Why does it look so bad?

I just caught the end of this on some music channel and was appalled at how bad it looks. It almost looks like a bootleg or something but obviously this isn't the case. So what's the deal? Was this some kind of artistic choice or what?

Ziggy Stardust is one of the great concept albums so it's kind of a shame we don't have a better movie built around it. Be honest: Which would you rather listen to - this, or Tommy?

UPDATE: I don't feel this way anymore, it looks great, I was an idiot.

What's the Spanish for drunken bum?


It's always looked that bad. I caught it at a theatre in the 1980s rerelease. It was a brand new remastered print and it was TERRIBLE! The sound was great but the picture was jittery or out of focus virtually during the entire movie. After 30 minutes I went out and complained and the manager apologized but said that was the way the film has always looked! I found out it wasn't the theatre--the film was just badly shot. Why it was shot this way I don't know. Maybe the director didn't have enough money to shot it correctly. Back in 1972 Bowie was considered out there so he probably couldn't get a lot of money to shot it professionally.


Most live rock concert movies from the seventies have something of the same look: reddish beams through the dark, pulsating lanterns and strobe lights and no very complex sets. If it's shot indoors and captures an actual gig they often do look like that. Scorsese's The Last Waltz and more elaborate actual touring shows changed the game, but in 1973 it was still a bit bare-bones. Look at Led Zep's The Song Remains The same, it looks as dark as Ziggy.

Almost nobody in those days did the kind of big-set, lavish-choreography shows you got later from Pink Floyd, Madonna or Kiss. Bowie made one of the first real attempts at that kind of show a year after Ziggy was shot - the 1974 Diamond Dogs U.S. tour. Big stage sets, lighting bridges, backcloth and props and dancers - but he dismantled that one after a few months 'cause it was astronomically expensive.

Also, Pennebaker had been hired very quickly, just to film a few tracks, but after he'd come around and seen the first of the two London shows he realized, as he says himself, there was a film crying out to be made here, so it was really a quick shoot and then they had this fab concert on celluloid (which is a blessing!) He may have opted to make it look more nocturnal, though: there's a few shots of the audience that aren't that dark.

At the audition I had to karaoke to "Smoke On The Water". I was 45. A very lonely experience.


The 2002, 2003 DVD is great, and includes a commentary that explains the process of documenting this performance, and the many overdubs and upgrades needed to finally release it in 1983, ten years after the gig. This DVD improved the feature even more from that point, and it's well worth a couple of watches/listens. Leonard Maltin's review about Ziggy being "...unwatchable and un-listenable..." may be referring to the 83' film release, but I think this DVD is awesome. The New Beverly in L.A. will screen the film in the last week of this month. Enjoy.

"The only reason I'm paranoid is because everyone's against me." - Frank Burns of M*A*S*H*



Would be happy if I never had to watch Tommy again

The young recruit is silly ’e thinks o’ suicide
’E’s lost ’is gutter-devil ’e ’asn’t got ’is pride


I think it's absolutely gorgeous, one of the best rock concert films ever. The redish glow, the greens and blues, and most of all the flashes going off in the audience, just magical.



I don't know which DVD I have, but I think it looks incredible. It's just like the recent release of The Who at the London Coliseum. Dark and murky with colored spotlights, band members going in and out of the light and darkness. It's exactly the way I remember live concerts when I was a kid. Hang out in the parking lot, smoke a joint, go in and watch the show. You're high, your eyes are a little sensitive to the light, things look blurry and saturated with color, afterwards your memory blurs it a little more. It's the way I remember them. I was actually a little startled by the Who's Coliseum DVD, and how it seemed to get into my brain and produce these images to me.