He’s the man, the dude, the Thin White Duke and, as far as I’m concerned, modern Rock music simply wouldn’t exist without him. Yeah, I know he had a bit of a wobble there in the mid-80s when it all got a bit Phil Collins but, he’s said sorry for that, so let’s move on.
What I’m gonna talk about here is the foundations the man formally known as Mr Jones laid down for all us skinny jeaned, straggled haired waifs and strays – he became King Sleaze, Sir Rock n Roll, the Grand Dame of All We Hold True and Dear … and he did it all within the space of 3 albums – Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars.
I know the dark heart of Ziggy still bleeds across the post-apocalyptic landscape of Diamond Dogs, but that was the transition period moving Bowie from Glam Rock Super God to White Soul Boy – so I’m ignoring it. . .
The question must also be raised – ‘Wasn’t Bowie just another Glam Rock Gravy Train passenger?’ – I raised it, so I can say ‘No, don’t be so f*cking stupid!’
He was more prolific and serious than The Sweet … he was artier than full on Rockers like Slade … and he knew more about the beating, dark heart of rock n roll than T.Rex.
And here’s how he proved it.
Songs like Life on Mars and Andy Warhol shake their acoustic booty to a proper Rock rhythms, while Changes and Memory of Free Festival are still very much drinking Scrumpy and sitting around in stone circles.
Hunky Dory is quite simply a brilliant album and, although most people would hail the next album as Bowie’s lasting stamp on the world of Rock, I think Hunky Dory started the ball rolling.
So, onto that defining moment in the timeline of British Rock History – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. A cool concept album … who’d have thought it possible.
The brooding 5 Years kicks things off as Bowie introduces us to a paranoid world, devoid of hope and heading for oblivion … what that world needs is a hero – a pouting, androgynous, pan-sexual, alien, rock messiah.
Ziggy arrives and sets himself up as that saviour, telling the kids to be cool, be groovy and love each other. He tells them a Starman is coming, that the world will be free again and that love is the ultimate goal.
The kids love him, they adore him, they worship him – Lady Stardust says it all ‘People stared at the makeup on his face, Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace, The boy in the bright blue jeans, Jumped onto the stage, And lady stardust sang his songs, Of darkness and disgrace’ – put your hand up if you wanted to be Lady Stardust *puts hand up*
But, all rockers fall from grace. Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City tell the tale of a man brought down by his own hype, the archetypal rock star ravaged by drugs, sex and his own ego … until finally, in Rock n Rock Suicide, a song so beautifully constructed it makes my heart ache, Ziggy is ripped to sheds by the very people he inspired.
Don’t be upset though, coz he came back! He may have changed his name, and painted a daft flash down his face, but it’s definitely Ziggy – yes, despite David Bowie killing Ziggy off at the end of the Spiders tour, we all know he lives behind Aladdin Sane’s pallid mask.
No concept here, just a slab of pure, white-hot rock n roll. Songs like Panic in Detroit, Cracked Actor and Drive in Saturday are scorching blue prints for all the great sleaze, Glam Rock and trash tunes we came to love in later years – the solid 4/4 beat, the Ebola-catchy riff, the nonsensical lyrics that vaguely hint at powerful narcotics, writhing bodies and wasted nights. Lovely. .
Jean Genie is the track that stood out for many reasons – that riff, the terrible pun in the title and the subject matter – Mr Punk Rock himself, Iggy Pop.
There’s plenty here for the Indie kids too, songs like Time and The Prettiest Star offer a lighter, artier vibe that still fits in with the overall ethos of the record.
Music aside, it was the standard David Bowie set for those of us that like a little theatre in out rock n roll. I don’t know about you, but if I meet someone in a band, I want them to be friendly, down to earth and affable at the bar, but as soon as they hit the stage I want them to be a twisting, grinding alien that’s a sight to behold and an untouchable enigma – that’s Ziggy Stardust that is.