David Bowie - Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (Live 1973)
Though originally recorded for Ziggy Stardust, I have included this 1973 performance of the song because it is the beginning of the end for Ziggy. In his introduction to the song, Bowie announced that this show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London is “not only… the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do” to a stunned audience and the equally out-of-the-loop Spiders from Mars. Bowie was at the triumphant peak of his Ziggy Stardust fame and the world was in shock that he would quit at such a high point. The publicity this caused was, of course, intentional and very welcome and what Bowie had actually meant was that Ziggy Stardust had played his last show, but David Bowie was only just getting started. There were still numerous costumes, characters, and publicity stunts to come in the career of David Bowie.
“Rock & Roll Suicide” is probably one of Bowie’s most well-loved songs, and with good reason. Just as on the same album’s opening track, “Five Years,” there is a perceived earnestness in its message of empathy and human connection. Out of all of the songs on Ziggy Stardust, this more than any of them seems to contain the message of hope promised in “Starman” as the Earth’s salvation from the coming apocalypse. Bowie cries out “Oh no, love, you’re not alone!” over swelling backing vocals and guitars and, though in terms of the original album’s narrative it functions as a goodbye to the fallen Ziggy Stardust, it also seems a moment of genuine solidarity with the listener. It is as fitting a send-off for Ziggy Stardust as a concept as it was for Ziggy Stardust as a character on his eponymous album.
There is even a sense of Ziggy’s fictional demise on the album at the doing of his fans moving into the real world as Bowie reaches out to touch hands with the crowd and is nearly pulled straight into the mass of bodies before being yanked back by a security guard. With a concept such as Ziggy Stardust, which blurred the boundaries of reality vs. performance and authenticity vs. artifice, maybe it should have been expected that Ziggy’s inevitable fall would be as theatrical as his original conception.
A Hero’s Welcome for the Astronauts of Apollo 11
After Apollo 11 astronauts Edward “Buzz” Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins safely returned to Earth following their successful mission to the surface of the Moon, they spent several weeks in quarantine, and were finally greeted with ticker tape parades and celebrations in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles on August 13, 1969.
From the series: Headquarters’ Films Relating to Aeronautics, 1962 - 1981. Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1903 - 2006