The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust or simply Ziggy) is a 1972 concept album by English rock musician David Bowie. It peaked at number five in the United Kingdom and number 75 in the United States on the Billboard Music Charts. A concert film of the same name directed by D.A. Pennebaker was released in 1973.
The album presents, albeit vaguely, the story of "Ziggy Stardust", the human manifestation of an alien being who is attempting to present humanity with a message of hope in the last five years of its existence. Ziggy Stardust is the definitive rock star: sexually promiscuous, wild in drug intake and with a message, ultimately, of peace and love; but he is destroyed both by his own excesses of drugs and sex, and by the fans he inspired.
In interviews, Bowie has said that the real-life inspiration for Ziggy was chiefly Vince Taylor, though the lyrics hint at Jimi Hendrix ("played it left hand ... jiving us that we were voodoo") and the character was likely a composite. Bowie claimed that the name came from a tailor's shop in London called Ziggy's. He later told Rolling Stone it was "one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter 'Z'". "Stardust" comes from one of Bowie's labelmates, a country singer named Norman Carl Odam, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Bowie covered a Legendary Stardust Cowboy song, "I Took a Trip (On a Gemini Spaceship)" thirty years later on Heathen.
The Ziggy Stardust sessions began just a few weeks after Hunky Dory was released. The first song recorded for the album, the cover "It Ain't Easy", was recorded in September 1971. The first session in November produced "Hang on to Yourself", "Ziggy Stardust", "Rock 'n' Roll Star" (later shortened to "Star"), "Moonage Daydream", "Soul Love", "Lady Stardust", and "Five Years".
Also recorded during the November Ziggy Sessions were two more cover songs intended for the as-yet untitled album. They were Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" (re-titled "Round and Round") and Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam" (re-titled "Port of Amsterdam"). A re-recording of "Holy Holy" (first recorded in 1970 and released as a single, to poor sales, in January 1971) was initially slated for Ziggy, but was dropped in favour of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". "Round and Round" was replaced by "Starman" and "It Ain't Easy" replaced "Amsterdam" on the album's final running order. All three were eventually released as b-sides.
"Velvet Goldmine", first recorded during the Hunky Dory sessions, was also intended for Ziggy, but was replaced by "Suffragette City". RCA released it in 1975 as the b-side to the UK re-release of "Space Oddity" after having it remixed and mastered without Bowie's approval.
After recording some of the new songs for Sounds of the 70s with Bob Harris (which appear on Bowie at the Beeb) as the newly-dubbed Spiders from Mars in January-February 1972, the band returned to Trident. They recorded "Starman", "Suffragette City", and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" by the end of the month.
"Starman", released as a single in April (and not intended for the final album at first), has never appeared in its original "loud" mix on CD. It differs somewhat in that it "features a subdued 'morse code' section between the verse and the chorus" compared to the original released in 1972. "Starman"'s b-side, "Suffragette City", was mastered for the album with a three-note coda leading in from "Ziggy Stardust" to make the songs sound linked. They were never played as such by Bowie in concert.
Recorded and released during the ensuing Ziggy tour were two other songs. The first, "John, I'm Only Dancing", was recorded at Trident in late June and released (in the UK only) in September. "The Jean Genie", recorded at RCA Studios in New York in early October at the start of the American tour, was released in the US in November. The song was remixed for Aladdin Sane.
Rock keyboardist Rick Wakeman was given the opportunity to play keyboards on the album but Rick opted to join the progressive rock group Yes instead.
Upon its release on 6 June 1972, Ziggy Stardust reached number five in the UK and number seventy-five in the US. The album was eventually certified platinum and gold in the UK and US respectively. The only single from the record, "Starman", charted at number ten in the UK while peaking at the sixty-fifth spot in the US.
In 20 July 1972 Rolling Stone reviewed The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Even though the writer Richard Cromelin gave the album a favourable review of "at least a 99" (assumed out of 100), the review was written in a way that even though he thought it was a good album he did not believe in the lasting power of it or the style in general. In his review Cromelin writes "we should all say a brief prayer that his fortunes are made to rise and fall with the fate of the "drag-rock" sundrome".
In 1997, Ziggy Stardust was named the 20th greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 1998, Q magazine readers placed it at number 24 and Virgin All-time Top 1000 Albums ranked it at number 11, while in 2003 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 48. It was named the 35th best album ever made by Rolling Stone on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2000 Q placed it at number 25 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2004 it was placed at number 81 in Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. In his 1995 book, "The Alternative Music Almanac", Alan Cross placed the album in the #3 spot on the list of '10 Classic Alternative Albums'. In 2006, the album was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time.
In 2005, Seu Jorge did a cover album of 14 Bowie songs, many of them from Ziggy Stardust, as a soundtrack for the movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou called The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions. The translation into Portuguese is not always exact, as Seu Jorge maintains the melodies and styles, but often varies the lyrics. Musician Saul Williams named his 2007, Trent Reznor produced album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!. In 2009, Techno Cowboy covered the entire album from start to finish using just the Omnichord called "The Ziggy Stardust Omnichord Album".
The cover photograph was taken outside furriers, K. West, at 23 Heddon Street , London, W1.
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