Moonage Daydream

Originally Performed ByArnold Corns
Original AlbumSingle (1971)
Music/LyricsDavid Bowie
Phish Debut2016-10-31
Last Played2019-12-07
Current Gap37
Last Update2020-03-28


Before Ziggy Stardust there was Arnold Corns. 

Wait, who? Indeed, all but the most hardcore David Bowie fans have probably never heard of Arnold Corns. In early 1971, Bowie first conceived of the idea of writing songs for a fictional rock star, though this early conception had someone else playing the part (fashion designer Freddie Buretti as “Arnold Corns”). In 1971, Bowie still lacked the commercial success that was necessary at the time to sell a record label on such a radical idea. Luckily, the release of Hunky Dory later that year containing songs such as “Changes,” “Queen Bitch,” and “Life on Mars?” (if you’ll excuse the pun) changed all that. 

By the time Hunky Dory was released, Bowie had already written most of the songs that would form The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie began recording Ziggy just two weeks after Hunky Dory was released. Primitive (and vastly inferior) versions of some of those songs, including “Moonage Daydream,” had already been released by Arnold Corns. In the intervening year, Bowie had refined his idea.  Arnold Corns became Ziggy Stardust, and Bowie would inhabit the character himself. Not only would he sing the songs, but he would become Ziggy, changing his appearance and persona into the androgynous, alien protagonist of his concept album. 

The concept behind Ziggy, in a sentence, is the idea of an alien rock star come to earth to save humanity, only to be destroyed by his own popularity. If there’s a weak point in the concept - there certainly isn’t in the songs! - it’s the somewhat tenuous connection between the events that require Ziggy’s intervention and the ensuing fallout. The whole apocalyptic nightmare seems to take a backseat to Ziggy breaking up the band.  

“Moonage Daydream” is the song that ties those two ideas together. Ziggy Stardust is “a space invader” who will “be a rock ‘n’ rollin’ bitch for you.” Taunting the unnamed alien overlords to “keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe /  Put your ray gun to my head,” Ziggy is a rock ‘n’ roll Christ figure saving mankind from humanity. While the story may not turn out so well for Ziggy, the song turns out well for us, culminating in a powerful Mick Ronson guitar solo (be sure to check the video below to see just how muscular the song was live).

David Bowie - “Moonage Daydream,” Live at the Odeon, London, 1973

Phish’s take on the song, as part of their musical costume on 10/31/16, was augmented by a string sextet and backing vocalists, and also featured Trey’s most extended guitar solo of the set.  Because of that, it’s not hard to envision “Moonage Daydream” reappearing in the Phish repertoire, even without the guest musicians.  Let’s hope that comes to pass and we all have more opportunities to freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah.   

”Moonage Daydream” 10/31/16 Las Vegas, NV

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