Bowie; David: Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars LP
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"Wham Bam Thank You Ma’m!" David Bowie's The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars erased borders, eliminated stereotypes, broke open cultural possibilities, and spawned a legacy like no other. More than four decades after its release, the record remains one of the most electrifying and brilliant works ever released. Again available on 180g vinyl LP, it is here presented in freshly remastered sound that does justice to Bowie, Mick Ronson, and company's creative genius.
Ziggy Stardust is an album written by an aspirant rock star in the guise of a hugely successful one. This nifty deceit has led to it being dubbed the first post-modern pop record. Its songs obtusely referenced aspects of rock history, whilst at the same time tell a story of a future world of extraterrestrial intervention and space-age androgyny. Ziggy Stardust works so well because it's a concept album with the ‘concept' taken out.
"We certainly didn't go into it thinking that the entire album would be a concept album," says producer Ken Scott. "It was a bunch of songs that worked together. Now yes, there is a story for a few of the tracks that hook them together, but, that's it, a few of the tracks." "I think the best thing I did was to leave him so open-ended," Bowie rightly pointed out. "It wasn't a specific story. There were specific incidences within the story, but it wasn't as roundly written as a usual narrative is. The only trouble about copying someone who is really well known is that you know all the facts about them, so you can't actually be that person. But, because Ziggy was kind of an empty vessel, you could put a lot of yourself into being your own version of him."
"Moonage Daydream" is simply stunning, the end-of-song solo by Mick Ronson, which dissolves into spacey, phased high strings, makes it, even more so than "Space Oddity," the definitive space-rock Bowie anthem. "Star," and, most importantly, "Hang On to Yourself" were precursors of punk rock. "Starman" is such a crafty steal from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that it was bound to be huge. The title track’s closing salvo, 'Ziggy played guitar' is so famous now that its three words could be Bowie’s tombstone epitaph.
"Suffragette City" became a Bowie classic: its powerhouse of a riff, booming ARP synthesizer, and "Wham Bam Thank You Ma’m!" are still ludicrously thrilling. "Soul Love" and "Lady Stardust" are beautiful little songs and surely two of Bowie’s most underrated. But it’s the astonishing opener and the killer of a closing number that take you into Bowie’s parallel universe. The scene of anarchy on the streets melded with a simple love story that is "Five Years" is surely one of Bowie’s greatest moments. Everything from the heartbeat drum figure which opens the song to the hysteria of the ending works perfectly. And "Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide" is as impassioned a performance as any on the record.
So much of pop music would have been unthinkable, unimaginable, without this record. In pop, you're always best remembered for your initial breakthrough. Bowie's career trajectory through soul, electronica and avant-garde pop is perhaps, in part, an attempt to free himself from this stereotyping circa 1972.