The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Ziggy Stardust is Bowie’s most recognisable guise, and the accompanying album is the peak of his early career. Switching gears from the balladry of Hunky Dory, Bowie is a glam rock star, and the focus is on Mick Ronson’s riffs. There’s supposed to be a story running through the album; it’s not particularly coherent, but it’s a great bunch of individual songs. ‘Five Years’ sets the scene with building tension that releases into a singalong chorus about how the world is going to end in five years; the song became an important touchstone for the 1977 punk movement, which emerged five years after Ziggy Stardust, with Bowie one of the few rock stars to enjoy credibility from the punk generation. Absolute classics include the riff driven title track, the music hall of ‘Starman’, the aggressive ‘Suffragette City’, and ‘Moonage Daydream’, while Ziggy Stardust ends on a vaguely meaningful note with ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’, which contrasts the escapist themes of the album with the pain of the real world. But for Ziggy Stardust as a whole, its blatantly insincere approach is part of its uniqueness and charm.
The Rykodisc version appends a fabulous solo acoustic demo of the title track, as well as the memorable ‘Velvet Goldmine’ and the controversial ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, and is worth tracking down if you can find it.