David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

Ziggy Front Cover

I know I shouldn’t but I have!!!

I have bought this record simply because it has been brought to my attention by all the media interest after David Bowie’s death.

Purchase and Packaging

David Bowie is an artist I have been very familiar with for a long time but never really listened to any of his actual albums.  Like most people my age I was introduced to Bowie via the 1986 film Labyrinth, as a young kid I remember thinking this guy has massive bad 80s hair!!!  Bowie was an artist that has always been there, talked about by others, but in my life time he was never really been in the mainstream for me to catch who he was.  I just though he was a glam rock star from the 70s that went a bit strange in the 80s and then disappeared.  That changed when at university I saw Top of the Pops 2 and his 1972 performance of “Starman”.  I sought out his Best Of album on CD and loved it, but that was as far as I went.

Fast forward to January 2016 and I purchased his Best Of album on vinyl.  This promoted a conversion with a work colleague who had never heard of David Bowie even though she was old enough to know better.  Then a week later the news broke of his death.  It was a really strange coincidence.

So I jumped on Spotify and starting streaming his albums and fell in love with this one.  It went on the to buy list and after pay day I went out to pick up a copy from Reflex, they were sold out so I had to settle for HMV (sorry) instead for £18.99.

The packaging is a reissue of the original release so therefore comes in a single sleeve, however I do like that they have included the original paper slip case with printed lyrics on and another polyurethane lined one. The actual sleeve is a bit wasted out and the matt finish doesn’t help, but this is an iconic cover and looks great in the large vinyl presentation.

Ziggy back cover

First Listen

Putting this record on is much the same experience as Sgt. Peppers, it’s like opening a door to a particular time period and stepping.  Its a time when artists pushed the boundaries of popular music in new directions.

As soon as “Five Years” starts and grows with each passing second, the way the vocals and the strings sections build into a screaming rage, you know you are in for a treat unlike anything else.

Having only listened to the album for the past few months via headphones on my iPhone the vinyl is a huge leap in quality, you really get Bowies sexual presence coming through and the great guitar riffs in crystal clear quality.

As the album progresses the tracks seem to get better and better.  Most albums either have the same level of quality throughout or have highs and lows all over the place.  This album just seems to build with each track.  As a whole i’m unsure which category of music to place it in, is it a rock album, is it glam rock or is it pop???

I do however have a stand out track “Moonage Daydream”, it has a great rock sound to it and Bowies voice is like no one else’s – it isn’t a scream or a soft tone, it is high and raw.  The song captures 70s glam rock with psychedelic vocals and echo so well, and adds a great guitar sole at the end.

Most of the tracks are simple drum, bass (not to much this was the 70s when they knew how get the right balance of bass and not over use it), guitar and vocals – verse then chorus with a bridge.  This makes the tracks really catchy with loads of replay value.  My 7 year old son was singing along to “Starman” and i’m not sure he had even heard the song before!

The songs aren’t that deep lyrically until you get to “It ain’t Easy”, here Bowie seems to be commenting on people and social issues, however he doesn’t wallow in this as its the shortest track on the album. It feels like the track has been placed there on purpose as the come down at the end of side 1.  “Lady Stardust” opens side 2 and has more of an upbeat feel to the lyrics with the line “he was alright” repeated heavily throughout.  I really enjoy how vinyl records used to be structured to take advantage of the pause and flip of the record.

Breaking the album down into sides it feels like side 1 has more complex tracks with string arrangements, echo on the vocals and longer track run times.  Side 2 has more straight forward rock songs, they are fast tempo with shorter run times, “Star” “Hang on to Yourself” and “Suffragette City” are very punk rock way before punk rock.

As a whole the album is very escapist, you just want to go into space with Bowie and the band playing.  I can only imagine that this played a huge part in its success in 70s Britain, which in many places could have been very dark and depressing.

One major tip I can give is to listen to the whole album on high volume, it really makes a difference.  The back cover actually tells you to do this, never seen that before on an album and I really liked it.

The only bad news with this 2016 reissue is that it skips a number of times on “Star”, others have had this problem:  Amazon Forums and Discogs Version.  You might be better buying a good second hand version.

Final Thoughts

This is a an essential vinyl purchase and should be in everyones collection.  Just sit back and let the crazy 70s futuristic sound wash over you and think you are off in space.  It’s such fun.

 

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