Aladdin Sane

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Aladdin Sane
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 13 April 1973
Recorded 6 October 1972, 3 December 1972 – 24 January 1973
Studio Trident Studios, London and RCA Studios, New York and Nashville
Length 40:47
Label RCA Records
David Bowie chronology
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Aladdin Sane
Pin Ups
Singles from Aladdin Sane
  1. "The Jean Genie"
    Released: 24 November 1972
  2. "Drive-In Saturday"
    Released: 6 April 1973
  3. "Time"
    Released: 13 April 1973
  4. "Let's Spend the Night Together"
    Released: July 1973

Aladdin Sane is the sixth album by David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1973. The follow-up to his breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it was the first album he wrote and released as a bona fide rock star.

NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray called the album "oddly unsatisfying, considerably less than the sum of the parts",[1] while Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg describes it as "one of the most urgent, compelling and essential" of his releases.[2] The Rolling Stone review by Ben Gerson pronounced it "less manic than The Man Who Sold The World, and less intimate than Hunky Dory, with none of its attacks of self-doubt."[3] It was one of six Bowie entries in Rolling Stones list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (at #277) and ranked No. 77 on Pitchfork Media's list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s.[4]

"Ziggy goes to America"[edit]

The name of the album is a pun on "A Lad Insane". An early variation was "Love Aladdin Vein", which David Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations.[5] Although technically a new Bowie 'character', Aladdin Sane was essentially a development of Ziggy Stardust in his appearance and persona, as evidenced on the cover by Brian Duffy and in Bowie's live performances throughout 1973 that culminated in Ziggy's 'retirement' at the Hammersmith Odeon in July that year. Lacking the thematic flow found on its predecessor,[6] Aladdin Sane was described by Bowie himself as simply "Ziggy goes to America"; most of the tracks were observations he composed on the road during his 1972 US tour, which accounted for the place names following each song title on the original record labels.[1] Biographer Christopher Sandford believed the album showed that Bowie "was simultaneously appalled and fixated by America".[7]

His mixed feelings about the journey stemmed, in Bowie's words, from "wanting to be up on the stage performing my songs, but on the other hand not really wanting to be on those buses with all those strange people... So Aladdin Sane was split down the middle."[8] This kind of "schizophrenia", as Bowie described it, was conveyed on the cover by his makeup, where a lightning bolt represents the duality of mind, although he would later tell friends that the "lad insane" of the album's title track was inspired by his brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.[8][9][10] Bowie himself came up with the idea of the lightning bolt over his face, but said the teardrop was Brian Duffy's idea: "He [Brian] put on that afterward, just popped it in there. I thought it was rather sweet."[11]

Production and style[edit]

The majority of Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studios in London in January 1973, between legs of Bowie's US Ziggy Stardust tour. A desire to rush release the record was blamed for mixes on the Rolling Stones influenced "Watch That Man" and "Cracked Actor" that buried vocals and harmonica, respectively.[1][12] Bowie and producer Ken Scott later rebuffed this suggestion regarding "Watch That Man", claiming that a remix they produced which brought the vocals forward was considered by Mainman management and RCA Records to be inferior to the original that was eventually released.[12][13]

Aladdin Sane featured a tougher rock sound than its predecessor Ziggy Stardust,[12] particularly on tracks like "Panic in Detroit" (built around a Bo Diddley beat) and Bowie's breakneck version of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together".[1] "Let's talk about great riffs!" enthused Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo. "Mick Ronson wrote some classics. 'Cracked Actor', 'Watch That Man' and 'Panic in Detroit' are all amazing. In fact, Aladdin Sane is probably one of my favourite albums of all time."[14]

The album was also notable for its exploration of unusual styles such as avant-garde jazz in the title track and Brechtian cabaret in "Time". Both numbers were dominated by Mike Garson's acclaimed piano work,[12] which also featured heavily in the faux James Bond flamenco ballad "Lady Grinning Soul", inspired by singer Claudia Linnear.[1]


Two hit singles that would be included on the album preceded its release, "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday". The former (recorded at RCA's New York studios during the first leg of Bowie's American tour in late 1972) was a heavy R&B chug with lyrics loosely based on Iggy Pop,[15] the latter a futuristic doo-wop number describing a time when the population has to relearn sex by watching old porn movies.[1] "Time" was later issued as a single in the US and Japan, and "Let's Spend the Night Together" in the US and Europe. In 1974, Lulu released a version of "Watch That Man" as the B-side to her single "The Man Who Sold the World", produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson.

Release and aftermath[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[16]
Blender 4/5 stars[17]
Mojo 5/5 stars[18]
PopMatters [19]
Q 4/5 stars[20]
Robert Christgau B+[21]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[22]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 7/10 stars[23]
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10[24]

With a purported 100,000 copies ordered in advance,[12] Aladdin Sane debuted at the top of the UK charts and reached No. 17 in America, making it Bowie's most successful album commercially in both countries to that date. The album is estimated to have sold 4.6 million copies worldwide, making it one of Bowie's highest-selling LPs.[25]

Critical reaction was generally laudatory, if more enthusiastic in the US than in the UK.[15] Rolling Stone remarked on "Bowie's provocative melodies, audacious lyrics, masterful arrangements (with Mick Ronson) and production (with Ken Scott)",[3] while Billboard called it a combination of "raw energy with explosive rock". In the British music press, however, letters columns accused Bowie of 'selling out' and Let it Rock magazine found the album to be more style than substance, considering that he had "nothing to say and everything to say it with".[15]

Bowie performed all the tracks, except "Lady Grinning Soul", on his 1972–73 tours and many of them on the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour. Live versions of all but "The Prettiest Star" and "Lady Grinning Soul" have been released on various discs including Ziggy Stardust – The Motion Picture, David Live and Aladdin Sane – 30th Anniversary. "The Jean Genie" is the only song on the album that Bowie played in concert throughout his career. However "Panic in Detroit" also appeared regularly in Bowie's later years, a remake of which was cut in 1979 but not released until added as a bonus track to the Rykodisc CD of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).

Belgian amateur astronomers at the MIRA Public Observatory in conjunction with Studio Brussel created a "Bowie asterism" in homage to David Bowie in January 2016; it depicts the iconic lightning bolt of Aladdin Sane using the stars Sigma Librae, Spica, Zeta Centauri, SAO 204132, Sigma Octantis,[26] SAO 241641 and Beta Trianguli Australis which were near Mars at the time of Bowie's death.[27][28][29][30]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by David Bowie, except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Watch That Man"   4:30
2. "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)"   5:06
3. "Drive-In Saturday"   4:33
4. "Panic in Detroit"   4:25
5. "Cracked Actor"   3:01
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Time"   5:15
7. "The Prettiest Star"   3:31
8. "Let's Spend the Night Together" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) 3:10
9. "The Jean Genie"   4:07
10. "Lady Grinning Soul"   3:54


Additional personnel[edit]

Production personnel[edit]

  • David Bowie – producer, arrangements
  • Ken Scott – producer, engineer
  • Mick Moran – engineer
  • Mick Ronson – arrangements

Compact disc releases[edit]

Aladdin Sane was first released on CD in 1984 by RCA.

1990 Rykodisc/EMI[edit]

Dr. Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, Massachusetts,[31] remastered Aladdin Sane from the original master tapes for Rykodisc, who released it with no bonus tracks.

1999 EMI/Virgin[edit]

The album was remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios, with the same track listing as the 1984 CD release.

2003 EMI/Virgin[edit]

In 2003, a 2-disc version was released by EMI/Virgin. The second in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition sets (along with Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs), this release includes a remastered version of the first disc. The second disc contains ten tracks, a few of which had been previously released on the Sound + Vision box set.

Bonus CD (2003 EMI/Virgin)[edit]

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing" ('Sax' version) – 2:45
  2. "The Jean Genie" (Single mix for single A-side, 1972) – 4:07
  3. "Time" (Edit for single A-Side, 1973) – 3:43
  4. "All the Young Dudes" (Mono mix) – 4:12
  5. "Changes" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 3:20 (From Sound + Vision CD-Video)
  6. "The Supermen" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 2:42 (From Sound + Vision CD-Video)
  7. "Life on Mars?" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 3:25 (Previously unreleased)
  8. "John, I'm Only Dancing" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 2:40 (From Sound + Vision CD-Video)
  9. "The Jean Genie" (Live at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 20 October 1972) – 4:10 (From Santa Monica '72)
  10. "Drive-In Saturday" (Live at Cleveland Public Auditorium, 25 November 1972) – 4:53 (Previously unreleased)

2013 Parlophone/AIR[edit]

This 40th anniversary edition was remastered by Ray Staff at London’s AIR Studios.[32]

Release history (selected)[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom (UK) 13 April 1973 (1973-04-13) RCA LP RS 1001[33]
United States (U.S.) 13 April 1973 (1973-04-13) RCA LP AFL1 4852[34]
Worldwide 1985 RCA CD PD-83890/PCD1-4852[33][35]
U.S. 13 July 1990 (1990-07-13) Rykodisc CD RCD-10135
Worldwide (except U.S.) July 1990 (1990-07) EMI CD EMC-3579/CDP 79 468 2[33]
Worldwide 28 September 1999 (1999-09-28) EMI/Virgin CD 7243 521902 0 1
Worldwide 26 May 2003 (2003-05-26) (UK)[19]
24 June 2003 (2003-06-24)
EMI/Virgin 2 CD 30th Anniversary Edition 72435 83012 2
Worldwide 15 April 2013 (2013-04-15) EMI/Universal CD 40th Anniversary Edition 5099993447423



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  3. ^ a b c Gerson, Ben (19 July 1973). "Aladdin Sane". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Staff Lists: Top 100 Album of the 1970s". Pitchfork Media. 23 June 2004. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2004) [2000]. The Complete David Bowie. London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-903111-73-0. 
  6. ^ Kris Needs (1983) Bowie: A Celebration: p.29
  7. ^ Christopher Sandford (1996, 1997). Loving the Alien: p.109
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  9. ^ Pegg, 2006, pp.19 and 286.
  10. ^ Seventies' Greatest Album Covers: Aladdin Sane. Retrieved on 2 July 2011.
  11. ^ Loder, Kurt (23 April 1987), "Stardust Memories", Rolling Stone Magazine (498): 74–77, 80, 82, 168, 171 
  12. ^ a b c d e Buckley, David (2000) [1999]. Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books. pp. 182–189. ISBN 0-7535-0457-X. 
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  14. ^ Guitar World, September 1996
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  17. ^ "Aladdin Sane". Blender. Retrieved 10 July 2008. 
  18. ^ Buckley, David (2013). "David Bowie: Aladdin Sane Parlophone". Mojo (Bauer Media Group) 234 (May 2013): 102. ISSN 1351-0193. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Davidson, John (22 August 2003). "Aladdin Sane 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition". PopMatters. Retrieved 10 July 2008. 
  20. ^ O'Brien, Lucy. "Review: David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (Re-release)". Q (EMAP Metro Ltd) (July 1999): 132. 
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  25. ^ Dee, Johnny (7 January 2012). "David Bowie: Infomania". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  26. ^ Internet images of the "Bowie asterism" actually indicate Delta Octantis.
  27. ^ StardustForBowie, Mira in the eye of a Cyclone...
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  29. ^
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  31. ^ "Northeastern Digital home page". Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2008. 
  32. ^ "40th anniversary remaster of Aladdin Sane due in April". David Bowie Official Website. 
  33. ^ a b c Pegg, Nicholas (2006). The Complete David Bowie (4th ed.). London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. p. 284. ISBN 1-905287-15-1. 
  34. ^ "Aladdin Sane (1973)". The Ziggy Stardust Companion. Retrieved 10 July 2008. 
  35. ^ Ruud Altenburg. "Albums (1973–1977)". Illustrated db Discography. Retrieved 10 July 2008. 
  36. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  37. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 19, No. 20" (PHP). RPM. 30 June 1973. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  38. ^ " David Bowie – Aladdin Sane" (ASP). MegaCharts. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  39. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP). Retrieved 31 January 2014.  Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  40. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1973" (in Italian). Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  41. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
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  43. ^ "Swedish Charts 1972–1975/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Maj 1973 > 15 Maj" (PDF). (in Swedish). Retrieved 31 January 2014. Note: Kvällstoppen combined sales for albums and singles in the one chart; Aladdin Sane peaked at the number-nine on the list in the 2nd week of May 1973.
  44. ^ "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  45. ^ "allmusic ((( Aladdin Sane > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
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  47. ^ "The Official UK Charts Company : ALBUM CHART HISTORY". Archived from the original on 13 August 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2007. 
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  50. ^ "American album certifications – David Bowie – Aladdin Sane". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 31 January 2014.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ooh La La by The Faces
UK number-one albums
5 May – 2 June 1973
Succeeded by
Pure Gold by Various Artists