I Dressed Ziggy Stardust – revisited

Boyfriend Magazine (1963) by Fiona Adams

Boyfriend Magazine (1963) by Fiona Adams

I Dressed Ziggy Stardust is getting a re-broadcast on Radio 4 on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a bit about why:

When I pitched I Dressed Ziggy Stardust to Radio 4 back in 2012 there was nothing more to it than a great story that fellow journalist Shyama Perera told me over a coffee when we finally met – 30 years after I first watched and admired her on TV; the story of her years as a David Bowie fan growing up in 60s and 70s London off the Edgware Road. I saw two British Asian girls growing up in 70s London with separate and very different lives but David Bowie as a common passion: One terrified but fascinated by David Bowie (me), the other older and bolder who hung around on his doorstep, blagged photos off his record company and had breakfast with his bandmates.

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We went around old locations, played old records, had a laugh and shed a tear or two. We found others like us – notably a Hindu priest who saw the Lord Krishna link with the androgynous beauty of Marc Bolan and Bowie. And people who’d known him: Costume mistress Suzi Ronson, former PR Cherry Vanilla and former girlfriend and fellow musician Dana Gillespie who turned it into a uniquely female view of the man who changed our world in ways we didn’t even realise at the time.

As we were finishing our edit in the early spring of 2013 came the surprise news that Bowie was to release his first new album for a decade. So it got “pegged” to the news, as if it had been planned all along. After he died a few listeners and BBC colleagues got in touch to suggest a rebroadcast. So here it is. A bubble of a moment and a mood, rather than a re-edit. If you don’t get Bowie, or you did, I think it’s an insight into understanding his impact in the 70s and crucially brimming with much loved music like a teenager’s bedroom. My brilliant producer Alice Bloch, far too young to have known him, says the process of making the programme converted her into a fan. She’s currently researching post war Kosovo for a master’s degree at Oxford University.

Since it was originally broadcast one of our girls, Rupa Huq has been elected Labour MP for Ealing – the Queen of the Suburbs, appropriately enough. In her previous life as a sociologist, specialising in the suburbs, she’s in here analysing the Loving The Alien video. Also since the original broadcast I have taken Shyama to see Labyrinth for the first time. She wishes I hadn’t (sorry, Shyama) but luckily is still my friend. It’s not for everyone, I know. She’s written her own great account of her Ziggy Stardust costume design that turned out to have a life of its own. Sadly she lost all her letters about it from Angie many years ago.

The programme was bittersweet even when we made it. And now that David Bowie’s died it takes on I hope a more joyous celebratory feel for how great it was to grow up with his secret siren call in a decade that is now a super trendy retro TV drama setting but was pretty horrible sometimes. I heard I Dressed Ziggy Stardust trailed on Radio 4 this week before The Archers and Gardeners’ Question Time. On the day his death was announced the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister publicly declared how much he meant to them. I suspect David Jones,”whose father worked for Doctor Barnardo’s homes”, as Bernard Falk once sneered on BBC Nationwide, speaking for the 1973 establishment of news men, religious leaders and politicians, would be rather amused.

I Dressed Ziggy Stardust is on Radio 4 on Saturday January 16th at 330pm and iplayer for ever after with any luck. The BBC World Service “The Documentary” version is quite harshly shorter, so I’d urge you to listen to the original R4 version. Thanks to everyone who helped make it.

Other Bowie stuff if you fancy:

From kitchen sink to Starman – (Little Atoms feature) David Bowie’s favourite books & the 50s inspiration of Billy Liar (Jan 2016)

To suburban British Asian kids like me David Bowie was an unexpected hero (Guardian Jan 2016)

Raise Your Children The David Bowie Way – the first thing I ever wrote for the internet back at Channel 4 News in 2007 to mark his 60th birthday

Shyama Perera on her Bowie odyssey (Jan 2016)

About samiraahmed

Journalist. Writer. Broadcaster.
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