David Bowie – The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

We move like tigers on vaseline

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good… “Ziggy Stardust” is an iconic album. It’s one of the best glam-rock albums ever and it’s on the short list for my albums that I have listened to the most in my life. It is filled with great songs, almost no weak points all through. All that said, I am still a little bit conflicted over exactly how great it is…

Maybe I have listened to it too much, but I feel it may have faded a little. When rating albums a part of the total sum is how much eagerness I feel to put it on the turntable and let it have a spin. Another is of course nostalgia. Ziggy has faded a little when it comes to eagerness, but it still rates high on the nostalgia. It was one of the first albums by Bowie I got, and it seems like it has always been there in my life. Now it is like a worn-out old friend.

As an album “The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is a rather big step forward compared to “Hunky dory” when it comes to production and ambition. It has a fuller sound and feels overall more cohesive. It feels like they were a band. Bowie in a band? Unfortunately, that’s something we later learned was a very bad idea…

Another change that comes with the band and the fuller sound is that there is much less focus on the piano. Rick Wakeman is almost gone, he may have played only on a song or two, and Mike Garson hasn’t joined the band yet. This, I feel, is on the not so positive side.

The album is said to be a concept album, but very loosely if so. It would be about an androgynous rock star who acts as a messenger for an alien being, at the time of the doom of our world. It is about space, aliens, apocalypse and insanity. All the usual subjects Bowie was interested in. Ziggy as a kind of Messiah? Yes, I am on board.

The first side is kicked off with “Five years”. It is faded in, a great intro like “Space oddity”, it feels earnest and David has a desperate tone in his voice. It’s a very good lead off song. “Soul love” is the perfect companion to the somber “Five years”. A love song, it’s a little lighter and give us a slightly happier David.

The third song “Moonage daydream” is the first of my favourites. I’m a space invader. The song was used to great effect in a spacey scene in “Guardians of the Galaxy, vol 1”. I love the guitar in the intro. Now and then Mick Ronson got it right!

“Starman” is another classic. Do you see how impossibly dense this album is? Again with the sci-fi theme. Maybe we can see it as Ziggy’s “Life on Mars?”? It is one of my favs. The last song on the first side is the only filler on the album, the cover of the Ron Davies song “It ain’t easy”. Random curiosity to my ears.

What a stellar first side! But nevertheless, the second side is stronger! “Lady Stardust” is a softer melancholic song, “Star” the up-tempo rocker that was so fun live and “Hang on to yourself” is another fan favourite, this time with the fun lyrics and hand clapping. The typical proto-punk rock song.

“Ziggy Stardust” must be the most well-known song from the album. The guitar is classic, again well-done Mick Ronson. David’s singing is with clear eyes and a full heart. One of the best songs in David’s whole career. And it is almost equaled by the penultimate song “Sufragette City”. This is one of my favourites now when I am getting older. It was always a blast on the live stage.

The album is finished off with David’s early career magnum opus “Rock’n’roll suicide”, a song about depression and the fall from grace. It meant the end of the Ziggy era when he played it at Hammersmith Odeon on the last show of the Ziggy tours. It is a perfect ending, starting slow with an acoustic guitar and building up to a crescendo. Album ended.

When I was young my family always had that red box of chocolates at Christmas. The Ziggy album is like that box of chocolates. Almost all pieces are wonderful, but nowadays I can’t eat a whole box in one go. I want to savor a few pieces at a time. It may be the same with this album. How can it not be a 10/10? Maybe I feel full, and sometimes only a song here and there at the time is enough… I still ranked “Ziggy Stardust” at number six in my latest Bowie albums ranking.

In the “Five years” box it’s the Ziggy album that has got the “special treatment” with a second mix added. We get the 2003 mix by original producer Ken Scott. I have listened very hard to find the changes, the improvements. It is actually quite hard to hear any clear differences. I have even searched the Internets to read up on the changes, but most reviewers seem to say that there are very small differences between the mixes. If anything, David’s singing is a little clearer and pushed to the front, the drums are a little dryer and there’s maybe a fatter bass. I don’t even know if it is for real or only in my head! I can say though that the different mix doesn’t give me a different feeling from the album at least.

“Ziggy Stardust” will always be there. It is a part of the soundtrack to my life. But maybe I don’t put it on as often as I maybe should.

My rating: 8/10

Side A:

  1. Five years
  2. Soul love
  3. Moonage daydream
  4. Starman
  5. It ain’t easy (cover of the Ron Davies song)

Side B:

  1. Lady Stardust
  2. Star
  3. Hang on to yourself
  4. Ziggy Stardust
  5. Suffragette City
  6. Rock ‘n’ roll suicide

Best songs: “Moonage daydream”, “Starman”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Suffragette City” and “Rock’n’roll suicide”.

Produced by: David Bowie and Ken Scott

Media: 2012 remaster 180 gram vinyl, reissued in 2015 as part of the Five Years (1969-1973) box.
Media 2: Ken Scott 2003 mix as part of the Five Years (1969-1973) box.

Released: June 16, 1972

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