Review : David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
PopmattersIf you analyzed the evolution of rock music over the last 50 years, you’d find that few artists, if any, were as thoroughly innovative, outrageous, diverse, dedicated, and influential as David Bowie. Born David Jones, he performed in a few bands as a teenager before quickly realizing that the charming and safe guise had to go (partially because an internationally adored Monkey was already making good use of the name). Since then, he’s become a bona-fide musical icon.
While he’s always been relevant and fascinating, Bowie’s most important period was easily his initial run in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. A revered, brilliant artist, he released some of the decade’s most important and acclaimed albums, as well as became a musical and physical chameleon. Although his earliest albums hinted at Bowie’s need to challenge conventions, vary his sound, and take his audience to unexpected places, most fans and music critics agree that his real breakthrough came in 1972 with the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. With its 40th anniversary upon us, it’s worth reevaluating the album’s significance and quality, as well as looking into the newly remastered special edition of the record.
Commonly shorted to simply Ziggy Stardust, the album’s two predecessors, The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory, only hinted at the androgynous flamboyancy and grandiose aesthetic to come. However, with Ziggy Stardust, Bowie clearly rivaled contemporaries like Mark Bolan (T.Rex), Roxy Music, and Gary Glitter for dominance over the glam rock movement, which essentially fused catchy guitar rock with theatrical production and performance, as well as a heightened sense of sexuality and glitzy gender-bending fashion....full text
AllmusicBorrowing heavily from Marc Bolan's glam rock and the future shock of A Clockwork Orange, David Bowie reached back to the heavy rock of The Man Who Sold the World for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Constructed as a loose concept album about an androgynous alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust, the story falls apart quickly, yet Bowie's fractured, paranoid lyrics are evocative of a decadent, decaying future, and the music echoes an apocalyptic, nuclear dread. Fleshing out the off-kilter metallic mix with fatter guitars, genuine pop songs, string sections, keyboards, and a cinematic flourish, Ziggy Stardust is a glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style and the logical culmination of glam. Mick Ronson plays with a maverick flair that invigorates rockers like "Suffragette City," "Moonage Daydream," and "Hang Onto Yourself," while "Lady Stardust," "Five Years," and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" have a grand sense of staged drama previously unheard of in rock & roll. And 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, 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....full text
RollingstoneUpon the release of David Bowie's most thematically ambitious, musically coherent album to date, the record in which he unites the major strengths of his previous work and comfortably reconciles himself to some apparently inevitable problems, 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 — that thing that's manifesting itself in the self-conscious quest for decadence which is all the rage at the moment in trendy Hollywood, in the more contrived area of Alice Cooper's presentation, and, way down in the pits, in such grotesqueries as Queen, Nick St. Nicholas' trio of feathered, sequined Barbie dolls. And which is bound to get worse.
For although Lady Stardust himself has probably had more to do with androgony's current fashionableness in rock than any other individual, he has never made his sexuality anything more than a completely natural and integral part of his public self, refusing to lower it to the level of gimmick but never excluding it from his image and craft. To do either would involve an artistically fatal degree of compromise.
Which is not to say that he hasn't had a great time with it. Flamboyance and outrageousness are inseparable from that campy image of his, both in the Bacall and Garbo stages and in his new butch, street-crawler appearance that has him looking like something out of the darker pages of City of Night. It's all tied up with the one aspect of David Bowie that sets him apart from both the exploiters of transvestitism and writer/performers of comparable tallent — his theatricality.
The news here is that he's managed to get that sensibility down on vinyl, not with an attempt at pseudo-visualism (which, as Mr. Cooper has shown, just doesn't cut it), but through employment of broadly mannered styles and deliveries, a boggling variety of vocal nuances that provide the program with the necessary depth, a verbal acumen that is now more economic and no longer clouded by storms of psychotic, frenzied music, and, finally, a thorough command of the elements of rock & roll. It emerges as a series of concise vignettes designed strictly for the ear....full text
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