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A Rock ’N Roll Suicide at the ICA: Neil Tennant, Toyah, Trevor Bolder and Mick Rock talk to Steve Pafford about Bowie’s farewell to Ziggy Stardust

As the final performance of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars at Hammersmith celebrates its half-century with a restored print of DA Pennebaker’s “motion picture”, an extract from an event that marked its 25th anniversary.

On 2 and 3 July 1998, London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) carried out a novel quarter-century celebration of David Bowie’s famed farewell to Ziggy. The re-enactment concert – called A Rock ’N Roll Suicide was staged live as a unique art event by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard – two 25 year-old art students who, coincidentally, were born the very same year that Ziggy Stardust “died”.

With Ziggy played by Steve Harvey and costumes recreated by Natasha Kornilof, A Rock ’N Roll Suicide was their largest and highest profile undertaking to date, and in those pre-email days I answered the couple’s call for a contribution to the souvenir programme by personally hand-delivering a floppy disk (remember them?) to their modest flat in New Cross. The quartet of quotes were taken from taped interviews with well-known Bowie fans and friends I had conducted during the curtailed life of the Crankin’ Out magazine I was publishing at the time. There’s plenty more where these came from…

Keep Your Mouth Shut!!!

Speaking of the Special Man, in conversation with Crankin’ Out…

Toyah (1996):

I went to see Ziggy Stardust and I screamed all the way through it, much to the annoyance of everyone in the balcony. I ran out after the encores and was standing alone when he came out the stage door, and I just stood there all on my own screaming! I can remember he tried to smile at me, but I was verging on irritating. He had these amazing platform shoes with palm trees on, and beautiful legs. He just looked staggering. Such presence. 

Trevor Bolder (1994):

I always thought Ziggy was a bit like a cartoon character. 

Neil Tennant, 1996:

On the Aladdin Sane tour I saw him three times, including the ‘farewell’ show. I was in the second back row. I went both nights! It was confusing at the time when he suddenly said “It’s the last show we’ll ever do,” because even now when people speak at concerts you can’t always work out what they’ve just said because of the acoustics. But there was a gasp, and you didn’t really quite believe… He was always a bit of a drama queen anyway!  Still is, I think! 

Mick Rock (1995):

The retirement speech wasn’t a shock, I knew the night before. David suddenly jumped up and said. That’s it, I’m going to retire! I don’t know if he had been cooking it up before, but the declaration to people that were close to him was “I’m retiring’. Well, Ziggy retired. David didn’t. 


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