David Bowie’s fame was growing dramatically by July of 1972. His breakthrough LP The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Starust and the Spiders From Mars had hit shelves the previous month, and the album’s first single, “Starman,” had been out since April. Still, to much of England, Bowie was best remembered as the guy who scored a novelty hit with “Space Oddity” three years earlier. Many people didn’t even really know what he looked like. That all changed on July 6th, 1972, when Bowie performed “Starman” on the BBC program Top of the Pops.
In full Ziggy regalia and backed by his new band, the Spiders from Mars, Bowie sang part of the song with his arm over the shoulder of guitarist Mick Ronson. The country had never seen anything quite like it, and it sent “Starman” flying up the charts. It was only the beginning of Ziggy Stardust’s long reign over the British music scene, and soon the rest of the world. The band headed to America for the first time less than three months later.