Friday, July 11, 2014

35 The Rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars (1972) David Bowie



1. Five Years
2. Soul Love
3. Moonage Daydream
4. Starman
5. It Ain't Easy
6. Lady Stardust
7. Star
8. Hang On to Yourself
9. Ziggy Stardust
10. Suffragette City
11. Rock 'N' Roll Suicide

Hooray! As the list stumbles to its inevitable conclusion there are certain genres, artists and styles that I can tick off the list and never need to hear again. I've already heard my last hip hop album, my last Reggae release and my final Prince CD. Those are all behind me now and the less said about them the better.

Posting this entry means the door closes on two other problem areas that I've struggled with throughout this blog: David Bowie and concept albums.

I should clarify and make it clear that I quite like Bowie as a guy and even as a performer. I really like his voice, I like his style and I'm a big fan of his attitude. Bowie does what he wants when he wants and doesn't seem to care much what people say or do about him. That "Take me or leave me" attitude is very rock and roll. Lots of other artists come across as desperate for your love and attention, Bowie doesn't care. I respect Bowie but I can't really get into him as an artist. He has his moments (Life on Mars being the best of them) but on the whole his music doesn't really move me much.

Concept albums are another area that long-term readers (thanks for hanging in there by the way) would know I have a definite problem with. Concept albums tend to transform an album of songs into a pointlessly bloated entity which might seem deep and profound when the creator was coming up with the idea but quickly looks fairly foolish when you come to encounter it later.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars has a story attached which, like all the best concept album stories is long, silly, pretentious and makes no sense. It's about a time in the future when a rock and roll star from another planet tries to save the earth but gets killed by people from another dimension, or his own fans, or something. It doesn't matter really its not a story that's going to move anyone any time soon.

Unlike other concept albums however, Bowie started to get wrapped up in his own concept. He started to perform concerts as Ziggy Stardust and called his band The Spiders from Mars. His shows started to turn into theatrical events with costumes and make up being as important as the music.

Ziggy Stardust is a glam rock concept album and it sounds to me like the songs from a musical than I have no desire to see. It's well written and well sung glam-rock nonsense which means if you're the kind of guy who likes glam it's probably just your cup of tea. Personally I've never thought rock and roll needed glamming. Songs like Starman are catchy but far too glam for my personal tastes.

I might be able to get more out of this album if there wasn't such a pretentious narrative attached. The storyline annoys me partly because it's full of space-wankery and cosmic nonsense but mainly because there seems to be a belief that it's actually important. It's not just a tale it's social commentary, but for me says nothing that I think is worth hearing. I've lately become more aware of things that pose genuine obstacles to my musical enjoyment. Pretension is definitely one of them and this album just strikes me as a bit pretentious, especially when I know it's backed up with a desire to actually adopt another persona onstage.

I've heard a lot of Bowie now and I definitely disagree that Ziggy is his finest hour. It's his most courageous and most celebrated but form a purely musical point of view, it's a long way from his best.

Still if you enjoy glam rock then this might well be for you, especially if you think the concept of alien rock stars trying to save the planet is your thing. As for me I'm a bit sad to come to the end of the list's Bowie output but thankful that the concept albums have finally run out... unless of course a certain Beatles album crops up later on. But what are the chances of that?

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Concepts like this should be done with a flourish, with a smile, with a lightness of touch. Laugh-a-minute-Dave uses a mallet."

-To be honest I don't think the concept of this album is going to be saved simply by smiling. It's definitely a mallet concept.

So which one had you cheering more: the rise or the fall? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. My brain hurts like a warehouse at the very idea of trying to make sense of the Ziggy Stardust story. Don't know, don't care. All that matters to me is that it has eleven great songs that hang together beautifully, and that's why people love it. It works where it really counts -- not the concept, but the execution. So what if the story is a lot of hazy cosmic jive? I look at "Tommy" the same way, basically, although the story there is a little more clear. It's the songs that matter. At the end of the day, I think it has to be judged as a rock and roll album, not a novel. Does it still sound great decades after glam is just a vague memory? Yes. Does it excite me to hear it again? Yes. Would I want it any other way? No.

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