Sunday, 24 June 2012
Classic Albums No.1: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
I have already mentioned on this site the singers who are the leaders in their field (Madonna, Scott Walker, Bowie) and have talked about the greatest 45 ever made (“Born To Run”). So starting this month, and continuing at a rather random basis, I have decided to devote an entire blog to a particular classic album. Not an unsung one, granted, but it makes sense to start with the best LP ever recorded. Future choices might be a bit more unexpected. And after much thought about what the best album of all time is (contenders being “Sticky Fingers“, “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, “Pet Sounds”, “The White Album”, amongst others), I came to the conclusion that the single most important singer in the world also happened to release, in the same year I was born, the single greatest LP of all time. David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” (to give it it’s often referred to shortened title).
It is possible, if you try hard enough, to pick faults in the record. Bowie opted to include a cover version at the end of the first side of the LP, which obviously wasn’t going to be as good as the stuff he wrote himself, thereby meaning that it’s not quite a perfect record. But it’s as close to perfect as you are going to get. Because when the album hits the heights (the slow building, poetically astonishing “Five Years”, culminating in those incredible cries of the songs’ title in it’s final dying moments, the Rock and Roll rush of “Suffragette City”, the beautifully anthemic but heartbreakingly, tearfully sad “Rock N Roll Suicide”), it’s astonishing. Add to that the fact it is housed in probably the most iconic album sleeve of all time, and is also home to the most famous rear cover of all time, and you have what is really as important a piece of art as anything you are ever likely to see or hear.
When it was first issued, there were some dissenters talking in less than ecstatic terms about this album. Certain Bowie supporters, at the time, accused Bowie of “selling out”, by opting to make an album that seemed far more accessible than some of the albums that had preceded it. But as good as some of those earlier LP’s were, the fact that they went a bit left-field at times was exactly what prevented them from being 100% (or 99%) perfect. “The Man Who Sold The World”, at times, seems unsure as to what direction it’s going in, whilst “Hunky Dory” is sometimes in danger of being just a bit too laid back and whimsical. But “Ziggy”, with it’s Glam Rock heart in place, goes for the jugular time and time again. Even songs that you might be ready to dismiss as “not his best” are superb - “Star” may sound like a deliberately commercial sounding record, but it packs one hell of a punch. “Soul Love”, with it’s quiet verse loud chorus structure, thereby pre-dated Nirvana’s “Lithium” by nearly 20 years. And you don’t need me to tell you how incendiary “Moonage Daydream” and “Hang Onto Yourself” are, taking the guitar driven glam of T Rex and multiplying them by ten. The sheer beauty of “Lady Stardust” is mesmerising, and listen closely to “Starman” and “Ziggy Stardust”, and you realise how inventive they actually are. The morse code style “da da da da” in the choruses of the former, the double tracked vocals in the choruses of the latter…as one, “Ziggy” fits together in one perfect guitar driven piece. It’s only that cover of “It Ain’t Easy” that prevents the album from being totally perfect, but then again, nothing’s perfect. Although “Rock N Roll Suicide” isn‘t too far off.
Bowie had been knocking about in the industry, with little success, for about a decade. The music hall inspired debut LP had been a resounding flop when issued in 1967, and although the opening track on his second LP, “Space Oddity”, became a hit two years later, it failed to generate any interest in the album, and Bowie was “shifted” sideways from Philips to a sister label, Mercury. Neither the next LP, “The Man Who Sold The World”, nor any of the three stand alone singles he released on the label in 1970/71 failed to do much, and Bowie was soon without a contract.
Bowie’s then wife, Angie, became determined to help him break through commercially, and began to exert as much an influence over his career as his manager, Ken Pitt, who was later replaced by Tony Defries. Angie encouraged Bowie to try and further his career, and Defries was instrumental in getting Bowie to sign to RCA for his next record. The next LP, “Hunky Dory” was issued in 1971 - his fourth album on as many labels. Although the first single from the album “Changes” was a reasonable success, Bowie was still a long way from making any major commercial breakthrough - “Hunky Dory” sold in fair numbers, but he was still something of a cult hero, much loved by several Radio 1 DJ’s (such as John Peel), but not taken to by the British public.
By now, Bowie’s backing band was starting to cement itself as part of his stage and studio setup, and live performances at the start of the decade were being billed as “David Bowie And The Hype”. Mick Ronson was the lead guitarist, with Woody Woodmansey on drums, and Tony Visconti on bass. Before the recording of “Hunky Dory”, Visconti was replaced by Trevor Bolder, and these three, along with Bowie and pianist Rick Wakeman, were the main personnel on “Hunky Dory”. No sooner had the album been completed, than Wakeman decided to join Yes, and the remaining four piece would soon manifest into “The Spiders From Mars”. Indeed, when Bowie turned up on the Old Grey Whistle Test in early 72, ostensibly plugging “Hunky Dory”, he and the band were already decked out in Ziggy garb, and gave an airing to what would become the opening number on Ziggy, “Five Years”.
Despite his relative failure to sell any records, Bowie was seemingly not too disheartened by this lack of success, and had more or less written “Ziggy” even before “Hunky Dory” was released in late 1971. A couple of songs had indeed already been released before, when the infamous “Arnold Corns” setup/side project released a 7” on B&C Records after Bowie had left Mercury in 1971, coupling early versions of “Moonage Daydream” and “Hang Onto Yourself”. Both were to be re-recorded for Ziggy, the basic song structures remaining intact, but both heavily glammed-up, with almost entirely new sets of lyrics. Arnold Corns consisted of Bowie and The Spiders, and various other guests such as the band’s so-called co-lead singer Freddi Buretti, a dress designer whose involvement with the band was minimal. After the single bombed, B&C tried again to give Arnold Corns a hit by issuing a second 7” before “Changes” was put out by RCA (the first single from “Hunky Dory”), this time by putting “Hang Onto Yourself” out as the a-side of a 45 instead, but this too flopped.
Aside from re-recording the two Arnold Corns songs, Bowie also opted to re-record other oldies as work on Ziggy began. “The Supermen”, originally on “The Man Who Sold The World”, was re-recorded in a new quiet/loud, quiet/loud version, and would later be performed on stage in this manner, but it seems unlikely that this version was being planned for “Ziggy”, and the song ended up being included on a various artists LP, “Glastonbury Fayre Revelations”, in 1972. One of the “flop” Mercury 45’s, “Holy Holy”, was also re-recorded, partly because Bowie was unhappy with the original single version.
Covers were also being considered. Aside from the aforementioned “It Aint Easy”, Bowie also taped a raucous cover of Chuck Berry’s “Round And Round”, and recorded a solo acoustic version of “Amsterdam”, which he had been playing in his live set for a while. Although written by Jacques Brel, Bowie opted to cover it because he liked the Scott Walker version - during the “Ziggy” tour that followed, he would start to play another Brel/Walker tune, “My Death”, on stage as an acoustic number instead. “Velvet Goldmine”, taped during the “Hunky Dory” sessions, was held over and became a contender for the “Ziggy” album, but in the end, failed to make the final cut.
The eventual choice of songs that made it onto “Ziggy” were designed to tell the story of the Ziggy Stardust character, thus making it Bowie’s first concept album. The name was derived from various sources, a combination of Iggy Pop, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and a clothes shop called Ziggy. Bowie later claimed he was “a cross between Nijinsky and Woolworths”. The album told the story of Ziggy, an alien rock and roll musician, who comes to earth in human form to spread a message of hope, on the basis that the world will cease to exist in five years time. But in the end, Ziggy himself dies before the five years are up, killed by the excesses of rock and roll.
Eleven songs made the final selection, ten originals and the cover of “It Ain’t Easy”. Most of the remaining material seeped out as B-side material over the years instead. “Round And Round” turned up on the flip of 1973’s “Drive In Saturday”, and “Amsterdam” appeared on the other side of “Sorrow” later the same year, only appropriate as the a-side was taken from Bowie’s covers LP, “Pin Ups”. “Holy Holy” appeared on the B-side of “Diamond Dogs” in 1974, and “Velvet Goldmine” eventually crept out, seemingly against Bowie’s wishes, in 1975 when it surfaced on RCA’s reissue of “Space Oddity”. This cash in single appeared as a 3-track Maxi (along with “Changes“) in a picture sleeve featuring a then contemporary photo of Bowie - despite the fact that nothing on the single had been taped before 1972! Another song from the sessions, “Sweet Head”, remained completely unreleased, until eventually turning up on a reissue of the LP in 1990.
At one point, some consideration was being made to issue the lead single, “Starman”, as a stand alone 45 - Bowie having regularly released singles “not on an album” throughout his career. However, once it was decided it would be used as a promo tool for the LP, it was slightly remixed for inclusion on the album. After years of flop 45’s, Bowie suddenly had a huge hit on his hands, helped in part by the now famous “homo erotic” performance he gave on “Top Of The Pops”. He and Ronson, with Bowie’s arm clamped round the guitarists shoulder, sang parts of the choruses together into the same microphone, and remains to date, Bowie‘s most famous TOTP appearance. Bowie sang a live vocal on the show, and this mix of the track has now been released officially, appearing on the 2012 “Record Store Day” 7” picture disc reissue of “Starman” itself. “Starman” was originally issued in the UK in a picture sleeve, a relative rarity at the time, and indeed, only a select number were issued as such, before later pressings came in standard RCA company sleeves. Picture sleeve copies are now worth about £50 minimum. However, often overlooked is the fact that huge numbers of the US single were issued in a picture sleeve, which was more or less the same as the UK one, and these have long been easier to get hold of compared to the UK edition.
“Ziggy” appeared in the summer of 72, and was both a critical and commercial success. It was no flash in the pan, and from then on, Bowie would become a commercial force to be reckoned with, not just in the UK, but worldwide. It came in a famous cover, a picture of “Ziggy” outside the K West store in Heddon Street, Central London. Bowie and the band were in an upstairs studio, and photographer Brian Ward decided he wanted to take some shots outside. The band claimed it was too cold to go out - it was late evening - and so Bowie went outside alone, where Ward took both the front cover shot of Bowie outside number 23 Heddon Street, and the rear cover of him looking out from the inside of a red phone box nearby. The shots were taken using black & white film, with a view to colouring them in for the sleeve. When Ward later contacted Bowie, talking about the photos he wanted to use for the cover, Bowie seemed non-plussed, and happily agreed to let Ward use whatever he wanted - it seemed he was a bit surprised that these photos, done “off the cuff” on a rainy night in the capital, were deemed so crucial. Bowie later admitted he had come to realise just how special the cover was, and how fans had become attached to the imagery. He was also quoted as saying he believed some fans thought the “K West” sign had some sort of hidden meaning, as when spoken as one word, it sounds like “Quest”.
Part of the success, it seems, was achieved by the fact that Bowie had already started touring as “Ziggy” much earlier in the year, and buzz began to build. It is reported that some shows, especially in the provinces, struggled to sell well, but that the London shows became full, attended in part by “hipsters” desperate to align themselves with the latest “in thing”. After the release of the album, the band began to get billed as “David Bowie And The Spiders From Mars” - The Spiders themselves would eventually release a studio album under this moniker later the same decade, albeit with slightly altered personnel. The popularity of the band saw them playing certain venues on repeated nights, or playing an afternoon matinee show as well as an evening one, or playing huge places like Earls Court in London. But these were balanced out by smaller theatre shows as well - I still find it incredible to think that Bowie played the Romford Odeon in 73! Although the “Ziggy” tour carried on, in parts, until that famous final July gig at Hammersmith a full year after the album’s release, Bowie had already released his sixth studio album, “Aladdin Sane”, in April that year.
Soon after “Ziggy” had hit the shops, Bowie and the band went back into the studio to record a one-off single, “John I’m Only Dancing”. It was issued in the fall of 1972, with “Hang Onto Yourself” on the b-side, but failed to get a US release due to it’s “risqué” lyrical content. This did not stop Bowie performing it during the US tour that followed. As ever, Bowie was slightly unhappy with the final version, and - with work already started on Aladdin Sane - went into the studio in early 1973 to re-record it, this time with Ken Fordham providing saxophone backing. With the single still on catalogue, subsequent pressings were issued with this “Sax” version instead of the “Ziggy” original, but with apparently no tell tale signs that the A-side was now appearing in it’s new mix. From what I can gather, the only way of working out what version is which, is to look at the matrix numbers scratched into the running groove, as the 1973 version differs from the 1972 one. The “Sax” mix of this song has always had an air of mystery about it. When Bowie’s 1976 compilation “ChangesOneBowie” was first released, the album “accidentally” played the “Sax” mix, and copies were quickly withdrawn, and new copies pressed with the 1972 version instead.
Bowie was still not quite satisfied with the song, and decided to re-record it yet again during the sessions for 1975’s “Young Americans”. Just like the Arnold Corns material, the new version that was taped bore little similarity to the original, with the chorus just about remaining intact and little else, the end product being a mammoth 7 minute funk workout. However, when it came to putting the track listing for “Young Americans” together, “John I’m Only Dancing” was left on the shelf.
In late 1979, RCA decided to release the re-recorded version, under the title of “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. The song had to be heavily edited for the 7”, whilst the 12” used the unedited re-recording. On the B-side, the original “Ziggy” version was used, albeit in remixed form, and was dubbed “John I’m Only Dancing (1972)”. This remixing nonsense explains why, when it was included on the 1990 reissue of “Ziggy”, it was listed as the “B-Side Version”. The full length “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)” has cropped up now and then, firstly appearing on the expanded reissue of “Young Americans” in 1991, although it was dropped when the LP was reissued in 1999 by EMI - as were all bonus tracks on all Bowie LP’s they re-released at the time. It has since been made available again on a new reissue of the LP, and can be found on “The Platinum Collection”. The 7” edit, however, is far rarer, and has never been made available on anything apart from the Vinyl/Cassette only “Rare” album, an early 80’s release now long deleted.
“Ziggy” was first issued by RCA Victor in 1972 on LP (SF 8287) and Cassette, and the vinyl came with an inner sleeve featuring pictures of both Bowie and the three Spiders. We have a copy which has no inner sleeve, which suggests either later pressings were made which failed to include the inner (Island did this with Cat Stevens’s “Mona Bone Jakon” in the early 70’s), or one of us bought this copy second hand and somebody had replaced the inner with a standard white bag. Any information about this would be gratefully received.
The first reissue of note was in 1980, when the album appeared on the RCA International label (INTS 5063). RCA International was not quite RCA’s budget label - that was their Camden imprint, which usually dealt in releasing slightly randomly designed compilation albums. The International repressings were usually a bit “frills free” so for Ziggy, the inner sleeve was not used, and a plain white bag replaced it. Wherever a reference to “RCA Victor” had appeared originally, these were now obviously removed and replaced with “RCA International” bumph. The back cover retained the original back cover, complete with the famous “To Be Played At Maximum Volume“ legend, and showed various tell tale signs that it was a re-pressing - some of the extra text was printed in a different typeface to the original, and there was a 1980 copyright date. The most noticeable difference was the actual record itself, as the “International” pressings appeared with lime green labels, as opposed to “Victor”’s orange ones.
The first appearance of Ziggy on CD occurred in 1985 (PD 84702), when RCA - by now, Bowie’s former label - decided to cash in by reissuing huge chunks of the back catalogue. Bowie was not consulted over the reissues, and asked RCA to stop production of any further CD editions of “Ziggy” and all the other RCA albums. The CD, at the time, was still in it’s infancy, which explains why Bowie asked for the reissues to be stopped, and for RCA to accept. Other acts, however, were not so fussy, so although the Bowie RCA CD’s stopped being pressed, it was still possible many years later to get RCA copies of Lou Reed albums from the same period. As such, Bowie CD’s on RCA are now very collectible. It is also worth noting that, when “Station To Station” was reissued a few years ago, the Super Deluxe boxset included a “1985 Master” version of the record, suggesting that RCA had polished up all of Bowie’s albums before releasing them on Compact Disc. It is safe to assume, therefore, that a 1985 “Ziggy” might sound slightly different to a 1972 one. Again, any information you have…
By 1989, Bowie inked a deal with his then-current label EMI to reissue (most of) his back catalogue over the next few years. Each album from the 1969 to 1980 period was to be pressed with extra tracks (except, for some reason, “Aladdin Sane”), with some of the earlier releases appearing on vinyl - in order to try and keep the vinyl reissues from expanding from a single album to a double, the amount of bonuses were kept down to three or four rarities, with the grooves being squeezed together, to allow for some of the material from the second half of the record to be placed at the end of side 1 instead, thus freeing up space on side 2 for the rarities. US reissues, being handled by Rykodisc, were also to be issued on Cassette. (Some albums, such as “Space Oddity”, were actually issued as a 3-sided double LP in the USA, if my memory serves me correctly).
“Ziggy” was expanded with five tracks. As well as a couple of magnificent previously unheard demos of “Lady Stardust” (Bowie and piano), and “Ziggy Stardust” (Bowie and guitar), you also got the previously unreleased “Sweet Head”, the 1975 b-side “Velvet Goldmine”, and that 1979 “B-side Version” of “John I’m Only Dancing”. The original 1972 single version appeared, instead, on a new compilation album issued to tie in with the reissue campaign, “ChangesBowie”. Some copies of the 1990 “Ziggy” came housed in a fancy boxset edition, with the back cover intact but with the “Maximum Volume” message missing, but open it up, and you got the standard CD which retained the Volume instruction (CDEMC 3577).
In order to spread the rarities around, some of the other Ziggy-related material was used on reissues of other albums, to which the songs had some sort of connection. So, both sides of the Arnold Corns 7” appeared on the expanded “The Man Who Sold The World”, as did the re-recorded “Holy Holy.” The reason for the latter seemingly appearing on the wrong album, was because the original plan had been to use the Mercury 1970 original single version for the reissue, but Bowie refused to allow it to be used, so the “Ziggy” remake appeared instead. “Round And Round” and the “Sax” mix of “John I’m Only Dancing” appeared on a tie-in boxset issued at the same time, “Sound And Vision”. “Amsterdam”, perhaps unsurprisingly, appeared on the reissue of “Pin Ups”, whilst the “Glastonbury Fayre” version of “The Supermen” turned up on the expanded “Hunky Dory”.
As has already been mentioned on this site in the past, EMI conducted a pointless ‘bonus track free’ reissue campaign of all these albums again in 1999, to tie in with the EMI/Virgin-issued new studio LP “Hours”. Part of the campaign was to try and return the albums to their roots, which explains why Bowie’s second album was reissued in it’s original cover - but doesn’t explain why it retained it’s “Space Oddity” title, given to it by RCA when they reissued it in a Ziggy-esque cover in 1972. For each release, a small reprint of the original vinyl back cover was used as an inset at the top right of the cover, with the track listing printed on a black background filling up most of the rear. Trouble was, for “Ziggy”, by doing this, it meant the “Maximum Volume” legend was missing from this reissue (521 9000). It did, if nothing else, provide a new version of the album that ended, as it should do, with “Rock N Roll Suicide”, but it still seemed a wasted opportunity.
In 2002, “Ziggy” was one of three Bowie records to be given a 30th Anniversary double-disc reissue by EMI, along with “Aladdin Sane” in 2003 and “Diamond Dogs” the year after. The rear cover was once again reinstated, complete with the “Maximum Volume” legend, whilst the front cover featured the original photo housed inside a black border (539 8262). The re-issue came in a hardback book style sleeve, with the original 11 track release on disc 1, and 12 rarities on disc 2. The album had been remastered again, with the result that two songs appeared in a new form - “Hang Onto Yourself” lost it’s “one, two” intro, whilst “Ziggy Stardust” faded out early, and thus produced a gap between this and the following song, “Suffragette City” - all previous pressings had featured the two songs appearing without a break between them.
Disc 2 was used, mainly, to gather together the rarities from the earlier “1989” EMI reissue campaign, which had been lost when the 1999 pressings removed those bonus tracks. The “B-side Version” of “John I’m Only Dancing” was not included this time around, only the 1972 Single Version was used (the “Sax” mix turned up on the 2003 reissue of “Aladdin Sane”). “Sweet Head” appeared in a longer version than that released in 1990, but this was purely because the intro included some ’in the studio’ faffing about before the song actually starts. Just to clarify, the rarities were taken from different reissues, so you got the Arnold Corns 7”, the “Lady Stardust” and “Ziggy” demos, “Velvet Goldmine”, “Holy Holy“, “Round And Round”, “The Supermen” and “Amsterdam” as well. The only real rarity this time around was a new bonus mix of “Moonage Daydream”, used to close the second disc. Trouble is, this reissue was done as a limited edition, and in recent years, has been deleted, meaning the flawed 1999 version is the one you will usually see in the shops.
“Ziggy” had by this time also appeared, in part or in full, on a number of other, slightly obscure, overseas releases. In 1981, the German arm of RCA released a number of double album releases by various acts, including Bowie, all called “Rock Galaxy”. The sleeves of each were identical, apart from the artists name and image (of course), and each album coupled up two older long players by said act. Bowie’s “Rock Galaxy” coupled “Hunky Dory” on disc 1, and “Ziggy” on disc 2. In 1990, a semi official Russian LP called “Starman” was issued, which included an entire side devoted to “Ziggy” - the first four songs from the LP were joined by “Lady Stardust”. In other words, the first five self penned songs from the LP in the order in which they appear on the original. Suffice to say, neither of these releases have any Ziggy-related imagery as part of their packaging.
But it is now 2012, and Ziggy is thus 40 years old. And so, EMI - again - are reissuing the record. Why? Not sure. No real new material has been found for the reissue. One can only assume it will allow them to rectify the faults on the 1999 version. And make a few quid.
So what does the 2012 edition offer? Well, the CD seems to do nothing - it’s got no bonus tracks, so other than being a new 2012 remaster, it will look and sound like the 1999 one, although the rear cover has been restored in full. One can only assume that this will at least allow EMI to replace the flawed 1999 edition with something a bit more “good”, given that the 2-CD edition from 2002 has been deleted.
The vinyl pressing is of more interest (DBZSX 40). The reissue is on EMI, so - like “Station To Station” - the labels are designed to look like the orange RCA Victor labels, but have a “Bowie” logo instead of an RCA one. Furthermore, the original RCA logo that appeared in the top right corner of the front cover is completely absent, unsurprisingly. But you will be pleased to know that the original back cover is intact, even to the point where the barcode which should be there is missing - instead, copies originally came shrinkwrapped, with the barcode printed instead on a sticker attached to the front of the shrinkwrap. The inner sleeve is present and correct.
Some internet forums have been talking about how the 2012 master on the vinyl edition may or may not be different to the CD, but the real selling point seems to be the free DVD that is being thrown in, housed in it’s own black sleeve, and housed inside the gatefold via a slot used to hold the disc in place. Not only do you get a set of 5.1 mixes that appeared on a SuperAudioCD reissue of “Ziggy” in 2003 (itself a reissue of the 2002 double-disc pressing), but you also get previously unissued mixes of some of the non-album stuff from the period, namely the re-recorded “Supermen”, “Sweet Head” and “Velvet Goldmine”. You also get a 5.1 mix of an instrumental version of “Moonage Daydream”, which given that this has never appeared before in any form, is the only real rarity here. However, you could argue that - as rarities go - it’s a bit of a fake. Did Bowie really tape a version of this without vocals, for possible inclusion on the LP? Is it an alternate take to the LP original? Or is it, as I believe, simply the album version with the vocals simply erased? Cheating, surely. And if it is, what bets we get a 50th Anniversary Ziggy in 2022 promising us a previously unissued “Instrumental” mix of “Five Years”, a 60th one with a remixed “Soul Love”, and so on? Suffice to say, word on the street is that Bowie has disowned himself from this reissue.
But you can understand why EMI are doing it. Because “Ziggy” deserves it’s place in the (recurring) spotlight. There may have been more left-field sounding records, longer concept albums, and probably more noisier glam rock LP‘s, but the sheer quality of what’s on here is staggering. My wife and I have been watching the repeats of “Top Of The Pops” from 1977 that BBC Four are showing, and at the moment, “Sound And Vision” crops up now and again. And, I hate to say it, even though 1977 was the year of punk, there was still a lot of dross knocking about. And whenever we hear the likes of Brendon, it only makes “Sound And Vision” sound even more incredible, like it had been beamed in from the future. Well, the fact was that Bowie - via Ziggy - had sounded, five years before, that he really had come from another planet back then, and even now, he remains so far ahead of the opposition, it’s simply embarrassing. If you are the sort of person who listens to Radio 1, and are of the opinion that Huw Stephens’ championing of the god-awful Lostprophets is something to get excited about, or that the appearance of Will.I.Am and Flo Rida at their Hackney Weekend is the most exciting thing on earth, well stop thinking such thoughts now, and go and buy this record instead - if, by some bizarre freak of nature, you don’t already have it. Because “Ziggy Stardust” is the most important Rock And Roll record ever made, by the most ingenious solo artist who ever lived. It invented half of the bands who sprung up in the years that followed, and you can trace the formation of everybody from Spandau Ballet and Frankie Goes To Hollywood to Joy Division and Kasabian back to this album if you look closely enough.
There are still rumours that Bowie, seemingly in an attempt to “preserve” his image, has actually retired. And if he has, then you can understand why. He spent thirty-odd years trying to top this album, and never quite managed it, but then again, neither did anybody else. As the African-American preacher announced in 1993 on “Pallas Athena”, “God Is On Top Of It All”. Or Bowie, as some of us call him.