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David Bowie at the Music Hall as you’ve never seen him before… in colour

David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust guise at Aberdeen's Music Hall in 1973
David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust guise at Aberdeen's Music Hall in 1973

It was one of the most iconic and historic gigs to take place in the Music Hall – May 16 in 1973, David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour.

Many people are familiar with the old black and white image of Bowie, lunging forward as he belts out a number to a packed audience of adoring fans.

But today we can reveal never-before-seen colour photographs of that memorable concert, taken by a teenager in the audience who managed to dodge security to snap away at the front of the stage.

They show Bowie, dressed in a red jumpsuit, as he was morphing into Aladdin Sane, the unmissable frescos of the Music Hall behind him.

Other pictures show Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, in full throttle at the height of the gig – the Music Hall’s organ visible in the background.

These snapshots of a moment in time were taken by a then 17-year-old Doug Anderson.

 

Doug, now 63, takes up the tale of how he captured these remarkable shots.

“I had to avoid the security folk to get up to the front to take the pictures,” said Doug, an aviation agent at Aberdeen International Airport.

“But at the end, the band shouted all the folk to come up the front and I got a couple more. It was one of those old-fashioned Kodak cameras, with the revolving flashbulb.”

Doug remembers the exhilarating atmosphere of the concert.

“It was packed to the roof, just mobbed.

“Bowie was just his usual flamboyant self. There were a few costume changes he went through. He had that red jumpsuit, then he came on in what was almost like hotpants, but it was a zip-up suit.”

Doug remembers that Bowie actually played two shows at the Music Hall that day – one at 6.30pm the other at 9pm – and he went to both.

“It was exactly the same show the second time around as well. I thought he might have mixed it up.

“I saw it advertised in the paper that there were two on the same night and I thought ‘I’m going to have to have some of that’. I remember paying very, very little for the tickets.”

“I had a few of his records and I quite liked the Ziggy Stardust album. That was the final tour of Ziggy Stardust. I didn’t know that at the time. He only announced that at Hammersmith. The band didn’t even know, apparently. So I was quite lucky to catch it.”

Doug said that at that point in time, he had little inkling Bowie would become the global icon he did.

“You didn’t know what he was going to do next. You never did.”

It sparked a lifelong passion for concerts in the Granite City that has never left Doug. But he doesn’t actually rate the Bowie gig as the best he’s ever seen.

“Bowie was really good but the best one I remember – apart from Queen at the Capitol – was Black Sabbath with Van Halen in support.

“That would have been in 1978 in the Music Hall and that was mental. Van Halen just blew them off the stage – and it was the original Sabbath as well. Sabbath was who I had wanted to see,  I had never heard of this other lot until that night. They were incredible.”

Doug wasn’t the only Bowie fan to go the extra mile on May 16 1973.

Graeme Thain also pulled out all the stops to get to the gig as a 14-year-old pupil at Robert Gordon’s College.

“At one stage my parents weren’t going to let me go”, said Graeme, former proprietor of Thain’s Bakery.

“They didn’t think he was a good influence on a young mind because of his controversial lifestyle. I just rebelled and went anyway. But they certainly weren’t keen for me to embark on a life of going to gigs like that.”

Not only did he and his friends attend the gig – in school uniform –  they also found themselves enshrined in history. If you look at that unforgettable image of Bowie on stage, Graeme and his mates can be seen at the front of the balcony. They are the ones with the David Bowie scarf draped over the balustrade.

Graeme, now 61, said they got prime seats – bought from the legendary Telemech on Marischal Street, “the” record shop in Aberdeen at the time – for one simple reason.

“He sold out his first concert so fast, he did a matinee performance for us kids, so we were able to pick up A1 seats.

“The gig was mindblowing. It was exciting, it was enthusiastic. A lot of the audience were that sort of age and it was just brand new for us.

“Bowie’s performance was electric, theatrical – that’s an understatement. Mick Ronson was amazing on the guitar.

But just being at the gig wasn’t the end of Graeme’s entanglement with Bowie. He actually met the man and got his autograph – in one of his Robert Gordon’s jotters.

“My friend Ronald and I went stalking him, because we heard he was staying at the Imperial Hotel,” said Graeme. “We stood outside and both of us, with our school jotters managed to get his autograph by waiting for him. He was a friendly chap.”

And how would he sum up the gig itself?

“It was one of the most amazing experiences in a young boy’s life.”

Also at the Bowie concert was one Barney Crockett, these days better known as the Lord Provost of Aberdeen.

Back then, though, he was a steward for the gig as a favour to a friend, and got some unforgettable memories as part of the bargain.

“It was a stunning performance. By modern standards it would be not dramatic, but at that time to have sudden changes of costume. David Bowie’s clothes split in half to reveal another persona underneath. That was not usual at the time,” said Barney.

He added that another thing which might suprise modern gig-goers is the young age of the audience.

“For years, people just didn’t believe me that it was mainly schoolgirls that went to concerts at that time. But the picture from (the Bowie concert) shows that. It was very cheap to get in to concerts then. The LP would cost many more times than the entry to a concert. It was really a promotion. You went on tour to promote your records and get on TV.”

Barney said the gig was put on by the aforementioned Telemech record shop and recalls the stewarding would have been regarded as amateurish by today’s standards – which might account for Doug getting his precious snaps.

“The person who organised it was just in his mid-20s… and he knew me through the working in the fish and it’s amazing really that was how I became a steward,” said Barney.

“The atmosphere was frenzied, but mainly very young women, schoolgirl age. The concert was very transgressive for the time. Bowie and the band’s looks were trying to be sexually ambiguous and that was quite advanced and very wild.

“They wouldn’t be allowed today to get the crowd’s mood to the degree it was. We were trying to get people to not stand on the seats.”

Barney said the Ziggy Stardust tour was breakthrough moment that transformed Bowie into a superstar.

“This was one of the standout gigs Aberdeen has seen. It was historic.”

No doubt there are many other people in Aberdeen who have memories to relive of that glory day… and now they can dream of it in technicolour, thanks to Doug’s remarkable photos.

The life and times of a legend

David Bowie’s groundbreaking music inspired generations during a career spanning six decades. He died aged 69 on January 10 2015 after suffering cancer for 18 months.

The singer passed away surrounded by his loved ones, a statement on his Facebook page said today.

The star made a habit of confounding the critics – killing off his most famous creation, Ziggy Stardust, at the height of his fame – and reinventing himself in roles including glam rocker, soul singer and hippie songwriter.

Bowie, born David Jones in post-war Brixton, south London, kicked off his music career in the R&B boom of the early sixties.

In 1969 he made his first appearance in the charts with Space Oddity. A string of albums followed, before 1972’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars made him an international star.

The 1980s saw him combine his pop career with appearances in films including Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Absolute Beginners.

Bowie made a surprise comeback in 2013 when he suddenly released a new single on his 66th birthday with an album out just weeks later, his first for 10 years.

He released his final album, Blackstar, just three days before his death was announced.

 

 

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