Thursday, September 21, 2006

All Things Ziggy

In a long-ago previous post I postulated that David Bowie's 1972 album The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars has stood the test of time as the greatest rock & roll record of all time. Nothing has changed my mind since then. Nothing likely ever will. My MP3 player is programmed to play the song Ziggy Stardust first whenever the thing is turned on. I never get tired of hearing its opening chords building to an epic crescendo before the vocals kick in.

My older brother Don was (I guess still is) a big glam rock fan, altho we never really used that term; we just played a lot of records by Slade, T.Rex, Bowie, Stones, Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, along with Dylan, Black Sabbath, the Stones during that time period and I credit him with passing on his good musical taste to me, as well as his old records. Ziggy and the 1970 Bowie album The Man Who Sold The World were the two standouts for us, to the point where to this day we still quote obscure lines from both records ("praying to the light machine" ... "I'll never go down to the gods again") whenever the need arises.

Of course we're far from being alone in the high regard we hold these songs chronicling the adventures of an androgynous alien rock star messiah living in the last days of Planet Earth -- hands-down the best of that oft-neglected musical genre. A terrific and rewarding Website ( is dedicated to the Ziggy Stardust album as well as Bowie's other early '70s masterpieces, and there are far worse ways you can waste your time than reveling in the amazingly brilliant landscape of sound, image and wordplay that came out almost 35 years ago.

While Bowie was obviously the originator of the sci-fi meets hi-fi Ziggy concept, it is impossible to overstate the contribution of the still-futuristic-sounding guitar pyrotechnics of Mick Ronson on not only this particular album but all of the early Bowie ouvre. Ronson also played on Lou Reed's seminal Transformer and produced the album along with Bowie. Released about the same time as Ziggy, Transformer addresses similar issues of sexuality/identity/fame and stands inarguably as Reed's best solo work to this day.

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