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Life at 33 1/3   By Carl Meyer


The perfect album

David Bowie: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (RCA)

The outer album sleeve photo was taken at 23 Heddon Street, London.

One of the most perfect albums that has ever been made. There is no fat on it, it is restrained and powerful at the same time. Every little detail is exactly where it is supposed to be all the way from the packaging to the dying notes on cut six, side two.
The record tells a story: Mankind has five years left, an alien, Ziggy Stardust, lands on Earth delivering messages of hope dressed in rock’n’roll. A rock’n’roll prophet. He commits ritual suicide on stage and his diciples tear him to pieces. Something like that. “Tommy” meets “Lifehouse” meets Ray Bradbury.

That might not sound like much of a story, more an outline where the huge gaps are left for the listener to fill in. You have to participate to make it come to life. But if you do you are in for a spectacular trip through inner and outer landscapes that have a touch of “Blade Runner” to it, populated by striking shapes, moods and characters outlined in imaginative lyrics and sonic textures framed in a devilishly fascinating and riveting series of songs performed with burning passion.
Bowie’s voice and Mick Ronson’s guitar (that dry, asthmatic attack is a Ronson trademark) is a chilling double treat. The album is so brilliantly planned and executed that you’ll want to weep with gratitude when that last note fades into silence.
The androgynous Ziggy became a benchmark for the so-called glam rock. A jumble of copy-cats and their relatives attacked the charts. Glam ruled. So strong was the Ziggy character that it threatened to eat Bowie’s soul, it became a living beast. He had to kill it.
But the album is still alive, 41 years on. A timeless piece of art.

Released: June 1972
(All songs written and composed by David Bowie, except where noted)

Side 1
1. “Five Years” 4:44
2. “Soul Love” 3:33
3. “Moonage Daydream” 4:35
4. “Starman” 4:13
5. “It Ain’t Easy” (Ron Davies) 3:00

Side 2
6. “Lady Stardust” 3:20
7. “Star” 2:50
8. “Hang On to Yourself” 2:40
9. “Ziggy Stardust” 3:13
10. “Suffragette City” 3:25
11. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” 3:00

David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, saxophone, piano, harpsichord, arrangements.
Mick Ronson – guitars, piano, backing vocals, string arrangement.
Trevor Bolder – bass guitar.
Mick Woodmansey – drums.
Additional personnel: Dana Gillespie – backing vocals on “It Ain’t Easy”.
Technical personnel: Ken Scott – producer, recording engineer, mixing engineer.
David Bowie – producer.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

The perfect album