowie’s latest album “Heathen” is being unveiled. Bowie fans who need a reason to celebrate the trajectory of the artist’s career can make use of this cinematic Alpha and CD Omega
Stardust memories by Maitland McDonagh
Veteran documatarian D.A. Pennebaker’s DON’T LOOK BACK (1967), which followed Bob Dylan on the eight-day English tour that marked the last hurrah of his acoustic folk period, is the gold standard by which serious rock documentaries are judged. And by those standards, this film falls short — the fictitious VELVET GOLDMINE (1998) is a far more evocative representation of the brief moment when glam rock, which Bowie embodied, seemed a revolutionary challenge to sexual and sartorial mores. But as a document of the ever-mutable musician’s signature persona, a wraithlike androgyne with a head full of apocalyptic dreams, it’s fascinating. Shot the day of Bowie’s last Ziggy Stardust concert, on July 3, 1973, at London’s Hammersmith Odeon (Pennebaker later confessed that when RCA records called and proposed that he film one of their artists, he thought they said Marc Bolan), there’s a smattering of backstage footage taken pre-show and during costume changes. But Bowie nearly naked isn’t Bowie revealed: He’s an opaque presence even before outlandish costumes and glam-ghoul stage make-up transform him into the zombie shell of “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”
The constraints under which the Pennebaker team filmed were considerable. With the exception of a single bright spot, usually occupied by Bowie himself, the stage lighting plunges most of the action into gloom that defeated the cameras. Bowie’s notorious lewd interplay with guitarist Mick Ronson is almost lost in the shadows, and bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick Woodmansey might as well not have been there at all. But Pennebaker does capture the skinny, pallid Bowie, all towering platform shoes and shock of red hair, slinking and posturing in one preposterous get-up after another: thigh-skimming silk kimono; asymmetrical knit bodysuit with one leg and one full sleeve; skintight striped suit with space-age shoulder pads; glittery see-through t-shirt and super-tight black jeans. Curiously, despite a couple of highlights — Bowie’s own “Moonage Daydream” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” and a surprisingly poignant cover of Jacques Brel’s “My Death” — the film more than anything reveals that Bowie wasn’t a particularly charismatic performer. The look is paramount and a still photograph conveys as much as a moving image. A full hour of footage from the film was broadcast on TV in 1974, and the film began playing festivals in 1979. By the time it opened in theaters in 1983, the Bowie it depicted was long gone. A new sound mix for the 2002 rerelease dramatically improved the audio quality of the concert footage.
Dusted-off Ziggy lacks star quality
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Directed by D. A. Pennebaker
Starring David Bowie
By Liam Lacey – Globe And Mail Toronto
‘Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind,” sings David Bowie in the title song of his 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The album, about a martyred space-alien rock star, marks a new conceptual self-consciousness in rock mythology and the accompanying tour makes Bowie a superstar. The final concert of that tour, on July 3, 1973, at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, was captured on film by D. A. Pennebaker and now, after almost 30 years, it has finally received theatrical release (it has aired on the ABC television network). By the time he made the movie, Pennebaker was already famous for the milestone rock documentary Monterey Pop and the film about Bob Dylan’s 1965 British tour, Don’t Look Back. Even in its new digitally enhanced and restored form, the Bowie film is not really in the same league. Beyond a perfunctory shot of kids lining up outside the Hammersmith Odeon, there’s little establishing context or backstage interviews. When the concert starts, Bowie’s art can only be seen through a lens darkly: Both sound and visual quality are poor. Bowie sometimes appears to be little more than an orange blob, bobbing around against a sea of blackness. Stagecraft, circa 1973, appears limited to a disco ball and some logos on the scrim behind the band.
The focus of attention from the camera crew in the audience is Bowie, with all his twitchy drag-queen struts, shimmies, pouts and snarls. Musically, the concert might best be described as arena cabaret, using moments of mime and lots of costume changes, with the audience (mostly teenaged girls) singing along. Musically, it’s a mixed bag. After a strong opening (with songs such as Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity and Changes), the concert sharply slows down, as Bowie sings an acoustic version of Jacques Brel’s My Death and the obscure songs Time and The Width of a Circle, which includes a typically seventies’ lengthy guitar solo by Bowie’s androgynous sidekick, Mick Ronson. Finally, there’s a fast, mechanical version of the Rolling Stones’ Let’s Spend the Night Together, and finally the climactic trio of songs, Suffragette City, Lou Reed’s White Light/White Heart and the encore, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. Near the end of the concert, adding a moment of what now seems false poignancy, Bowie declares his retirement; at that point, it’s not clear that he’s really only talking about the retirement of his band, and the Ziggy persona.
The concert remains more of an historical curiosity than a must-see rock film. Though Pennebaker is a recognised master of cinema verite, that approach may not be ideal for an artist such as Bowie, who hides behind a performance mask. In Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker found Dylan’s songs and performances as an extension of his forceful, combative personality. By contrast, Bowie seems more a medium than a magician. The viewer never really gets close to the then 26-year-old performer. In the brief backstage vignettes before the show and during costume changes, Bowie can be seen, talking to his dressers or his wife, Angie, or chatting briefly with backstage visitor Ringo Starr. Bowie comes across as an unassuming, hard-working cabaret artist, whose act just happens to involve loud guitars, a Woody Woodpecker red hairdo, teeny tight shorts and an off-the-shoulder blouse.