- Words by Mr Dylan Jones, editor of British GQ
Mr David Bowie swirls around us like dry ice, always has done, pretty much always will. I was walking by the art department just now and I saw a copy of Isolar II on someone's desk (if you don't know what Isolar II is then I suggest you probably won't want to read the rest of this piece*), and this morning I heard "Where Are We Now?", Mr Bowie's recent extraordinary comeback single wafting out of a shop doorway as I made my way to work. Magazines and newspapers are full of editorial for the upcoming V&A exhibition, everyone and their mother is discussing the new album, The Next Day, and every old Mr Bowie record from "Space Oddity" to "Everyone Says Hi" is playing somewhere as I write.
Personally I wouldn't have it any other way. I love Mr Bowie, always have done - well, since I was 12 - and not a day goes by when I don't think about him, and of course the way he looks.
When Mr Bowie appeared on Top of the Pops on Thursday 6 July 1972 with The Spiders from Mars singing "Starman", he had me at "Didn't". Like millions of other teenagers in the UK that evening - at that time the show was regularly watched by a quarter of the population - I found his performance genuinely transformative, even though I only saw it in black and white. Unlike those who claimed they saw the Sex Pistols at the Screen on the Green in Islington, London, everyone who claimed they saw Mr Bowie on Top of the Pops was probably telling the truth. I saw the broadcast sitting alone in the sitting room of our three-up, three-down semi in Deal, Kent, on an otherwise unremarkable summer's evening.
I love Mr Bowie, always have done, and not a day goes by when I don't think about him, and of course the way he looks
And, having seen him, I went out and tried to emulate his haircut. It appeared to me that his hair was the element that personified Mr Bowie, and in this respect I was uncharacteristically ahead of the curve. You weren't going to get hordes of teenage boys and girls wandering around my town centre dressed in the kind of get-up that he wore on television, although it was completely logical that they - we, us - could all copy his haircut. Except that it wasn't "me" at all, and it was always "they". I wasn't cool, wasn't in with the in crowd and the terms on which they acknowledged and accepted each other in the playground were not terms that had any bearing on me.
So if I could get the haircut, then things might begin to change. A successful Bowie haircut could bestow countless wonders on me, or so I thought.
My Saturday morning trip to the unisex hairdressers was planned days in advance. I'd scouted the town for the various barbers and hairdressers who might offer this newfangled cut. I went through the local paper, looking for more, and methodically called them all up, asking if they indeed did offer a "Bowie cut". Most didn't know what I was talking about, but one said they could probably do what I wanted, so why didn't I come in and they would give me a free consultation.
I can't remember exactly what I was wearing when I turned up, but I've got a fair idea it involved a pair of slightly flared plaid trousers or a cheap pair of Oxford bags, a round-collared shirt with a repeated print of a French café scene, and probably an extremely unfashionable canvas jacket, with aircraft carrier lapels and large silver buttons. Years later the French designer Mr Jean Paul Gaultier would say that it's always the badly dressed people who are the most interesting, but in my case he would have been colossally wrong, as I was the prisoner of what I was wearing rather than the proprietor. Consequently it was the haircut which was going to save me. It was the haircut that was going to make me not just acceptable, but appealing.
The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1976. Film still
It appeared to me that his hair was the element that personified Mr Bowie, and in this respect, I was uncharacteristically ahead of the curve
Unsurprisingly, this was not to be. Having walked to the hairdressers at the appointed hour, I sat in the chair and blithely told the stylist what I wanted. And what I wanted was to have hair like Mr Bowie, to have a large quiff on top, with a feather cut beneath, and locks brushing passed the edge of my collar.
"It won't work, 'cause your hair's all wrong," the hairdresser took great delight in telling me. "For this kind of haircut you need hair that goes up, and yours just goes down. No offence, but it just won't work."
Which is how I ended up leaving the salon that day with a haircut that approximated the one sported by Mr Dave Hill, the decidedly odd-looking, buck-toothed guitarist in Slade, the one who looked like Cleopatra in nine-eyelet Dr Martens boots. The clothes would eventually come - fur-collared Budgie jackets, pinstriped high-waisted bags, platform shoes and high-collared shirts - but it was the haircut I wanted more than anything else, the haircut that could have helped me bridge the credibility gap.
As it is, I had to wait months for my hair to grow out, and from then until 1977 I kept it shoulder length, parted in the middle. It wasn't until punk came along that I finally got my Bowie cut, in colour if not in shape.
*Isolar II was the very trendy post/magazine available on the Stage tour.
When Ziggy Played Guitar: David Bowie and Four Minutes that Shook the World by Dylan Jones is published by Preface.