~ Release group by David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is the fifth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 16 June 1972 in the UK through RCA Records. It was co-produced by Bowie and Ken Scott and features Bowie's backing band the Spiders from Mars, comprising Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. Most of the songs were written around the same time as Bowie's previous album Hunky Dory (1971). After that album was completed, recording for Ziggy Stardust commenced in November 1971 at Trident Studios in London, with further sessions in early February 1972.
Described as a loose concept album and rock opera, Ziggy Stardust concerns Bowie's titular alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a fictional androgynous and bisexual rock star who is sent to Earth as a saviour before an impending apocalyptic disaster. In its story, Ziggy wins the hearts of fans but suffers a fall from grace after succumbing to his own ego. The character was inspired by numerous musicians, including singers Vince Taylor and Iggy Pop. Most of the album's concept was developed after the songs were recorded. The glam rock and proto-punk musical styles were influenced by Pop, the Velvet Underground, and Marc Bolan of T. Rex, while the lyrics discuss the artificiality of rock music, political issues, drug use, sexual orientation and stardom. The album cover, photographed in monochrome and recoloured, was taken in London, outside the home of furriers "K. West".
Preceded by the single "Starman", Ziggy Stardust peaked at number 5 in the UK and number 75 in the US. It initially received favourable reviews from music critics; some praised the musicality and concept while others were unable to comprehend it. Shortly after its release, Bowie performed "Starman" on Britain's Top of the Pops in early July 1972, which propelled him to stardom. The Ziggy character was retained for the subsequent Ziggy Stardust Tour, leaving Bowie unable to differentiate between Ziggy and himself. Not wanting Ziggy to define him, Bowie created a new character for his next album Aladdin Sane (1973), which Bowie described as "Ziggy goes to America". Performances from the tour were later released on a concert film of the same name with an accompanying live album (1983) and Live Santa Monica '72 (2008).
Retrospectively, Ziggy Stardust is considered one of Bowie's best works and has appeared on numerous lists of the greatest albums of all time. Bowie had ideas for a musical based on the album, although this project never came to fruition; ideas were later used for Diamond Dogs (1974). Ziggy Stardust has been reissued several times and was remastered in 2012 for its 40th anniversary. In 2017, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" by the Library of Congress.
|part of:||The Guardian 100 Best Albums Ever (number: 7) (order: 7)|
Absolute Radio's The 100 Collection (number: 19) (order: 19)
Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 2003 edition (number: 35) (order: 35)
Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 2012 edition (number: 35) (order: 35)
Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 2020 edition (number: 40) (order: 40)
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It sounds like a cliche, but to an entire generation this album has become a yardstick by which to measure all others. Why the hyperbole? Because the strength of Ziggy lies in its completeness. Not a track is out of place, in fact not a NOTE is out of place, and at just over 38 minutes it is (and this has been scientifically proven, boys and girls) the perfect length. Every R&B and Hip Hop artist in the universe take note. So, does it still stand up after 30 years? Is it a major strand in rock's rich tapestry, with its gender bending bravado and melodramatic sweep; or just an ephemeral piece of fluff about a bisexual pop star living through the apocalyptic countdown?
With its so-called classic status written in stone, a perverse logic makes you want to reassess the album in a negative light. It can't be as good as all that can it? But remember, there's a reason why all those bands have dined out on this sonic template (step forward Suede, Supergrass and countless others). Within two short years Bowie had transformed himself from fey folk wannabe into a glam icon, via a brief flirtation with heavy metal. In doing this, lest we forget, he forged the template for the truly modern pop star that has yet to be broken. How this was achieved had a lot to do with two factors.
One was his adoption of three lads from Hull as his backing band, renaming them the Spiders From Mars and thus making the wild Les Paul stylings of guitarist Mick Ronson an essential element of his sound. The second was young David''s choice of producer. Most people associate Tony Visconti (the man who gave Bolan his glam sheen and who had played on and produced the aforementioned metal album The Man Who Sold The World) with this period. It was, in fact, with his previous album Hunky Dory that DB found the perfect studio partner for this phase in his mercurial career. The pairing of Bowie with Ken Scott at Trident studios allowed him to finally nail a simple format of guitar, bass, drums and piano into the place where the New York nihilism of the Velvet Underground met a quintessentially English way with a tune and a vocal. Ziggy represents the peak of their achievement.
Having perfected the format Bowie took his greatest leap forward by taking a cycle of songs and moulding it into a loose story of the nominal Ziggy and his Christ-like rise and fall at the hands of adoring fans. It allowed Bowie to take the central role onstage, hiding behind a mask of glamorous decadence that some would say hes yet to renounce. The songs weren't bad either. The part sci fi, part demi-monde narrative unfolds via the sophisticated use of shifting perspectives, beginning with "Five Years" and its tale of despairing humanity at the brink of destruction. Ziggy is observed through the eyes of one besotted fan who, following the star's death, takes their own life in the thrilling climax of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". From piano-led sumptuousness ("Lady Stardust") to plain old dirty riffage ("Suffragette City") Dave was on a creative roll that would catapult him to the heights of success but ultimately lead him to destroy the Frankenstein's monster that had him and his audience confusing fantasy and reality.
So here it is, with the obligatory second disc featuring early versions by fake band Arnold Corns, demos, outtakes that most bands would kill to have as prime material (including "Velvet Goldmine": yes, the film was named after it), b-sides and one of Bowie's greatest singles, "John I'm Only Dancing". It's a worthy treatment of such an aural treasure and one can only hope that generations to come will come to love it as much as their peers. Ultimately, what Ziggy really represents is an artist who was in the right place, with the right people and the right songs at the right time. The future held plenty more surprises; but for millions this will always be the place where the world's most famous Martian truly fell to earth.