“Ow! Be careful!”
“Hold still! I’ve barely even started!”
“OW! Take it easy! I thought you were some kind of professional!” the patron barked, leaping out of the distressed leather chair.
“Alright kid,” sighed Lou, “I don’t tattoo pansies. Get the hell out of my shop.” He yanked the young man by the collar of his fatigues and dragged him to the door.
“I paid you for a tattoo! I want my money back!” The young corpsman was obviously inebriated. He slurred his words when he spoke and his face turned red with anger. “Fight me like a man!” He threw his fists at Lou and kicked his feet, but couldn’t land a punch. Lou lifted him up, kicked open the door, and tossed him out into the street.
“When you’re sober and ready to act like a man, you can come back and I’ll finish your tattoo, but until then, fuck off!” Lou Norman was notorious for his hot temper and for giving quality tattoos; a well respected man in the Honolulu tattoo scene. The kid scrambled to his feet, stuffed his hands in his pockets and stumbled off, hanging his head and spitting curses at the concrete below. “He’s probably gonna run straight to Jerry.” Lou muttered under his breath as he spun on his foot and headed back to his shop.
“Wait! Mr. Norman!” a female voice beckoned. Lou snapped his head around to find a woman running down the sidewalk in high heels, taking long awkward steps, like a giraffe with weak knees. She was waving a small black microphone in front of her face with a young, sweaty intern carrying a tape recorder in tow. Her obvious wig bounced up and down as she galloped towards him. “Mr. Norman! Kathy Reynolds with FM 94.6! What do you have to say about your rival, Norman Keith “Sailor Jerry” Collins’ claims earlier today?” she asked him.
“What claims are those?” Lou asked as he checked his watch, then routinely pulled a pill bottle out of his breast pocket and popped the last of his blood pressure pills.
“He told us that you were wrong about there being no purple ink. He said, ‘Lou Norman is full of horseshit, as usual. Purple ink has been around for a long time. I’ve got some in my shop right now!’. What do you have to say about that?” Lou clenched his jaw and took in a deep breath. His heart rate started to climb. He squinted at Kathy, grabbed a pack from his pocket and pulled out his lucky cigarette.
“Are you kidding me? Just who in the hell does he think he is? He says I’m full of horseshit? Ha! Nobody has purple ink! I’ve said it a thousand times! The pigment doesn’t stick! Never has, never will! That Sailor Jerry is nothing but a two bit scab vendor! You can tell him to take his imaginary purple ink and shove it up his ass!” His heart was pounding, ready to burst out of his chest. Lou grabbed onto one of the wooden posts holding up the awning for his entry way and dragged his feet over to the bench next to the door. “No… No further comments.”.
“Have a nice day, Mr. Norman.” Kathy Reynolds spun and walked back the way she came, with an obvious pep in her step. Lou lit his cigarette and took a long drag. It would only be a matter of hours before Jerry would hear Lou’s rant on the radio.
* * *
Jerry held the mirror up so that the drunk corpsman could see his new forearm piece. “So, what do you think?” asked Jerry, arms crossed and pipe in mouth. He stood back and cracked a little grin as he scanned over every little detail. “Is he gonna love it or what?”
“Ohhh he’s gonna love it, I’ll tell you what. That bastard Lou Norman won’t know what hit him. Did I tell you… Did I tell you he kicked me out of his shop?” the corpsman was still slurring his words.
“Yes you did, about 3 times already… Are you sure you remember the plan?”
“Yeah, yeah, I remember the plan.” The young man stared at his forearm and grinned. “Boy this color sure looks good Jerry.” He wobbled a little bit then took a step towards Jerry, arms outstretched for a hug. He tripped into Jerry and was met with a hard shove. The kid jumped back up, fists raised. Jerry’s hand dropped immediately to his waist and he unsheathed his large buck knife in one quick motion. He spun it around on his palm and held the blade upside down in a fist.
“I like you kid, but you’re drunk. Don’t do something stupid. Just go show him the damned tattoo.” The old man’s demeanor was as calm as ever.
“Yeah… Of course Jerry… Won’t happen again...” the kid had his eyes fixed on the large blade. “I’ll… I’ll go show him the tattoo! This is gonna be hilarious!” He let out an awkward giggle and backed up towards the door. He bumped into the doorframe then turned and ran down Hotel Street. Jerry sat down in his old wooden chair, sheathed his buck knife, and puffed on his oak pipe. He couldn’t help but smile as he smoked and
wished he could be there to see Lou’s face.
The corpsman found Lou outside of his shop, hanging up a “Closed” sign. “Lou! Lou! I have an idea for a tattoo! I’ll pay you double!” He waved his arm around while running up the porch stairs. “I’m sorry about earlier, I was a lot drunker than I should have been! I’ll sit like a rock, I promise!”. Lou Norman turned his head over his shoulder, one eyebrow cocked, obviously intrigued.
“Double? I’m not gonna listen to you whine for two hours for double. Make it triple and you have a deal.” Lou was reluctant to tattoo the kid, even at triple the price.
“Fine, triple! Can I tell you what I want?!” The corpsman had a grin on his face from ear to ear. He was barely able to contain himself.
“Ugh… Sure, what’s your idea?” Lou hated tattooing other peoples’ designs. He wasn’t a great free hand artist.
“I want a giant purple dragon on my forearm! I asked Sailor Jerry and he said I should talk to you.” The young sailor was starting to crack up. Lou Norman’s eyes turned into fireballs and he started breathing heavily.
“Kid, you better not be joking with me right now…” he clenched his fists, “I don’t know what he’s talking about… There ain’t no such thing as purple ink. The color doesn’t stick, it’s a fact. Besides, he’s the one runnin’ around claimin’ he’s got purple ink, not me.” Lou’s heart started to beat furiously.
“Really? There’s no such thing as purple ink?” the corpsman grabbed ahold of his sleeve, “Then how do you explain this?” he yanked his sleeve up his arm revealing one of the most beautiful tattoos Lou Norman had ever laid eyes on. A magnificent oriental dragon met his gaze with one more furious and powerful than he could ever have drawn. It fit the forearm beautifully, every curve and angle displayed perfectly on the flat underside of his arm. It was long and winding back and forth from the sailor’s wrist towards his elbow. The heavy black background accentuated the bright scales more than any cloud or castle backdrop could have; the kind of backdrops Lou always used in his dragon tattoos. His heart rate spiked.
“Purple...” muttered Lou. He felt a sharp pain in his chest. “Purple ink...” the sharp pain became a hot coal, igniting all of his veins and arteries. His left side went numb. The corpsman’s smile disappeared as he shouted something and turned to pedestrians for help. Lou was def and losing vision, his whole world was spinning into total blackness.
* * *
“Doctor, he’s waking up!” a nurse put a hand on Lou’s cheek. “You’ve been out for a couple hours, hun.” Lou’s vision was still blurry. He tried to speak, but only ended up coughing and gasping for air. The nurse put an oxygen mask on him.
“You’ve suffered a massive heart attack.” said the doctor, excusing the nurse from the room. “You’ll need to get some rest.” Lou turned his attention to the vase of what looked like flowers on the dresser. He pointed to them and tried to speak again, unsuccessfully. “Ah, yes. Someone came by and dropped those off for you. He said he was an old friend and that he just had to get you flowers. He was a sweet guy too. Said he made sure to get your favorite color.” Lou’s eyes strained to make out the vase of flowers on the counter. He knew who dropped them off as soon as they came into focus. His heart started beating faster again and the tempo of the heart monitor increased drastically. “Nurse! He’s having another one!” shouted the doctor, running to find his assistant.
Assumption at Zero, David Bowie
I have a very colorful music taste. I pretty much like everything but country. When I was little I grew up listening to hip hop, R&B, and pop because of my parents. As I got older I started to expand my music library. My friend’s started introducing me to bands like The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors. One day I saw David Bowie’s song “Ashes to Ashes” in the suggestions category on YouTube while I was listening to “All My Love” by Led Zeppelin. I had heard of David Bowie before but never listened to one of his songs. During the chorus in Ashes to Ashes he says, “My mother said to get things done you’d better not mess with Major Tom”. I wondered who he is referring to as “Major Tom.” I enjoyed this song and wanted to dig deeper into his music. I started listening to one of his earlier albums called, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. I liked that the album focused on this “Ziggy Stardust” character. It was David Bowie’s alter ego. I want to learn more about Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character and how David came up with him. Was there a deeper meaning to him? Was Ziggy the person he always wanted to be?
I want to know if David’s parents or any other family members were famous. Was he born into this fame? Or did he have to work his way up to it? Were his parents supportive of him going into the music industry? Were the band members in The Spiders from Mars David’s friends from his childhood? After the Ziggy Stardust album did the band break up? What record label did he get signed to? Did he ever change labels?
Later I found out that David Bowie had an addiction to cocaine in the seventies. I want to know why he felt the need to do drugs. It seems like a lot of celebrities in the seventies and eighties did some kind of drug. Cocaine produces short-term euphoria, energy, and talkativeness in addition to potentially dangerous physical effects like raising heart rate and blood pressure. I know that many people snort cocaine to “get up” similar to having a cup of coffee in the morning to wake them up and get ready for the day. Carlos Alomar, who played guitar on twelve of David Bowie’s albums says that cocaine played a crucial role in his early career. Alomar said, “In order for him to stay up all night and finish the tasks at hand, it was a huge factor. Its function was to keep you alert, and that’s what he was doing. It did not stop his creativity at all.”.
I like how David Bowie has had different music styles throughout his career. They call him a musical chameleon because he can adapt to new styles. He has inspired many artists around the world. I am excited to learn more about the amazing musician David Bowie throughout the rest of this project. I want to know everything from his life as a child in his hometown in England, to the reasons why he divorced his first wife, Angela Bowie and later married Iman. I want to know if he is still making music today and if not, what he is doing. He is so musically talented that it makes me want to learn how to play an instrument. It’s going to be fun designing the box and putting a bunch of different things that relate to him in it.
The 1960s were a time of an upheaval in society, fashion, and music. Popular music genres in the 60s included the British Invasion, Motown/R&B, Surf Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Roots Rock, Hard Rock, Folk Rock, Protest Music, and Acapella. An artist that started making music in the 1960s was David Bowie. He came out with his first album in 1967 titled David Bowie and it’s content resembled the type of music that later made him famous (folk rock and glam). David Bowie is one of the greatest influential musicians of the twentieth century. He has been called the musical chameleon because he can adapt to new music styles. He didn’t become well known until the seventies with his Ziggy Stardust persona. His first couple of albums were failures until he came out with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He captured the eyes of many young teenagers in England. He had a colorful fashion sense during the time, going along with the “glam rock” trend. Many teenagers liked him because they could relate to feeling like outsiders such as the alien Ziggy Stardust. Bowie broke out into his rockstar image in the 1970s due to his alter ego persona of Ziggy Stardust which appealed to teenagers and popularized the glam rock movement. David Bowie’s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust is what led him to fame.
David Bowie’s albums before The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust did not reach fame. His debut album, David Bowie released June 1967 was a commercial failure and Bowie did not release another album until Space Oddity two years later. The song Space Oddity hit number 5 in the UK but the rest of the album had also been a failure like his first album. The Man Who Sold the World was Bowie’s third studio album which was released November 1970 and his fourth album Hunky Dory was released in the summer of 1971. His longtime drummer Woody Woodmansey says “he was going through a trial and error period, and there was a lot of error.” (Jones). All of these albums were considered to be commercial failures. Bowie was experimenting with his music and was searching for his musical identity.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was Bowie’s fifth album and was released in 1972. Ziggy Stardust was a persona adopted by David Bowie in the early 1970s. He was a big influence on the glam rock scene. Glam rock was created in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s. Singers and musicians would perform in outrageous clothes, makeup, and hairstyles. When David came out with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, glam rock was mainstream so it was released at a good time. Hewitt, author of Album by Album explains, “He presented himself as an outsider, an alien in society. By doing so he tapped straight into teenage life and its own sense of alienation. The new generation finally had a saviour. The young do not run into the arms of an uncaring individual. They run to a performer because they think he has something they need, answers usually.” (Hewitt). Not only was he a big influence on the glam rock scene, he was also inspiring to the lost teenagers who needed someone to look up to. Teenagers thought that he knew about their role in society and how they are misunderstood and people, usually adults, don’t take them seriously. They could relate to Ziggy, feeling like an “outsider” in society.
David Bowie was dedicated to being Ziggy Stardust. It was as if he left David behind and became the alien Ziggy Stardust. Hewitt quotes Bowie, “I became Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie went totally out the window. Everybody was convincing me that I was a messiah...I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy.” - David Bowie, 1976. (Hewitt). David Bowie wasn’t just David Bowie anymore, he was completely convinced that he was Ziggy Stardust. Everyone looked up to him, especially the younger crowd. He couldn’t let them down and was sucked into the fantasy of the life of Ziggy Stardust.
Not only was the look/fashion sense from Ziggy Stardust something new to many people, but the sound of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. No one heard anything like it at the time. Hewitt explains “Bowie’s vocals on Ziggy are warm and enticing, conspiratorial. On ‘Starman’ he sings as if letting us in on a great secret. On It Ain’t Easy’ he is otherworldly, yet strangely sexual. On ‘Five Years’ you can hear the tinge of distress behind the apocalyptic scenes he describes.” (Hewitt). When listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, people felt as if Ziggy Stardust was telling a secret to the world. His music was out of this world. The tone of the music goes with the message especially at the end of the album on the song ‘Five Years’ when he is singing about the end of the world. It is chaotic and you can visualize in your head what is going on.
David had a special but toxic relationship with Ziggy Stardust. He became sucked into the character and it was hard to come out of. West quotes Bowie, “My whole personality was affected. Again I brought that upon myself. I can't say I'm sorry when I look back, because it provoked such an extraordinary set of circumstances in my life. I thought I might as well take Ziggy to interviews as well. Why leave him on stage? Looking back it was completely absurd. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity. I can't deny that the experience affected me in a very exaggerated and marked manner. I think I put myself very dangerously near the line. Not in physical sense but definitively in mental sense. I played mental games with myself to such an extend that I'm very relieved and happy to be back in Europe and feeling very well. But, then, you see I was always the lucky one." - Bowie (1977) (West). David Bowie was scared of how deep into the persona he had got in. His personality was deeply affected by Ziggy. At first he would only play as Ziggy Stardust on stage at live concerts but then he thought he might as well be him in interviews too. He thought he was going crazy with the persona. Ziggy Stardust was affecting his mental stability. He put himself in a dangerous position with Ziggy but put it all upon himself. He was glad to give up the persona and be David Bowie again. He thinks that he is lucky for doing so. He could have easily been destroyed by the Ziggy Stardust persona.
What attracted people to the album was that it told the story of the life of Ziggy Stardust with his band during his time on Earth. West quotes Muze, "He created the most original rock creation since the music's inception 20 years before. As an album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars told the story of rock through the eyes of Ziggy, an alien - with a narrative that was equally sensational and intimate. Combining skills as a mime artist and top-rate vocal dramatist, Bowie created Ziggy, the bisexual space man, who sang "songs of darkness and disgrace." - Muze, 1995 (West). The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was an original rock album because it told the story of a bisexual alien rockstar who is attempting to present humanity with a message of hope for Earth’s last five years of existence. The songs were dark but intriguing. Ziggy had an ultimate message of peace and love but he is destroyed both by his excessive intake of drugs and sex, and by the fans that he inspired.
Many will never forget about the iconic alien rockstar Ziggy Stardust. No one had seen anything like him at the time. They didn’t even hear anything like his music either. Without all the amazing factors that David Bowie gave to the music world with his alter ego persona, Ziggy Stardust, he would not be known as the famous British artist he is today. His early albums were commercial failures. When The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars came out, David Bowie had finally received the fame and credit he deserved. It is still to this day considered to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time. While Ziggy Stardust would live in fame as Bowie’s greatest on-stage persona, he put him to rest thirteen months after the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Hewitt, Paolo. Bowie: Album by Album. Insight Editions, August 13, 2013.
Jones, Josh. The Story of Ziggy Stardust: How David Bowie Created the Character that Made Him Famous. Open Culture. September 7, 2012
West, K. The Ziggy Stardust Companion. 5 Years. February 3, 2007