‘A moment that changed music’: 50 years since David Bowie’s first performance as Ziggy Stardust

“We’re celebrating a moment that changed music, fashion, sexuality and design. Fifty years ago on this very day, David Bowie first performed as Ziggy Stardust in a tiny pub in Tolworth.”

Half a century ago, a small audience at a tiny pub in Tolworth, south-west London, had little idea they were witnessing history.

On February 10 1972, punters at the Toby Jug pub saw the very first performance of David Bowie’s flamboyant alter-ego Ziggy Stardust.

Wearing a striking costume, with his hair died reddish brown, the iconic musician launched into his show with songs from future album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, in July 1973. His first concert as Ziggy Stardust was on February 10 1972 in a pub in Tolworth, Kingston. Credit: Express/Express/Getty Images

While Bowie only toured as the character for little over a year, it catapulted him to rock stardom, with writer David Buckley saying that was “its influence lasted longer and has been more creative than perhaps almost any other force within pop fandom”.

To commemorate that historic first performance, the Community Brain, a not-for-profit from Tolworth, and South Western Railway teamed up to put on a special event.

A silent disco was held at Waterloo Station, and performances of classic Bowie songs were played on a train to Tolworth.

The Bowie event at Waterloo. Credit: Claudia Marquis

Community Brain director Robin Hutchinson told LondonWorld: “We’re celebrating a moment that changed music, that changed fashion, that changed sexuality and changed design.

“Fifty years ago on this very day, David Bowie first performed as Ziggy Stardust in a tiny pub in Tolworth.

“That’s an important moment for the history of pop music and it happened in Tolworth.”

The David Bowie event on a train to Tolworth. Credit: Claudia Marquis

The Toby Jug pub stood next to the A3 Tolworth Junction from 1934 to the early 2000s, when it was demolished and the site cleared.

During the late 60s and early 70s it made its name as a music venue for upcoming artists many of whom, like Bowie, went on to enjoy global stardom.

They included Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Rod Stewart and the Stranglers, and many others.

David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour at King’s Cross Station. Credit: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bowie had already broken into the mainstream with Space Oddity and the Man Who Sold The World, however Ziggy Stardust took him to another level.

Organiser Robin revealed he had been a fan of the Brixton-born musician for most of his life.

“I wouldn’t say he’s everything to me, but he’s important, and I think Ziggy is a really seminal moment,” he said.

“He develops an entirely new character, a new personality, a new approach, a new vision and I think we all want to do that some days.”

Bowie became completely immersed with the character, which caused him personal issues off stage.

David Bowie in concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, on 3rd July 1973, the last concert performed in the guise of his spacerocker character Ziggy Stardust. (Photo by Steve Wood/Express/Getty Images)

Ziggy, he said,“wouldn’t leave me alone for years”.

“That was when it all started to go sour ... my whole personality was affected,” Bowie explained.

“It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity.”

Bowie decided to retire the character abruptly, and performed a final show at the Hammersmith Odeon in July 1973.

That was just 18 months after the first historic performance in Tolworth.

Claire Mann, of South Western Railway’s, said: “SWR is extremely proud of the work that station groups such as The Community Brain do to make their station an integral part of the local community.

“We’re delighted to help them celebrate such an important anniversary in music history”.