The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
|The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars|
|Studio album by|
|Released||16 June 1972|
|Recorded||9 July, 8, 11–12 & 15 November 1971, 4 February 1972|
|David Bowie chronology|
|David Bowie studio albums chronology|
|Singles from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars|
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is the fifth studio album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on 16 June 1972 in the United Kingdom by RCA Records. It was produced by Bowie and Ken Scott and features Bowie's backing band the Spiders from Mars – Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. Most of the songs were written around the same time as its predecessor Hunky Dory. After that album was completed, recording for Ziggy Stardust commenced in November 1971 at Trident Studios in London, with further sessions in January and early February 1972.
Described as a rock opera and a loose concept album, Ziggy Stardust concerns Bowie's titular alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a fictional androgynous bisexual rock star who is sent to Earth as a savior before an impending apocalyptic disaster. After gaining the trust of the citizens, Ziggy seduces everyone in his path and at the end of the album, dies as a victim of his own fame. Influences for the character of Ziggy Stardust were English singer Vince Taylor, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto. Most of the album's concept was developed after the songs were recorded. The character was retained for the subsequent Ziggy Stardust Tour through the United Kingdom, Japan and North America. Not wanting Ziggy to define him, Bowie created a new character, Aladdin Sane for his next album, which Bowie described as "Ziggy goes to America". A concert film of the same name, directed by D. A. Pennebaker, was filmed in July 1973 and released in 1979, and a live album from the same show followed in 1983.
The music on Ziggy Stardust has been characterised as glam rock and proto-punk. Unlike its predecessor Hunky Dory, which was generally piano-led, the songs on Ziggy Stardust are primarily guitar-based, mostly due to the departure of keyboardist Rick Wakeman. The songs were influenced by the singer-songwriters Iggy Pop of the Stooges, Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground and Marc Bolan of T. Rex. Two songs, "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang On to Yourself", were originally recorded by Bowie in early 1971 with another band, Arnold Corns, before being re-recorded for Ziggy Stardust. The album's lyrics discuss the artificiality of rock music, political issues, drug use, sexual orientation and stardom. Bowie also uses American slang and pronunciations throughout. The album cover, photographed by Brian Ward in monochrome and re-coloured by Terry Pastor, was taken at 23 Heddon Street in London, outside the home of furriers "K. West".
Preceded by the single "Starman", The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars peaked at number five on the UK Albums Chart and number 75 in the US Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart. The album received widespread critical acclaim and, following his performance of "Starman" on the English television programme Top of the Pops, propelled Bowie to stardom. It has since been called one of the most important albums in the glam rock genre and one of the greatest albums of all time by such publications as Rolling Stone, Q, Time and NME. It re-peaked at number 21 on the Billboard 200 in 2016 following Bowie's death. The album has been reissued several times and was remastered in 2012 for its 40th anniversary, which was included on the box set Five Years (1969–1973) in 2015, along with the 2003 mixes by Ken Scott. In 2017, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" by the Library of Congress.
Following his promotional tour of America in February 1971, Bowie returned to Haddon Hall in England and began writing songs, many of which were inspired by the diverse musical genres that were present in America. Composing on piano rather than acoustic guitar like he had previously done, he wrote over three-dozen songs, many of which would appear on his fourth studio album Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust; among these were "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang On to Yourself", which he recorded with his short-lived band Arnold Corns in February 1971, and subsequently re-recorded for Ziggy Stardust. Work officially begun on Hunky Dory on 8 June 1971 at Trident Studios in London. The sessions featured the musicians who would later become known as the Spiders from Mars – comprising Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. Ken Scott, who previously worked as an engineer for Bowie's two previous albums and the Beatles, was chosen as producer. The sessions also featured keyboardist Rick Wakeman on piano who, after completing work on the album, declined Bowie's offer to join the Spiders to instead join the English progressive rock band Yes. According to Woodmansey, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust were almost recorded back-to-back. However, the Spiders realised that most of the songs on Hunky Dory were not suitable live material, so they needed a follow-up that could be toured behind.
After Bowie's manager Tony Defries terminated his contract with Mercury Records, Defries presented the album to multiple labels in the US, including New York City's RCA Records. The head of the label, Dennis Katz, heard the tapes and saw the potential of the piano-based songs, signing Bowie to a three-album deal on 9 September; RCA became Bowie's label for the rest of the decade. Hunky Dory was released on 17 December to very positive reviews from critics but sold poorly and failed to break the UK Albums Chart, partly due to poor marketing from RCA; the label had heard that Bowie was going to be changing his image for his next record so they did not know how to promote the album.
Recording and production
– David Bowie talking to Ken Scott about the new album's sound, 8 November 1971
The first song to be properly recorded for Ziggy Stardust was the Ron Davies cover "It Ain't Easy", on 9 July 1971. Originally slated for release on Hunky Dory, the song was passed for inclusion on that album and subsequently placed on Ziggy Stardust. With Hunky Dory being readied for release, the sessions for Ziggy Stardust officially began at Trident on 8 November 1971, using much of the same personnel as Hunky Dory. In 2012, co-producer Ken Scott said that "95 percent of the vocals on the four albums I did with him as producer, they were first takes." According to biographer Nicholas Pegg, Bowie's "sense of purpose" during the sessions was "decisive and absolute"; he knew exactly what he wanted for each individual track. Since most of the tracks were recorded almost entirely live, Bowie recalled that he at some points had to hum Ronson's solos to him. Due to Bowie's generally dismissive attitude during the sessions for The Man Who Sold the World (1970), Ronson had to craft his solos individually and had very little guidance. However, Bowie had a much better attitude when recording Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, and gave guidance Ronson on what he was looking for. For the album, Ronson used an electric guitar plugged to a 100-watt Marshall amplifier and a wah-wah pedal; Bowie played acoustic rhythm guitar.
Using a 16-track 3M M56 tape recorder, the band recorded initial versions of "Star" (then titled "Rock 'n' Roll Star") and "Hang On to Yourself", both of which were deemed unsuccessful. Both songs were re-recorded three days later on 11 November, along with "Ziggy Stardust", "Looking For a Friend", "Velvet Goldmine" and "Sweet Head". The next day, the band recorded two takes of "Moonage Daydream", one take of "Soul Love", two takes of "Lady Stardust" and two takes of a new version of The Man Who Sold the World track "The Supermen". Three days later on 15 November, the band recorded "Five Years" and unfinished versions of "It's Gonna Rain Again" and "Shadow Man". Woodmansey described the recording process as very fast-paced, saying they would record the songs, listen to them back and if they didn't capture the sound they were looking for, they recorded them again. On this day, a running order is created, which included the Chuck Berry cover "Round and Round", the Jacques Brel cover "Amsterdam" (which would be released as the B-side of "Sorrow" in 1973), a new recording of "Holy Holy" and "Velvet Goldmine"; "It Ain't Easy" is absent from the list. According to Pegg, the album was to be titled Round and Round as late as 15 December.
Following the 15 November session, the group took a break for the holiday season. Reconvening on 4 January 1972, the band underwent rehearsals for three days at Will Palin's Underhill Studios in Blackheath, in preparation for the final recording sessions. After recording some of the new songs for radio presenter Bob Harris's Sounds of the 70s as the newly dubbed Spiders from Mars in January 1972, the band returned to Trident that month to begin work on "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". After receiving a complaint from RCA executive Dennis Katz that the album did not contain a single, Bowie wrote "Starman", which replaced "Round and Round" on the track listing at the last minute; according to biographer Kevin Cann, the replacement occurred on 2 February. Writing about the song's replacement of "Round and Round", Pegg says: "It's extraordinary to consider that one of Bowie's definitive songs replaced a Chuck Berry cover almost as an afterthought". Two days later on 4 February, the band recorded "Starman", "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", bringing the sessions to a close. Bowie also intended "All the Young Dudes", "Rebel Rebel" and "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" to be on a Ziggy Stardust musical, which was later aborted.
Concept and themes
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars is about a bisexual alien rock superstar named Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy Stardust was not conceived as a concept album and much of the story was written after the album was recorded. The characters were androgynous. Mick "Woody" Woodmansey, drummer for the Spiders from Mars, said the clothes they had worn had "femininity and sheer outrageousness", and that the characters' looks "definitely appealed to our rebellious artistic instincts". Nenad Georgievski of All About Jazz said the record was presented with "high-heeled boots, multicolored dresses, extravagant makeup and outrageous sexuality". Bowie had already developed an androgynous appearance, which was approved by critics, but received mixed reactions from audiences. His love of acting led his total immersion in the characters he created for his music. After acting the same role over an extended period, it became impossible for him to separate Ziggy Stardust from his own offstage character. Bowie said that Ziggy "wouldn't leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour ... My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity." Fearing that Ziggy would define his career, Bowie quickly developed the persona of Aladdin Sane in his subsequent album. Unlike Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane was far less optimistic, instead engaging in aggressive sexual activities and heavy drugs.
The character was inspired by English rock 'n' roll singer Vince Taylor, whom David Bowie met after Taylor had had a breakdown and believed himself to be a cross between a god and an alien. However, Taylor was only part of the blueprint for the character. Other influences included the cult musician Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Kansai Yamamoto, who designed the costumes Bowie wore during the tour. An alternative theory is that, during a tour, Bowie developed the concept of Ziggy as a melding of the persona of Iggy Pop with the music of Lou Reed, producing "the ultimate pop idol".
A girlfriend recalled his "scrawling notes on a cocktail napkin about a crazy rock star named Iggy or Ziggy", and on his return to England he declared his intention to create a character "who looks like he's landed from Mars".
The Ziggy Stardust name came partly from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and partly because Ziggy was "one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter 'Z'". In 1990, Bowie explained that the "Ziggy" part came from a tailor's shop called Ziggy's that he passed on a train. He liked it because it had "that Iggy [Pop] connotation but it was a tailor's shop, and I thought, Well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy. So Ziggy Stardust was a real compilation of things." He later asserted that Ziggy Stardust was born out of a desire to move away from the denim and hippies of the 1960s. Along these lines, some critics assert that Bowie's artificial concoction of a rock star persona was a symbolic critique of the artificiality seen in the rock world of the time.
The album's concept is loose, and pieced together after many of the songs were already recorded. Indeed, before the album's initial release Bowie told a US interviewer:
What you have there on that album when it does finally come out, is a story which doesn’t really take place, it’s just a few little scenes from the life of a band called Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, who could feasibly be the last band on Earth—it could be within the last five years of Earth. I’m not at all sure. Because I wrote it in such a way that I just dropped the numbers into the album in any order that they cropped up. It depends in which state you listen to it in.
In the album's story, the Earth is saved by the rock n' roll messiah, Ziggy Stardust, with only five years to survive. He wins the hearts of teens, scares parents, seduces everyone in his path, and eventually dies a victim of his own fame. According to Bowie, he "takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples". During the song "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", the infinites (extraterrestrials) arrive, and tear Ziggy Stardust to pieces on stage.
Music and lyrics
Ziggy Stardust has been retrospectively described as glam rock, rock opera and proto-punk. Nenad Georgievski felt the record represents Bowie's interests in "theater, dance, pantomime, kabuki, cabaret and science fiction." The concept and music of Ziggy Stardust were influenced by Bowie's earlier album The Man Who Sold the World, Iggy Pop, singer/songwriter of the proto-punk band the Stooges, Lou Reed, singer/songwriter and guitarist of the Velvet Underground, Marc Bolan, singer/songwriter and guitarist of glam rock band T. Rex, guitarist and singer Jimi Hendrix; and progressive rock band King Crimson. Following the departure of Rick Wakeman on piano, the songs on Ziggy Stardust are considerably less piano-led than the songs on Hunky Dory and are more guitar-led. Along with guitar and composing the string arrangements, Ronson played piano on the album, and according to Pegg, his playing on tracks like "Five Years" and "Lady Stardust" foreshadow the skills he would showcase on Lou Reed's Transformer (1972). The album's lyrics discuss the artificiality of rock music in general, political issues, drug use, sexual orientation and stardom. Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the album's lyrics as "fractured, paranoid" and "evocative of a decadent, decaying future". Bowie uses American slang and pronunciations throughout, such as "news guy", "cop" and "TV" (instead of "newsreader", "policeman" and "telly", respectively).
The album opener, "Five Years", begins with a minimalist drum beat, described by author David Buckley as "heartbeat-like". The track contains a repeated diatonic chord progression, resembling early 1950s rock and roll music. Biographers Nicholas Pegg and Peter Doggett both note the track's building intensity, especially in Bowie's vocal performance – moving from calm to screaming, as reminiscent of English musician John Lennon's 1970 solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, particularly on its opening track "Mother". The lyrics break the news that the Earth only has five years left before it gets destroyed by an impending apocalyptic disaster. The first two verses are from the point of view of a kid, who hears this news for the first time and goes numb as it sinks in. By the third verse, Bowie addresses the listener directly, which was a rarity in rock lyrics at the time. He observes the lack of awareness in the public and proclaims that he "feels like an actor", indirectly introducing the character of Ziggy Stardust. The track ends with Bowie screaming the title as the Spiders join in, transforming the "histrionics" into "jolly pub chant", before fading out with the opening drum beat.
The second track, "Soul Love", has a pop-jazz orchestration, a "hand-clap" rhythm and a similar drum rhythm as "Five Years". Pegg notes that compared with the rest of the album, the song's lyrics initially stray away from the overarching story, but upon closer observation, it is about numerous characters dealing with love before the impending disaster that will destroy Earth as described in "Five Years". Biographer Marc Spitz notes that the track has a sense of "pre-apocalypse frustration" to it. Doggett notes that following the "panoramic vision" of "Five Years", "Soul Love" offers a more "optimistic" landscape, with bongos and acoustic guitar indicating "mellow fruitfulness." Bowie plays a saxophone solo on the song, which Doggett calls "relaxing", and his vocals are double-tracked.
"Moonage Daydream" was written during Bowie's promotional tour of America in early February 1971. Bowie originally recorded the song and fellow album track "Hang On to Yourself" with a short-lived band known as Arnold Corns the same month, and released it as a single. Multiple biographers have criticised this recording: Pegg wrote that it lacked the "lightness of touch" of the Ziggy recording and Doggett criticised Bowie's vocal performance. Following the flop of the single, the song was rewritten to fit the Ziggy narrative. Musically, the song uses harmonic and melodic hooks, and heavy metal-style percussion and guitar. Ronson's guitar solo was mostly improvised after Bowie had conveyed the mood he wanted by using a crayon to draw the "shape" of a solo. The song's strings, arranged and orchestrated by Ronson, appear at the return of the chorus and again during the fadeout. The song directly introduces the character of Ziggy Stardust, after being indirectly introduced on "Five Years". Doggett writes that a "moonage daydream" might represent "an ecstatic, instinctive path to creativity", or nothing more than an homage to "Marc Bolan's brand of lyrical imagery."
"Starman" was written as a direct response to the head of RCA Dennis Katz's request for a single. It replaced the cover of Chuck Berry's "Round and Round" as a last-minute addition to the album. Writing about the song's late addition, Pegg writes: "It's extraordinary to consider that one of Bowie's definitive songs replaced a Chuck Berry cover almost as an afterthought." The lyrics describe Ziggy Stardust bringing a message of hope to Earth's youth through the radio, salvation by an alien 'Starman'. The story is told from the point of view of one of the youths who hears Ziggy. Doggett writes that it's similar to his earlier hit "Space Oddity" in that it's a "space-age novelty hit". The chorus is loosely based on "Over the Rainbow", sung by Judy Garland, from the film The Wizard of Oz. Other influences are the T. Rex songs "Hot Love" and "Telegram Sam", and the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On". The song features a string arrangement from Ronson, which Pegg describes as being more similar to the style of Hunky Dory than the rest of Ziggy Stardust.
"It Ain't Easy" is the only cover song on the album. It was written by singer-songwriter Ron Davies and appeared on his 1970 album Silent Song Through the Land. Recorded in July 1971 during the sessions for Hunky Dory, it was originally set to appear on that album but was left off and placed on Ziggy Stardust. It features a harpsichord contribution from Rick Wakeman and backing vocals from Dana Gillespie, both of which were uncredited; Gillespie's contribution was credited for the 1999 reissue of the album. Lyrically, the song has nothing to do with the Ziggy narrative, which has caused its inclusion to be criticised by critics; Pegg argues the outtakes "Velvet Goldmine" and "Sweet Head" would have been better choices. Its arrangement is described by AllMusic's Ned Raggett as "a cabaret confection and a blasting rock apocalypse", characterised by quieter verses contrasting with choruses that contain overdubbed backing vocals and Ronson's "brilliantly triumphant guitar".
"Lady Stardust" was written "within days" of fellow album track "Ziggy Stardust" in early 1971. Unlike "Ziggy Stardust", "Lady Stardust" presents an unfinished tale with "no hint at a denouement beyond a vague air of melancholy". The song uses both 'he' and 'she' in the lyrics, showing a lack of gender distinction. The song is long thought to be about Bowie's glam rival Marc Bolan, with the lyrics "long black hair" and "make-up on his face", and evidenced by the early working title "Song for Marc"; another working title was "He Was Alright". According to Pegg, Bowie alludes to Lord Alfred Douglas's famous phrase "I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey". An early lyric for the track, "Lady Stardust sang his songs of rebels, kings and queens", alluding to a medieval quality to the Lady. Doggett notes there is a hint of Elton John in Ronson's piano arrangement and Bowie's vocal delivery.
"Star" was written and demoed at Radio Luxembourg Studios in May 1971, under the title "Rock 'n' Roll Star". Bowie originally gave it to a little-known band called Chameleon in July 1971, before deciding to record it himself in September, rewriting the lyrics to fit the Ziggy narrative. According to Pegg, Ziggy wonders how he "could make it all worthwhile as a rock'n'roll star", while "scorning those who have sacrificed their lives to loftier ideals." Pegg and O'Leary call it vital when compared to the two tracks it's sequenced between: "Lady Stardust" presents Ziggy being recalled by the audience, "Star" shows him only singing to a mirror, and "Hang On to Yourself" puts him in front of the crowd. Apart from the narrative, the song reflects Bowie's idealisations of becoming a star himself and shows his frustrations at not having fulfilled his potential. According to Bowie, the backing vocals are taken from the Beatles' song "Lovely Rita"; O'Leary and Doggett also compare them to works by the Who, such as "Happy Jack" and "Pinball Wizard". Musically, it's a faster-paced number; it repeats sections before cutting the tempo in half for the coda. The ending line, Bowie speaking "just watch me now", is taken from the Velvet Underground song "Sweet Jane", in that the singer goes to sleep and dreams about becoming a star.
Like "Moonage Daydream", "Hang On to Yourself" was written during Bowie's promotional tour of America in early February 1971. He recorded the song and "Moonage Daydream" with Arnold Corns the same month. Although it was released as both an A-side and a B-side, the song flopped and prompted Bowie to rewrite it to fit the Ziggy narrative. In the narrative, Ziggy is put in front of the crowd, and emphasises the metaphor that rock music goes from sex to fulfillment and back to sex again; he plans to abandon the sexual climax for a chance at stardom, which ultimately leads to his downfall. According to Perone, the guitar and arrangement resemble late-1970s punk rock. The riff is influenced by the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and the music of Eddie Cochran, and the chorus is reminiscent of the Beatles' "Please Please Me". Ronson later described the process of creating the riff as "Strap the guitar on and thrash it to death, basically".
"Ziggy Stardust" is based around a guitar riff from Ronson, described by Spitz as "instantly recognisable and primal but complex." Lyrically, it is the central piece of the narrative of the album, presenting a complete "birth-to-death chronology" of the character Ziggy Stardust. Unlike "Lady Stardust", "Ziggy Stardust" shows Ziggy's rise and fall in a very human manner. O'Leary notes that the song's narrator is not definitive: it could be an audience member retrospectively discussing Ziggy, it could be one of the Spiders or even the "dissociated memories" of Ziggy himself. Bowie begins and ends his vocals with "the phrase that defines his hero: 'Ziggy played guitar'." Ziggy has several rock star characteristics: drug use, an enormous cock, and the "too-wasted-to-leave-the-room pallor." Commentators have noted the similarities the character has with other famous rock stars, including Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. Richard Cromelin of Rolling Stone called Bowie's imagery and storytelling in the track some of his most "adventuresome" up to that point.
"Suffragette City" was originally offered to the band Mott the Hoople, but they declined, recording Bowie's "All the Young Dudes" instead. Described by Perone as a "straight-ahead" track, it features a piano riff heavily influenced by Little Richard and one of Bowie's earliest uses of the ARP synthesiser, which would later become the backbone of his Berlin Trilogy.  The track has acoustic guitar from Bowie, but is mostly buried in the mix under Ronson's electric guitar. Doggett believes that the track has an "unrelenting power" to it because it uses tighter two-semitone gaps (F-G-A) instead of the standard three-chord structure (such as E-G-A or A-G-C). The song contains the lyrical reference to the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange and the phrase "hey man!" is from the Velvet Underground's 1968 song "White Light/White Heat". There is a false ending, after which the phrase "wham bam, thank you, ma'am!" is shouted, the band gets back into the groove and finishes the track with Bowie shrieking "Suffragette!"
– David Bowie discussing "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
The last track of the album, "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", presents the dissolution of Ziggy, who, according to Pegg, is now "a hollow figure caught in the headlights of braking cars as he stumbles across the road." Described by Pegg as Bowie's own "A Day in the Life" and by O'Leary as "a gushy Fifties pop ballad", the song is a theatrical number that begins quietly on acoustic guitar before building into a lush arrangement, backed by an orchestra. Perone writes that it builds intensity as Ziggy's desperate message struggles to enlighten his earthling audience. According to Bowie, the opening lyrics about lighting a cigarette are a metaphor: "life is a cigarette, smoke it in a hurry or savour it". Rather than dying in blood, Ziggy cries to the audience to "give him their hands" because they are "wonderful". Following this proclamation, Ziggy perishes. Bowie stated in 1973 that the alien "infinites" would "tear [Ziggy] to pieces on stage during the song 'Rock'n'Roll Suicide'. As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible." Bowie recorded his vocal in two takes to aid the shift in dynamics, a process he would later replicate for " 'Heroes' ". The cry of "you're not alone" is borrowed from Mort Shuman's translation of Jacques Brel's 1964 song "Jef", also known as "You're Not Alone". Other inspirations for the song included two songs from the 1963 James Brown album Live at the Apollo (a favorite of Bowie's) and the Gerry and the Pacemakers song "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying". The track goes through multiple chord changes, including C and G major, before ending with a D♭ chord from the string quartet.
The first outtake from the album, "Velvet Goldmine", was slated for inclusion on the album's second side as late as 15 December 1971. However, in a radio interview in 1972, Bowie described it as "a little provocative", which most likely contributed to its removal. O'Leary argues that its "quirkiness" might have been better suited for Hunky Dory. The song is described by Doggett as "a tribute to the creative possibilities aroused by the Velvet Underground". It's described by O'Leary as "a lost Bowie classic" and by Pegg as "superb and undervalued". The riff of the second outtake, "Sweet Head", is similar to "Hang On to Yourself". Its sound is reminiscent of 1950s rock and roll. Although the song fits the album's concept, its lyrics are very sexual and according to Pegg would without a doubt have caused controversy; Bowie stated the song was about oral sex in a 1990 interview. According to multiple biographers, many did not know of its existence until its inclusion on the 1990 reissue of the album.
Artwork and packaging
The album cover photograph was taken by photographer Brian Ward in monochrome, and re-coloured by illustrator Terry Pastor, a partner at the Main Artery design studio in Covent Garden with George Underwood; both had previously done the artwork and sleeve for Hunky Dory. The typography, initially pressed onto the original image using Letraset, was airbrushed by Pastor red and yellow and inset with white stars. Pegg notes that unlikes many of Bowie's album sleeves, which feature close-ups of Bowie in a studio, the Ziggy image has Bowie almost in the foreground. Pegg describes the shot as: "Bowie (or Ziggy) [stands] as a diminutive figure dwarfed by the shabby urban landscape, picked out in the light of a street lamp, framed by cardboard boxes and parked cars". Bowie is also holding a Gibson Les Paul guitar, which was owned by Arnold Corns guitarist Mark Pritchett and was the same guitar Pritchett used on the Corns' recordings of "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang On to Yourself". Similar to Hunky Dory's cover, Bowie's jumpsuit and hair, which was still his natural brown at the time, were artificially re-tinted, which Pegg believes gives the impression that the "guitar-clutching visitor" is from another dimension or world.
The photograph originated during a photoshoot on 13 January 1972 at Ward's Heddon Street studio in London, just off Regent Street. Suggesting they take photos outside before natural light was lost, the Spiders chose to stay inside while Bowie, who was ill with flu, went outside just as it started to rain. Not willing to go very far, he stood outside the home of furriers "K. West" at 23 Heddon Street. According to Cann, the "K" stands for Konn, the surname of the company's founder Henry Konn, and the "West" indicated it was on the west end of London. Soon after Ziggy Stardust became a massive success, the directors of K. West were displeased with their company's name appearing on a pop album. A solicitor for K. West wrote a letter to RCA saying: "Our clients are Furriers of high repute who deal with a clientele generally far removed from the pop music world. Our clients certainly have no wish to be associated with Mr. Bowie or this record as it might be assumed that there was some connection between our client's firm and Mr. Bowie, which is certainly not the case". However, tensions eased and the company soon became accustomed to tourists photographing themselves on the doorstep. K. West moved out of the Heddon Street location in 1991 and the sign was taken down; according to Pegg, the site remains a popular "place of pilgrimage" for Bowie fans. Bowie said of the sign, "It's such a shame that sign [was removed]. People read so much into it. They thought 'K. West' must be some sort of code for 'quest.' It took on all these sort of mystical overtones".
The post office in the background (now "The Living Room, W1" bar) was the site of London's first nightclub, The Cave of the Golden Calf, which opened in 1912. As part of street renovations, in April 1997 a red "K series" phonebox was returned to the street, replacing a modern blue phonebox, which in turn had replaced the original phonebox featured on the rear cover.
Of the album's packaging in general, Bowie said:
The idea was to hit a look somewhere between the Malcolm McDowell thing with the one mascaraed eyelash and insects. It was the era of Wild Boys, by William S. Burroughs. [...] [It] was a cross between that and Clockwork Orange that really started to put together the shape and the look of what Ziggy and the Spiders were going to become. [...] Everything had to be infinitely symbolic."
In March 2012, The Crown Estate, which owns Regent Street and Heddon Street, installed a commemorative brown plaque at No. 23 in the same place as the "K. West" sign on the cover photo. The unveiling was attended by original band members Woodmansey and Bolder, and was unveiled by Gary Kemp. The plaque was the first to be installed by The Crown Estate and is one of the few plaques in the country devoted to fictional characters.
Release and promotion
Hunky Dory was released on 17 December 1971 and received praise from British and American publications. Before Bowie changed his appearance to his Ziggy persona, he conducted an interview with journalist Michael Watts of Melody Maker where he came out as gay. Published on 22 January with the headline "Oh You Pretty Thing", the announcement garnered publicity in both Britain and America, although according to Pegg the declaration wasn't as monumental as latter-day accounts perceive. Nevertheless, Bowie was adopted as a gay icon in both countries, with Gay News describing him as "probably the best rock musician in Britain" and "a potent spokesman" for "gay rock". Although Tony Defries was reportedly "shocked" by the announcement, Ken Scott believed Defries was behind it to begin with, wanting to use it for publicity. According to Cann, the ambiguity surrounding Bowie's sexuality drew press attention for his tour dates, the upcoming album and the subsequent "John, I'm Only Dancing" non-album single.
Widely considered to be Bowie's breakthrough album, Ziggy Stardust was released on 16 June 1972 by RCA Records in the UK.[a][b] The lead single, "Starman", was released earlier that year on 28 April. The single sold steadily rather than spectacularly but earned many positive reviews. To promote the album, Bowie, the Spiders and keyboardist Nicky Graham performed the song on the Granada children's music programme Lift Off with Ayshea on 15 June, which was presented by Ayshea Brough. The performance was broadcast on 21 June in a "post-school" time slot, where it was witnessed by thousands of British children. By 1 July, "Starman" rose to number 41 on the UK Singles Chart, earning Bowie an invitation to perform on the BBC television programme Top of the Pops.
Bowie, the Spiders and Graham performed "Starman" on Top of the Pops on 5 July 1972. Bowie appeared in a brightly-coloured rainbow jumpsuit, "shocking" red hair and astronaut boots while the Spiders wore blue, pink, scarlet and gold velvet attire. During the performance, Bowie was relaxed and confident and wrapped his arm around Ronson's shoulder. Transmitted the following day on 6 July, Buckley writes, "Many fans date their conversion to all things Bowie to this Top of the Pops appearance". The performance brought public attention to the album and helped solidify Bowie as a controversial pop icon. In a 2010 interview in Rolling Stone, Bono said, "The first time I saw him was singing 'Starman' on television. It was like a creature falling from the sky. Americans put a man on the moon. We had our own British guy from space – with an Irish mother."
In promotion of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie began the Ziggy Stardust Tour. The first part of the tour started in the United Kingdom, and went from 29 January to 7 September 1972. A show at the Toby Jug pub in Tolworth on 10 February of the same year was hugely popular, catapulting him to stardom and creating, as described by David Buckley, a "cult of Bowie".
The tour lasted eighteen months, and passed through the United States and Canada; it then continued to Japan, to promote his album Aladdin Sane (1973). Bowie announced the end of the tour on 3 July 1973, at the Hammersmith Apollo. It had had more than 170 gigs.
Notably, on 20 October 1972, Bowie performed a show in Santa Monica recorded for radio broadcast. The bootleg recording of the performance circulated among fans, and came to represent the beginning of Bowie's long love affair with America. It was officially issued in 2008 as Live Santa Monica '72.
D. A. Pennebaker directed a documentary and concert film featuring Bowie and the Spiders from Mars performing in the final Ziggy Stardust Tour, at the Hammersmith Odeon, London on 3 July 1973. At this show, Bowie made the sudden surprise announcement that the show would be "the last show that we'll ever do", later understood to mean that he was retiring his Ziggy Stardust persona.
The full-length 90-minute film spent years in post-production before finally having its theatrical premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival, on 31 August 1979. Prior to the premiere, the 35 mm film had been shown in 16 mm format a few times, mostly in United States college towns. A shortened 60-minute version was broadcast once in the US on ABC-TV in October 1974. In 1983, the film was released to theatres worldwide, corresponding with the release of its soundtrack album entitled Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture. A digitally remastered 30th Anniversary Edition DVD, including additional material from the live show and extras, was released in 2003.
Ziggy Stardust sold 8,000 copies in Britain in its first week and entered the top 10 in its second week on the UK Albums Chart. After dropping down the chart in late 1972, the album began climbing the chart again; by the end of 1972, the album had sold 95,968 units in Britain. It peaked at number 5 on the chart in February 1973. In the US, the album peaked at number 75 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart in April 1973. It was eventually certified platinum and gold in the UK and US respectively. The first single from the album, "Starman", charted at number 10 in the UK while peaking at number 65 in the US.
The album returned to the UK chart on 31 January 1981, peaking at number 73, amid the New Romantic era that Bowie had helped inspire. It was followed by a reissue of Aladdin Sane, which spent the first of 24 weeks on the chart in March 1982. After Bowie's death from cancer on 10 January 2016, the album reached a new peak of 21 in the US Billboard 200. It has sold an estimated 7.5 million copies worldwide, making it Bowie's second-best-selling album.
|Christgau's Record Guide||B+|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Upon release, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars received highly favourable reviews by music critics. James Johnson of New Musical Express (NME) said the album has "a bit more pessimism" than on previous releases, and called the album's songs "fine". Michael Watts of Melody Maker published that, while Ziggy Stardust had "no well-defined story line", it had "odd songs and references to the business of being a pop star that overall add up to a strong sense of biographical drama." In Rolling Stone, writer Richard Cromelin gave the album a favourable review of "at least a 99" (assumed out of 100). But while Cromelin thought it was good, he felt that the record and its style might not be of lasting interest: "We should all say a brief prayer that his fortunes are not made to rise and fall with the fate of the 'drag-rock' syndrome". Circus wrote that the album is "from start to finish [...] of dazzling intensity and mad design", and called it a "stunning work of genius". With the album, The Philadelphia Inquirer declared that "David Bowie is one of the most creative, compelling writers around today". Jon Tiven of Phonograph Record praised the album, calling it "the Aftermath of the Seventies", where there are no filler tracks. He further called Bowie "one of the most distinctive personalities in rock" and believed that should Bowie ever become a star "of the Ziggy Stardust magnitude", he deserves it. The album was placed at the top of Creem's end of year list.
Ziggy Stardust has been retrospectively acclaimed by critics, and recognised as one of the most important glam rock albums. Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote for AllMusic: "Bowie succeeds not in spite of his pretensions but because of them, and Ziggy Stardust – familiar in structure, but alien in performance – is the first time his vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion." Greg Kot, writing for Chicago Tribune, described the album as a "guitar-fueled song cycle", saying it "enacted the deaths of Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and the '60s and presaged the dread, decadence and eroticism of a new era." Ian Fortnam wrote for Classic Rock that "Ziggy Stardust is David Bowie's crowning achievement. Obviously, contrarians will insist other albums have proven to carry greater cultural weight or defined his artistic legacy better, but revisit Ziggy today and its visceral and emotional impact remains undeniable. Especially when played, as advised, 'at maximum volume'... Ziggy reflected and shaped its time and its audience like no other album".
Influence and legacy
Pegg writes: The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars made [Bowie] a household name and left a milestone on the highway of popular music, rewriting the terms of the performer’s contract with his audience and ushering in a new approach to rock’s relationship with artifice and theatre that permanently altered the cultural aesthetic of the twentieth century." Although he felt Ziggy Stardust wasn't Bowie's greatest work, Ziggy had the biggest cultural impact of all his records. The concept of Ziggy Stardust was revisited by Bowie himself in his next album Aladdin Sane (1973), which topped the UK chart, and was his first number-one album. Described by Bowie as "Ziggy goes to America", it contained songs he wrote while travelling to and across the US during the earlier part of the Ziggy tour.
In 2004, Brazilian singer Seu Jorge contributed five cover versions of Bowie songs, three of them from Ziggy Stardust, to the soundtrack for the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Seu Jorge would later re-record the songs as a solo album called The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions. On the album's liner notes, Bowie wrote "Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with". In 2016, Seu Jorge toured performing his Portuguese covers of Bowie's songs in front of sailboat-shaped screens.
Musician Saul Williams named his 2007 album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!, a play on the title of Bowie's album.
The album was covered as part of rock band Phish's Halloween 'musical costume' on 31 October 2016. In June 2017, an extinct species of wasp was named Archaeoteleia astropulvis after Ziggy Stardust ("astropulvis" is Latin for "stardust").
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars has frequently appeared on numerous lists of the greatest albums of all time by multiple publications. In 1987, as part of their 20th anniversary, Rolling Stone ranked it number 6 on "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years". In 1997, Ziggy Stardust was named the 20th greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the UK. It was voted number 11 in English writer Colin Larkin's 1998 book All Time Top 1000 Albums, and number 27 in the 2000 edition of the book. He stated in the 1998 edition: "The blend of rock star persona and alien creature defining Ziggy Stardust was probably his finest creation". In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it 35th on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, retaining the same position on the updated 2012 list. In 2004, it was placed at number 81 in Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. In 2006, Q magazine readers ranked it as the 41st best album ever, while Time magazine chose it as one of the 100 best albums of all time. In 2013, NME ranked the album 23rd in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, writing: "'Ziggy Stardust'...demands to be engaged with from start to finish".
The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In March 2017, the album was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the United States National Recording Preservation Board, which designates it as a sound recording that has had significant cultural, historical, or aesthetic impact in American life. Based on Ziggy Stardust's appearances in professional rankings and listings, the aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists it as 2nd most acclaimed album of 1972, the 5th most acclaimed album of the 1970s and the 16th most acclaimed album in history.
- Side one
- "Five Years" – 4:42
- "Soul Love" – 3:34
- "Moonage Daydream" – 4:40
- "Starman" – 4:10
- "It Ain't Easy" (Ron Davies) – 2:58
- Side two
- "Lady Stardust" – 3:22
- "Star" – 2:47
- "Hang On to Yourself" – 2:40
- "Ziggy Stardust" – 3:13
- "Suffragette City" – 3:25
- "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" – 2:58
Ziggy Stardust was first released on CD in November 1984 by RCA. The digital master recording was made from the equalised master tapes used for the LP release. Dr. Toby Mountain remastered the album at Northeastern Digital Recording, Southborough, Massachusetts, from the original master tapes for Rykodisc. The reissue was released on 6 June 1990, with five bonus tracks. The album was remastered again by Peter Mew and released on 28 September 1999 by Virgin.
- 1990 reissue bonus tracks
- "John, I'm Only Dancing" (1972 single version, new 1990 remix) – 2:43
- "Velvet Goldmine" (Single B-side from the 1975 RCA re-release of "Space Oddity") – 3:09
- "Sweet Head" – 4:14
- "Ziggy Stardust" (February 1971 demo) – 3:35
- "Lady Stardust" (March 1971 demo) – 3:35
On 16 July 2002, a 2-disc version was released by EMI/Virgin. The first in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Editions, this release included a newly remastered version as its first CD. The remaster on this edition reverses the left and right stereo channels on the first disc and many of the songs have been edited. Among other things, the three-note bridge between "Ziggy Stardust" and "Suffragette City", and the count-in to "Hang On to Yourself" are missing. The second disc contained twelve tracks, most of which had been previously released on CD as bonus tracks on the 1990–92 reissues. The new mix of "Moonage Daydream" was originally done for a 1998 Dunlop television commercial.
- 2002 reissue bonus tracks
- "Moonage Daydream" (Arnold Corns version) – 3:53
- "Hang On to Yourself" (Arnold Corns version) – 2:54
- "Lady Stardust" (demo) – 3:33
- "Ziggy Stardust" (demo) – 3:38
- "John, I'm Only Dancing" – 2:49
- "Velvet Goldmine" – 3:13
- "Holy Holy" (1971 re-recording) – 2:25
- "Amsterdam" (Jacques Brel, Mort Shuman) – 3:24
- "The Supermen" (Alternate version, recorded for the Glastonbury Fayre in 1971, originally released on Glastonbury Fayre Revelations – A Musical Anthology, 1972) – 2:43
- "Round and Round" (Chuck Berry) – 2:43
- "Sweet Head" (take 4) – 4:52
- "Moonage Daydream" (new mix) – 4:47
On 4 June 2012, a "40th Anniversary Edition" was released by EMI/Virgin. This edition was remastered by original Trident Studios' engineer Ray Staff. The 2012 remaster was made available on CD and on a special, limited edition format of vinyl and DVD, featuring the new remaster on an LP, together with 2003 remixes of the album by Ken Scott (5.1 and stereo mixes) on DVD-Audio. The latter included bonus 2003 Ken Scott mixes of "Moonage Daydream" (instrumental), "The Supermen", "Velvet Goldmine" and "Sweet Head". The 2012 remaster of the album and the 2003 remix (stereo mix) were both included in the Parlophone box set Five Years (1969–1973), released on 25 September 2015. The album, in its 2012 remastering, was also rereleased separately, in 2015–2016, in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, with Parlophone releasing the separate LP on 26 February 2016 on 180g vinyl. On 16 June 2017, Parlophone reissued the album as a limited edition LP pressed on gold vinyl.
Credits adapted from AllMusic.
|1972||UK Albums Chart||5|
|1973||US Billboard 200||75|
|1990||Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)||61|
|2002||French Albums (SNEP)||45|
|Australian Albums (ARIA)||21|
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||34|
|Canadian Albums (Billboard)||22|
|Danish Albums (Hitlisten)||40|
|Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)||46|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||95|
|Italian Albums (FIMI)||32|
|New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)||20|
|Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)||17|
|Portuguese Albums (AFP)||23|
|Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)||19|
|Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)||21|
|US Billboard 200||21|
|US Top Catalog Albums (Billboard)||3|
|2018||Greek Albums Chart||32|
Sales and certifications
|United Kingdom (BPI)||2× Platinum||1,500,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
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