Review Summary: Ziggy played guitar…The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
was the album responsible for turning David Bowie into a superstar. Informed by the likes of Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol, David Bowie understood the potential he could achieve by melding his artistic vision into the musical setting of the burgeoning glam rock scene. Masterfully grabbing the zeitgeist with his pale, slender hands, Bowie transformed himself into the androgynous alien rock star the world would soon come to know as Ziggy Stardust.
The whole ‘Ziggy Stardust’ concept is a strike of artistic genius. Bowie realised that glam was out to push the boundaries of rock music in every way possible - the flamboyant fashion, showy theatricality, and breaking away from rocks traditions seemed perfectly tailored to the sensibilities of his personality. And so Ziggy was born, and in the process, glam, rock ‘n’ roll, and popular music in general were taken to another level - the ambiguous sexuality, outlandishly ornate fashion and makeup, the grand theatricality of Bowie’s live shows, and perhaps most prominently, the sheer creativity surrounding such an iconic concept changed the way consumers approached the whole notion of rock music.
A loose concept that falls apart as quickly as it begins, the 11 tracks on Ziggy Stardust
are vaguely connected by common themes of rock ‘n’ roll stardom, fame and celebrity. But what makes them so compelling and, for all the extraterrestrial connotations, surprisingly functional, is how warm and human these cinematic tales are. It works because the ‘alien’ narrative is a deeply analogical concept in itself. The theme of the desolate alien is a clear parallel of the lonely outsider; of the odd-balls and outcasts that live on every street. It helped cement the notion that Bowie was a champion of the misunderstood; the dejected; the different. It’s these emotions and sentiments bubbling beneath the evocate surface that makes the lyrics so relatable - even though they are spliced with a science-fictional breeze of melodrama and apocalyptic dread they still feel so intrinsically human and natural.
Musically, the disc is a virtually flawless example of radio-friendly glam rock. Underpinned by sweeping orchestral scores; the glitzy rock chords and rhythm section are fleshed out with strings, horns and piano, resulting in a ‘fuller’ and more grandiose sound than present on any previous Bowie record.
The set is extremely consistent; kicking off with the gorgeous ‘Five Years’, which starts with a simple drum beat and sullen piano melody, before progressing into a sweeping epic, marked by lush string sections and a superb building vocal. The pop catchiness of ‘Starman’, the heart-warming ‘Lady Stardust’, and the album ender to end all album enders, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’, furthers the melodrama and flamboyant theatricality hinted at from the opener.
The album isn’t short of rockers either. The magnificent ending solo of ‘Moonage Daydream’, the upbeat, pure-glam of ‘Hang Onto Yourself’, the classic “Wham-bam thank you, mam!” hook present in the relentless ‘Suffragette City’, and of course, the iconic riff driving the title track, complement the softer moments and help to create a superbly balanced and consistent track-list.
There may have been technically better Bowie records; albums that were more compositionally groundbreaking, but crucially, none had the sheer cultural impact The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
enjoyed. The album catapulted Bowie into the big time, and rightly so - it’s a fascinating concept executed to an enduringly accomplished standard. It witnessed the birth of the most famous incarnation of David Bowie and ensued his icon status - an accolade still standing proud and proving its influence almost 40 years on. Quite simply, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
is one of the most important and essential rock albums ever made.