‘Til There Was Rock You Only Had God

Like a myriad of prior college students, when my friends and I first came to London we took pictures of ourselves standing in the phone booth that David Bowie made famous (We also did the obligatory “walking across the Abbey Road” photo. We were one person short but it didn’t matter; we just chose our John Lennon from the many obliging tourists waiting to stage their own photos). This week others came to honour the legendary red phone booth and the sacred spot under the “K. West” sign.

If the diversity of London’s magic can be captured by the citation of a single pub quiz-worthy fact, it might be that only two fictional characters are memorialized here by English Heritage blue plaques: Sherlock Holmes and Ziggy Stardust. Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp tells the tale of the iconic album cover that introduced the world to Ziggy.

One of the treats of the 30th anniversary edition of the classic album is this previously little known acoustic track of the title song, sung by Bowie with just the right touch of rawness in his voice. Enjoy.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

7 thoughts on “‘Til There Was Rock You Only Had God”

  1. Keith, the album was released in 1972. That makes it 40 years ago.

    Damn, we’re gettin’ old…:-)

    The iconic albums I loved are all around that time, I should add: Thick as a Brick, Foxtrot by Genesis, Octopus by Gentle Giant, King Crimson’s Islands. Oh man. Quadrophenia was released in 1973, which makes it’s; 40th birthday next year. Here comes old age…

    1. Yes indeed, although it was the 30th anniversary edition that had the acoustic version.

      LOVE Thick as a Brick, played the cassette until it literally fell apart.

  2. I find Spandau Ballet to be one of the oddest band name choices of all time, given the music they play. Either they were completely clueless, or, more likely, they were engaged in a joke that I bet the vast majority of listeners never got.

  3. Aren’t the Queen and Prince Chuck real people playing fictional roles just as David Jones played Ziggy?

  4. Wow, I just auditioned for a David Bowie tribute band yesterday and the bassist was talking about the 40th anniversary release of Ziggy Stardust.

  5. Bowie’s Disco Dave 80s music and fame worship turned me off long ago. His career has been far surpassed by Iggy’s raw, talented, adrenaline-soaked music that left glam sucking on the edge of the highway.

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