THE LATE LATE REVIEW: DAVID BOWIE – THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS

Bowie’s fifth, Ken Scott co-produced, Mick Ronson featuring studio LP is often heralded as one of the greatest albums of all time. Tom hadn’t heard it, until now…

Release Date: 1972.

Achievements: This album went double platinum over here selling 1,500,000 copies. Not too shabby!  

Rating: Quite the critical reception for this one, getting five stars from just about everyone. It’s also been recognised as one of the most important glam rock albums ever, so there’s that.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (more commonly known as Ziggy Stardust – probably because you can at least say that in one breath) is about a bisexual alien rock star. He’s called Ziggy Stardust. You probably guessed that.

It’s widely regarded as a concept album; which had me envisioning a whole plot line – not unlike the soundtrack to a musical (which might be life telling me I spend too much time listening to, and watching, musicals). It turns out that the storyline was essentially added after the album was created, making this dystopian, futuristic alien adventure less Little Shop of Horrors and more Mamma Mia (You can’t tell me that Pierce Brosnan’s singing doesn’t qualify as dystopian). Needless to say, before I realised this I was desperately trying to work out the story which I think is akin to trying to work out the lyrics to just about anything by Bjork, for example.

That said, this record really would make a great stage musical with a bit of light tweaking. There really are Rocky Horror Picture Show vibes about it, especially given Ziggy Stardust’s sexuality and the whole alien thing…

We’ve all heard Starman and Moonage Daydream (especially true if you were a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy), but the album also has belters like It Ain’t Easy and Suffragette City, which has a very T. Rex vibe about it (it turns out that Marc Bolan, the lead singer of T. Rex was one of Bowie’s inspirations for this album).

It doesn’t take much more than hearing Ziggy Stardust in the background of a room you’re in to understand why this might be seen as Bowie’s breakthrough album. Full of lyrics with great narrative and iconic music, this is an album that could be released now and still be just as well received. It also can’t be ignored that without albums like this, we might not see the kind of concept albums which are so popular now. It’s also fair to say that songs like Five Years, with its story of the imminent destruction of Earth, have lyrics which are painfully topical today.

I can’t write this review without pointing out that it was recommended to me by my Dad who was quick to point out the instruction “TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME” on the original vinyl LP. When your father’s stories of his youth are sneaking into music venues to watch the likes of Elton John, Rod Stewart and Status-Quo, you have to acknowledge that he has pretty good taste in music, and is actually a bit of a bad ass. I actually stole this record from his collection – without him noticing – a good few years ago but never listened to it until now (very much to my shame).

The short version of this review is that I wish I’d listened to this album way sooner because it’s brilliant. If you haven’t heard it yet, I suggest you make steps to change that as soon as possible!

Is there an iconic film or album you think I should have experienced by now? Let me know @MoveToTRASHUK #latelatereview

Comments (1):

  1. Gary

    April 7, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Great review Tom. Loads more classics in mind for you to try.

    Reply

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