David Bowie came up with a brilliant concept that truly captured the imaginations of teenagers whereby he created an alter ego – Ziggy Stardust.
Written by: Explorer
ARTIST: David Bowie
ALBUM: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
SERIAL: SF 8287
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue list
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: David Bowie – vocals, guitar, saxophone, piano * Mick Ronson – guitar, piano, backing vocals * Trevor Bolder – bass * Woody Woodmansey – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Five Years * 02 Soul Love * 03 Moonage Daydream * 04 Starman * 05 It Ain’t Easy * 06 Lady Stardust * 07 Star * 08 Hang Onto Yourself * 09 Ziggy Stardust * 10 Suffragette City * 11 Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide
WEBLINKS: Site Link
The start of 1972 saw David Bowie still as a somewhat struggling artist, his sole UK hit ‘Space Oddity’ now a distant memory, and his two previous albums ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and ‘Hunky Dory’ although critically acclaimed, made no impression on the charts and he was in danger of being a forgotten man.
In order to change his fortunes Bowie came up with a brilliant concept/album that truly captured the imaginations of teenagers throughout the UK (myself included) whereby he creates an alter ego (Ziggy Stardust).
Ziggy is the human incarnation of an alien being that is attempting to present humanity with a message of hope in the last five years of earth’s existence, but is ultimately destroyed by his own excesses and the fans he inspired.
Bowie, backed with a stellar band including the god like genius of the late Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder deliver a set of songs that are dramatic, powerful and truly unforgettable and that still resonate with me to this very day.
All the songs on offer here are Bowie originals (apart from the Ron Davies cover ‘It Ain’t Easy’) and show an artist who is on a creative roll and could do little or no wrong.
The album starter ‘Five Years’ sets the scene with a hypnotic drum pattern and a plaintive but yet emotional narration from Bowie which shows a world in desperate need of a saviour.
‘Soul Love’ follows and is a delicious slice of early 70’s glam with Bowie’s effete vocals and Ronson’s guitar work being highlights. ‘Moonage Daydream’ is an absolute classic and along with the title track this is the album’s best cut.
Mick Ronson cuts loose with a wonderful solo, in the live setting this solo was truly breathtaking, this track alone demonstrates the importance of Mick Ronson to Bowie’s work of the early 70’s, with not just his playing (guitar and piano) but also his arrangements which were always inventive and fresh.
‘Starman’ was the first single to be taken from the album and if you were of a certain age living in the UK at the time, who can forget the breathtaking, audacious performance of this song on ‘Top of the Pops’?
A performance incidentally that really thrust Bowie into the public consciousness, Bowie copyists turning up in the school playground within days of the iconic performance, such was the impact that Bowie and the Spiders from Mars made.
Side one (in old money) finishes with the aforementioned ‘It Ain’t Easy’ a song slightly out of context with the flow of the album, but nevertheless excellent. Side two opens with ‘Lady Stardust’ which is a beautiful piano led song with Bowie delivering a gloriously understated vocal.
‘Star’ features Bowie’s wonderfully camp vocals and some superb backing from the Spiders, like Ronson the work of Woodmansey and Bolder cannot be downplayed.
As Bowie himself said of the Spiders from Mars that: ‘they played the part perfectly. They were at the time, the number one spacey punk rock band. They were absolutely archetypes. All of them. Everyone was absolutely perfect right out of a cartoon book, they were great musicians’. Praise indeed from the great man and recognition that he could not have done it alone.
‘Hang On To Yourself’ is a breathless glam anthem with some fantastic lyrics, Funky thigh collectors and Tigers on Vaseline anyone?
The title track is up next and for me along with Mott The Hoople‘s ‘All The Young Dudes’ sums up that glorious 71-73 Glam rock period, with Mick Ronson’s exquisite guitar playing and Bowie’s otherworldly lyrics.
It conjures up music that would have a profound effect upon a generation seeking a champion of its own. ‘Suffragette City’ carries on by delivering with the immortal ‘Wham bam thank you ma’am’ line, before the album finishes with the awesome ballad ‘Rock n Roll Suicide’ which effectively kills the Ziggy character.
The laying to rest of the Ziggy Stardust character would actually happen some 12 months later at Bowie’s ‘farewell’ appearance at the Hammersmith Odeon which has been immortalised in the DA Pennebaker film ‘Ziggy Stardust – The Motion Picture’.
For someone growing up in the early 70’s in the UK, seeing Bowie on ‘Top of the Pops’ in all his Ziggy Stardust splendour was a revelation. I stated at the start of this review that Bowie at the turn of the year was an artist struggling to find his place in the world, but by the end of the year Bowie was everywhere, a regular superstar.
Bowie was the first ‘serious ‘artist I got into, which led to my discovering Mott The Hoople and then, slightly later Queen. So David Bowie is pretty much responsible for kick-starting my passion and love of rock music.
‘Ziggy Stardust’ as an album does suffer somewhat from a rather ‘dry’ production, but that is with many year’s hindsight, all I remember at the time was a seeing a performer that was shocking, dangerous and yet glamourous and I wanted in on it all.
This is an iconic album, very much of its time and the most revered album in the David Bowie catalogue. Oh and before I forget, this is ‘To be played at maximum volume’.