Sunday 18 March 2018

Forty years on, and we're still caught in Ziggy's web

Zeitgeist: Still the face of a generation, 70s icon David Bowie is re-releasing the Ziggy Stardust album
David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars(EMI)

John Meagher

John Meagher

I've lost count of the number of times this album has been re-issued, repackaged, re-imagined.

It's not even Bowie's best album -- for my money, his work in Berlin with Iggy Pop and Brian Eno which yielded the Low and Heroes albums remains his creative high water mark, and this album's direct predecessor Hunky Dory is more consistently strong. But Ziggy is the album where the former David Jones fostered his legend and it remains one of the defining records of the 1970s.

This ultimate concept album is 40 years old now, but the songs still sound great. Somehow, his glam-rock standards manage to be quaint and fresh at the same time.

Bowie was only 25 when he released this exercise in sci-fi, but he was already acutely aware of the power of alter egos, of which Ziggy would be just one of many.

In many ways, this beloved creation -- and the manner in which Bowie killed him off -- is a prescient glimpse into the fame-obsessed world we live in today.

Listening to the album again, it's worth noting just how pivotal a part Bowie's then backing band The Spiders from Mars played.

Mick Ronson's guitar is particularly arresting -- his purposeful and virtuosic treatment of the instrument could be considered to be almost as important as Bowie's charmingly strangulated vocals.

Yet, Bowie had a reputation for ruthlessness, and the manner in which he cut Ronson from his music -- and his life -- continues to reflect badly on him. It was a callousness that would pockmark Bowie's career during his heyday.

Still, for a generation that came of age in the early 70s, the sight of Bowie and Ronson -- in full warpaint and Ziggy garb --playing Star Man on Top of the Pops won't be forgotten. And I truly envy those new to Bowie -- this is a great starting point.

Key tracks Five Years; Star Man; Suffragette City

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