THE BIG WEEKEND: Real thing: Bowie is best of best
Ziggy Stardust, 40 years later, is still damn good, says Jackie May
Forty years on, the music of David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is still good. No, it's still damn fine. The message is still relevant. There are moments of madness, of clarity and of sheer beauty on this album. And it makes you want to dance.
Bowie, the grandfather of glam rock, wrote, not too long ago, how at 19 he found the music of The Velvet Underground and Nico shattering: "I was hearing a degree of cool that I had no idea was humanly sustainable. Ravishing. One after another, tracks squirmed and slid their tentacles around my mind. What an extraordinary one-two knockout punch this affair was. I was so excited I couldn't move."
It was this music, he wrote, "with the opening, throbbing, sarcastic bass and guitar of I'm Waiting for the Man" that drove his own ambition home. Six years later, in 1972, he released his album The Rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
For those listening to the Ziggy music then, "cool" wouldn't do it justice. It still doesn't. The music world, some say, hadn't seen anything like it before and it is the album that made Bowie one of the most important musicians in Britain since The Beatles and, if you believe the critics, one of the best musicians of our time.
It is an album which had not only an avant garde environmental theme, but a breadth of vocal and musical styles that gives it depth and keeps it current. It was doomsday stuff released in an album in 1972. The end of the world hasn't arrived, but natural resources have become ever more scarce.
In a 1974 Rolling Stone interview with beat writer William Burroughs, Bowie said: "Ziggy was in a rock 'n' roll band, and the kids no longer want rock 'n' roll. There's no electricity to play it. Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news'. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news."
Bowie was born David Robert Jones in London in 1947. His early life, like that of his character Ziggy and his rock contemporaries, was full of drugs and sex. There was a wife and many girlfriends. There was addiction, and a heart attack. He now lives quietly and contentedly in New York City with the model and businesswoman Iman. He hasn't written a new song for nine years. Why should he? Ziggy Stardust still rocks and surprises us.
'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars', which celebrates its 40th anniversary, has been released with remastered audio of all 11 of the album's tracks