When Ziggy Played the Marquee

Terry O'Neill was given unprecedented access to document this event: a performance for the American television program 'Midnight Special' that Bowie would dub 'The 1980 Floor Show’, punning on his song ‘1984’ and the Orwell novel that inspired it.  

Terry O'Neill photographed Bowie and his crew backstage as they went through various eccentric costume changes, capturing Bowie as he transformed into the star character he'd soon put to rest. O’Neill immortalised history with his trusty lens, weaving between the wild fans who were clamouring to bag a glimpse of Bowie’s last gig.

The unseen moments photographed in this book date back as far as 1967, revealing how Bowie slipped between his alter ego ‘Ziggy Stardust’, and his true self.


The Marquee

“I was lucky enough to receive the call to come to the Marquee to photograph David Bowie. And I was smart enough to know to say yes. If I had to name the most talented, enigmatic, and audacious star I ever photographed, it would have to be him” – Terry O’Neill

When Ziggy played The Marquee Club in Soho, London, in October 1973, most of those invited to the small venue did not realise that this would be the last performance David Bowie would ever give as Ziggy Stardust. Capturing these moments meant that Terry O’Neill witnessed the last of the mayhem that was David Bowie’s art.

As the Marquee was limited in terms of space, it couldn’t house the requisite number of cameras to film simultaneously, so each song had to be reshot from different angles several times.

O’Neill remembers how “Bowie became a character when he performed. As much as a person takes a role in a play for the West End or on Broadway, learning the lines, putting on the costumes – this was, I think, the way he treated his stage. That night at the Marquee, I witnessed a modern-day Hamlet – and it was Ziggy Stardust”.

 Alter Ego ‘Ziggy Stardust’

Ziggy Stardust was a fictional character, created and performed by David Bowie, from 1970 to 1973. Ziggy was an androgynous alien, who appeared to be neither male nor female.

After a while, Ziggy started to scare David, as he felt he was becoming too engrossed in the persona. He was afraid that the blurring of Stardust and Bowie would lead to madness, and on July 3, 1973, David staged his last show as Ziggy at the Hammersmith Odeon in London.

Bowie had been building up to something like Ziggy Stardust for a while. But the root inspiration for the album's theme went deep into his past. He stated that what he did with this character was to create a credible, plastic rock & roll singer.

A few facts about David Bowie that you probably didn’t know!

During his 2004 North American tour, Bowie was followed around by a 5′3″ pink bunny. He seemed relatively unfazed, saying “Hey, its rock n roll. It’s just a 5’ 3” bunny”.

Bowie voiced the character of Lord Royal Highness on an episode of SpongeBob Square Pants in 2007.

Bowie's left pupil was permanently dilated after he was punched in the eye by his friend George Underwood (they were fighting over a girl).

When he was five, Bowie’s parents took him on a Thames boat trip, where he drank tea that had been stewing for seven years. It was so awful that he never drank a cup of English tea for the rest of his life, although he remained partial to Japanese green tea.

Bowie was born on the 8th January 1947, exactly 12 years after rock and roll legend Elvis Presley.


by Eleanor Fuller at ACC Publishing Group, UK Office

Spreads are taken from When Ziggy Played the Marquee