“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” – David Bowie – R.C.A.
After all the blurb about a “new superstar” and bringing back “glamour into rock-and-roll” I was prepared for the worst. Not so. This album manages to be intelligent and fairly entertaining at the same time. It seems that Bowie himself is aware of the perils of superstardom and also aware that it could happen to him, for the songs fall into a story-pattern about a rock-and-roll star who comes, godlike, from outer space becoming the focus of hope in a world with only five years of existence left.
The first couple of tracks ache with desperation and defeat, but in answer to them “all I have is my love of love – and love is not loving”. The madness is close to the surface, breaks through now and again. And when Ziggy arrives he is a sensation, confident. beautiful but he becomes so wrapped up in being a star, in being so egotistical, that in the end he is destroyed and the band (which by this time has become Ziggy’s band) is broken up.
So that’s the story. Very roughly. But it had me wondering as to what it was getting at At times it might almost be an attack on the Bolan phenomenon, at times it sounds like Bolan. At times it is superstar rock, at times a Bonzo-like send up of itself. The cynical key lies in the track “Star”, in which Bowie is clearly singing of himself – “Tony went to right in Belfast . . . Bevan tried to change the nation . . . I could make a transformation as a rock and roll star . . . I could do with the money.” Trying to convince himself he could do something by being a star, but knowing that it’s really only a massive ego-trip, and lucrative too. But he knows, because Ziggy becomes arrogant too, and dies.
Some of the album is a bit uninventive, but some of it aches with feeling, especially the first and last tracks (“Five Years” and “Rock-and-Roll Suicide”). Some of it is great fun, whatever it means, and “Suffragette City” really bangs along well. As a whole I don’t think the album comes off, but nice try, and it’s good to know you’ve got some idea what you’re doing David, even if you can’t do much about it.