The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

David Bowie

RCA Records, 1972

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


There's honestly absolutely nothing new or profound that I could possibly write about this album, considering that it's been held aloft as one of rock's defining masterpieces of all time by seemingly just about every mainstream critic that's ever lived.

Naturally, this legacy certainly puts an incredible amount of pressure on the album to deliver in the highest regard to anyone who listens to it for the first time. It really isn't fair because no album can ever live up to such lofty expectations, and that's precisely what happened in my case, considering that listening to Ziggy Stardust did not result in a life altering, near-religious experience for me.

That's not to say that Ziggy is bad – the truth is that it certainly is a really, really, REALLY good album, full of wonderful songs except for a few generic moments like "Star" and "Hang On To Yourself." It's just not the epitome of rock music, or even David Bowie's best offering, if you ask me.

It essentially picks up where Hunky Dory left off, full of sentimental, almost romantic melodies, but the production here is quite a bit more bombastic and the songs are a bit more over the top. There's also a weird, ‘50s doo wop influence in a couple of the tracks.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I think I'll flesh out what I dislike about Ziggy Stardust in more detail – first of all, while this is hailed as the crème de la crème of ‘70s glam rock, I have to say: the album really doesn't rock much at all. It's essentially a rock opera full of mainly slow, ballady songs. While most of them are quite beautiful, where the hell is the energy? A couple of punky songs near the end try to rock out a bit more, but by then it's way too late because boredom has started to set in (unless you want your rock albums to not rock.) A different track sequencing might have reduced this problem. It also doesn't help that Mick Ronson's scratchy guitar tone sounds pretty shitty. Songs like the classic title track would have been so much better if Ronson's tone were beefier – more along the lines of Jimmy Page’s, for example. It's too bad because he's a very talented player and his solos are quite excellent.

Additionally, it seems like Bowie himself was a bit too content to borrow from other sources when it came to writing some of these songs. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: the rocking classic "Suffragette City" is clearly "inspired" by Alice Cooper's 1971 garage-glam classic "Under My Wheels," a similarity that Cooper himself has sarcastically pointed out on several occasions. In fact, the whole Ziggy Stardust concept and persona that Bowie adopted in 1972 was allegedly a direct result of attending an Alice Cooper concert in 1971, after which he decided that was the direction he had to go in since that sort of large-scale theatrical production was cutting edge stuff at the time.

Other examples of subtle plagiarism come from Bowie's own back catalogue: "Five Years" and "Moonage Daydream," awesome as they may be, are essentially re-writes of "Life On Mars" and "Space Oddity" from earlier albums. At least he had the good taste to copy from his best work!

While The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is one of the most widely cherished and influential releases in rock history (catapulting David Bowie to rock superstardom in the process) and provided me with a very good listening experience, I can’t help but feel it is overrated considering its flaws. It just didn’t blow me away. Go listen to Alice Cooper instead!

Rating: B+

User Rating: A


© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.