On July 3, 1973 David Bowie executed his Ziggy Stardust persona on stage at the Hammersmith Odean. At the time Aladdin Sane was the #1 album in the UK and "Life on Mars" was the #4 single. Rock documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and two other cameramen captured the evening for a film to eventually be called Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture.
The film begins in the dressing room where Pierre La Roche is applying makeup. In his book Ziggyology, Simon Goddard describes Bowie looking at himself in the mirror
He saw a not a person but a monster. A Frankenstein jigsaw. An eternity of human dreams and fears in one grotesquely gorgeous visage.
By all accounts it was a fantastic show. And of course you can see it for yourself. Bowie appeared to be savoring the moment. He dedicated "Let's Spend the Night Together" to Mick Jagger and "White Light.White Heat" to Lou Reed. For the encore, Jeff Back joined the band for "The Jean Genie/Love Me Do"
And then Bowie made his farewell speech. ( It begins 2:30 in the clip below).
"Of all of the shows on this tour, this particular show will remain with us the longest (cheers from the audience) because not only is it...not only is it the last show of the tour, but its the last SHOW that WE'LL ever do. Thank you"
The band played "Rock and Roll Suicide". Bowie said "Thank you very much. We love you. Bye Bye " and walked off the stage.
Fans were distraught. Reporters didn't quite catch the gist of what happened. The next week NME's headline read "Bowie: That's It, I Quit". Of course Bowie didn't quite. He simply retired one persona, making room for many others to come.
So why give up on Ziggy? Bowie says he needed to get away from what all that he/Ziggy had become:
It was circusy. I was never much of an entourage person - I hated all of that. It's a relief for all these years ... not have a constant stream of people following me around to the point where, when I sat down, fifteen other people sat down. It was unbearable.