Tuesday, June 6, 1972

David Bowie released Ziggy Stardust

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

David Bowie

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Released: June 6, 1972


Peak: 21 US, 5 UK, 22 CN, 11 AU, 16 DF


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 1.5 UK, 7.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: glam rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Five Years [4:43] (18 CL, 36 CO)
  2. Soul Love [3:33]
  3. Moonage Daydream [4:39] (12 CL, 23 CO)
  4. Starman [4:13] (4/14/72, 65 US, 64 CB, 61 HR, 3 CL, 3 CO, 10 UK, 37 AU)
  5. It Ain’t Easy (Davies) [2:57]
  6. Lady Stardust [3:21]
  7. Star [2:46]
  8. Hang on to Yourself [2:38]
  9. Ziggy Stardust [3:13] (11/24/72, 2 CL, 4 CO)
  10. Suffragette City [3:25] (4/14/72, B-side of “Starman,” 3 CL, 7 CO)
  11. Rock & Roll Suicide [2:58] (4/11/74, 27 CL, 11 CO, 22 UK)

Songs written by David Bowie unless otherwise noted.


Total Running Time: 38:29


The Players:

  • David Bowie (vocals, guitar, saxophone)
  • Mick Ronson (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals)
  • Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet)
  • Mick Woodmansey (drums)
  • Rick Wakeman (harpsichord on “It Ain’t Easy”)
  • Dana Gillespie (backing vocals on “It Ain’t Easy”)

Rating:

4.605 out of 5.00 (average of 35 ratings)


Quotable:

“This is the definitive glam-rock record.” – Consequence.net

Awards:

(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:


“David Bowie may have kicked off his career with a folky pop-rock sound, but he officially touched down on his visionary artistic planet with his first foray into glam rock” PM on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. “After flirting with heavy guitar rock (The Man Who Sold the World)” AZ and “classic song-writing structure” AD and “lighter pop [Hunky Dory), Bowie found middle ground on Ziggy Stardust.” AZ

it was a “glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style” AMG that allowed Bowie to pair his “arty, theatrical ambitions with crunching, arena-ready rock.” TL Mixed into his “off-kilter metallic mix” AMG were “dramatic strings, swaggering saxophones, jagged guitars, and theatrical arrangements.” AZ “With all its funk, glam, rock, pop, and soul, [it] was unlike anything anyone had heard at that point, and it has never been replicated since.” CQ

Not only was it “a cornerstone of glittery rock excellence” PM but it “served as inspiration for Bowie’s rotating cast of flamboyant characters that would define the eras of his legendary career.” PM The album “established David Bowie as a major force in music.” RV With Ziggy Bowie create “an otherworldly soung that influenced every new genre that followed, establishing Bowie himself as a hero of punk, new wave, heavy metal, progressive rock, and avant-garde music for decades to come.” TM

Definitive Glam:


It all resulted in “the logical culmination of glam;” AMG in fact, “this is the definitive glam-rock record.” CQ Of course, Bowie didn’t invent glam and “there are plenty more great ones, from T. Rex’s Electric Warrior to Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes but no one did it quite as well as David Bowie.” CQ Here his “glam period is in full bloom, with chunky riff-laden guitars comparable to T-Rex, preening vocals, and sexually-charged imagery.” PK Ziggy expertly blended “Marc Bolan’s glam rock and the future shock of A Clockwork Orange,” AMG effectively “setting in motion the glam rock movement that echoed from Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson.” TL

Ziggy “ isn’t so much a musical quantum leap as an artistic one on the level of performance, staging and image.” AD It is “an artful display of Bowie’s innovative artistry and boundless creativity.” PM “It offered “a grand sense of staged drama previously unheard of in rock & roll.” AMG Bowie’s “lyrical vision, coupled with music drawn from many different styles and influences, created an unforgettable listening experience.” TM “There isn’t a weak moment on this album. It was christened the Sgt Peppers of the seventies. “AD

Theatrics:


David Bowie “never really considered himself a musician – or at least he considered his music secondary to his performance.” TM “As a struggling folk musician and cabaret artist in the 1960s, Bowie developed an ability to remove himself from the performance, thinking of the man on stage as a character rather than a performer.” TM By integrating his background in theater and mime, he went beyond just employing outlandish costumes and elaborate stage sets for his live shows.

“His performance method gave rise to character-driven songs,” TM most notably 1969’s “Space Oddity” about “an astronaut looking down on his home planet and asking questions about his place in the grander scheme of things. This sense of alienation…became a significant element in Bowie’s music.” TM

The Concept:


Three years after making his name with “Space Oddity,” David Bowie “turned himself into one. As Ziggy Stardust, Bowie embodied the kind of alien rock god he’d himself become – a boundary-pushing, truly out-of-this-world archetype of pop excess.” EW’12 This is “one of the best concept records ever.” CQ

It was “about an androgynous alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust” AMG “whose mission is to offer sex and salvation to earthlings” TL “just as the earth enters the last five years of its existence.” AD The character “conveys the panic and paranoia of a coming apocalypse in glitzy, theatrical glam-rock with a heavy undertow.” UT Who else could make such and album “and make it one of the most loved and revered albums ever? The correct answer is no one.” CQ

“Ziggy” was inspired by British rock singer Vince Taylor, who, after a breakdown, believed he was “a cross between a god and an alien.” WK Bowie looked the part with his bright orange hair and different colored eyes, the result of a childhood injury. The persona allowed Bowie to to “explore and flaunt his own hunger for stardom.” JI

“The story falls apart quickly” AMG but “what sets this album apart from most of Bowie’s albums is the thematic cohesiveness of the songs.” PK “Bowie’s fractured, paranoid lyrics are evocative of a decadent, decaying future, and the music echoes an apocalyptic, nuclear dread.” AMG However, the “Ziggy Stardust persona would live on well after Bowie shed the alien skin.” AZ As Bowie himself said, “I became Ziggy Stardust…David Bowie went totally out the window...I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy.’” TL

“That self-conscious sense of theater is part of the reason why Ziggy Stardust sounds so foreign. Bowie succeeds not in spite of his pretensions but because of them.” AMG This “is the first time his vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion.” AMG

Sexuality:


The androgynous Ziggy character wasn’t Bowie’s first foray into playing with sex and gender roles. “The artwork for The Man Who Sold the World featured…Bowie looking extremely feminine and wearing a dress.” AD However, in the early ‘70s, such behavior was still shocking. It “was considered career suicide for any gay performer ‘to come out.’” AD “The fact that David Bowie wasn’t even gay, or perhaps even bi-sexual, seems to be besides the point. It was the gesture, the thrill the signals gave out to fans across the country.” AD “Such a simple gesture changed the rock scene forever, at least in England and Europe. It’s hard to imagine such ‘80s acts as Boy George’s Culture Club without…[Bowie’s] groundbreaking work.” AD

The Songs:


Here’s a breakdown of each of the individual songs.

“Five Years”
The “desperate, doomsayer opening track Five YearsTM “works as introduction,” AD laying out how Ziggy and his band have come to Earth to save it from its impending demise in a half-decade’s time.

“Soul Love”
Critic Adrian Denning says, “Soul Love contains Bowie vocals that always sends chills beautifully all through my body.” AD

“Moonage Daydream”
“Mark Ronson plays with a maverick flair that invigorates rockers like ‘Suffragette City,’ Moonage Daydream, and ‘Hang Onto Yourself.’” AMG The “solo during ‘Moonage Daydream’ in particular is a stellar moment” AD marked by “absurdist lyricism.” PM

“Starman”
On the album’s first single, Starman, Bowie sounds a “hopeful call for inter-planetary peace.” PM He sings, “There’s a Starman waiting in the sky / He’d like to come and meet us / But he thinks he’d blow our minds.” “Bowie is absolutely right.” RV

It “is a brilliant song” AD that “revealed an androgynous glam creation to a generation of young dudes eager for flamboyant imagery and hard-edged pop. The new fans lapped up such gestures as the key Top of the Pops appearance when Bowie, vermilion-haired in a skintight jumpsuit and painted nails, camply slung a provocative arm around Mick Ronson during the guitarist’s solo.” JI

It was similar to “the kind of material that appeared on Hunky Dory, only with a more prominent role guitar-wise for Mick Ronson. The strings combine with his crushing guitar riffs. Bowie re-visits his preoccupations with all things outer space. A classic song and a classic Bowie moment, no question.” AD

“It Ain’t Easy”
Songs like “Suffragette City,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Hang Onto Yourself,” and It Ain’t Easy “serve as solid excursions into the future (then and now) of rock.” AZ

“Lady Stardust”
“The gorgeous Lady Stardust is another song that could have fitted easily on Hunky Dory and works as a kind of tribute to on/off Bowie friend/rival, Marc Bolan of T.Rex.” AD

“Star”
“The dreamy StarAZAD

“Hang Onto Yourself”
“While the album does have a sense of gloom” AZ songs like “Star” and “the buoyant Hang Onto YourselfAZ “offer hints of optimism in Ziggy’s bleak world.” AZ The latter “is a guitar riff-monster.” AD

“Ziggy Stardust”
“The title song has an reference to Jimi Hendrix ‘he played it left hand.’ Still, Bowie had his own guitar god in the making with Mick Ronson.” AD

“Suffragette City”
“Both Suffragette City and ‘Moonage Daydream’ are perfect rock/pop songs.” AD While this was never a single (it appeared on the B-side of “Starman”) it has become a staple of rock radio, even eclipsing “Starman” in terms of recognizability in America.

“Rock and Roll Suicide”
“The end, in more ways than one, arrives with Rock and Roll Suicide.” AD It “is a dramatic climax in which “Ziggy is torn apart by the fans he inspired.” TL It is “the only possible, doomed conclusion for a messiah figure.” TM In The Review, Clarke Speicher calls it “one of the greatest songs ever to close an album.” RV Paste magazine echoes a similar sentiment, proclaiming it “one of the most prolific closing tracks in rock history.” PM


Notes:

The 1990 Rykodisc reissue added an unreleased mix of non-album single “John, I’m Only Dancing,” B-side “Velvet Goldmine,” the unreleased “Sweet Head,” and previously unreleased demo versions of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Lady Stardust.”

In 2002, EMI/Virgin released a 2-disc package. The second disc contained the above tracks as well as alternate versions of “Moonage Daydream,” “Hang on to Yourself,” and “The Supermen” along with “Amsterdam,” “Round and Round,” and a re-recording of “Holy Holy.” The three latter cuts were all released as B-sides, but were intended at one time to be on the album.

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First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 6/14/2024.

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