Scary Monsters

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Scary Monsters by David Bowie

“It’s No Game (Part 1)”

“Up The Hill Backwards”

“Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)”

“Ashes To Ashes”

“Fashion”

“Teenage Wildlife”

“Scream Like A Baby”

“Kingdom Come”

“Because You’re Young”

“It’s No Game (Part 2)”

Lodger

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Lodger by David Bowie

“Fantastic Voyage”

“African Night Flight”

“Move On”

“Yassassin (Turkish For: Long Live)”

“Red Sails”

“D.J.”

“Look Back In Anger”

“Boys Keep Swinging”

“Repetition”

“Red Money”

Low

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Low by David Bowie

“Speed Of Life”

“Breaking Glass”

“What In The World”

“Sound And Vision”

“Always Crashing In The Same Car”

“Be My Wife”

“A New Career In A New Town”

“Warszawa”

“Art Decade”

“Weeping Wall”

“Subterraneans”

Heroes

Heroes” is the second of the three groundbreaking albums Bowie recorded with Brian Eno in the late 1970’s. The first was Low, which had appeared nine months before “Heroes”, and the third was Lodger, for which we had to wait another two years.

These three albums are sometimes misleadingly referred to as his Berlin triptych, although only “Heroes” was actually recorded entirely in Berlin. This misunderstanding was actually started by Bowie himself, who said he’d always liked the word ‘triptych’ and had been longing for an excuse to use it!

Erich Heckel’s painting Roquairol, which inspired the cover of David Bowie’s album Like Low -— but unlike Lodger -— “Heroes” has songs on what in the days of vinyl was side A, and instrumentals on side B. It is on the instrumentals that Eno really comes into his own — although, having said that, Bowie’s instrumentals are very different from anything Eno himself had released up to that point.

“Heroes” was recorded at the height of the cold war in a studio next to the Berlin Wall. The constant low level tension caused by being watched by suspicious — and potentially dangerous — guards, plus the larger implication of why the Wall was there at all, provided a very creative atmosphere.

Also, Bowie was living in the city, not in poverty, but certainly in very modest surroundings for someone of his means. Bowie immersed himself in Berlin, soaked it all up and turned it into a masterpiece.

Packaged in one of Bowie’s most iconic album covers —- only Aladdin Sane boasts a stronger sleeve -— “Heroes” hit the record shelves in 1977. The cover photograph was inspired by Erich Heckel’s painting Roquairol -— as is the cover of Iggy’s Pop’s The Idiot, by the way.

By the time he came to record “Heroes”, the worst excesses of the drug and alcohol addictions that nearly killed Bowie were behind him, but far from forgotten —- alcohol references in particular can be found throughout the album. Some of the record is more upbeat than anything he had done for some time, but other parts are very dark indeed.

David Bowie — “Heroes”: Track-by-track review

1. “Beauty And The Beast”
The album gets off to a slightly slow start with this track, although it is lyrically intriguing, with its notion that the Beauty and the Beast are two parts of the same person.

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2. “Joe The Lion”
This heavier song — thanks to some excellent guitar work by Robert Fripp — is about the performance artist Chris Burdon who, among other art activities, had himself crucified on a Volkswagen (honest!).

Bowie’s interest in the extremes of performance art would not surface again in his work until the mid 1990’s, when it had a central place on his masterpiece 1. Outside.

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3. “”Heroes””
Just about everyone will have heard this truly stunning song at some time.

In 1977, Bowie told a heartwarming but entirely untrue version of how he came to write it. Each day (he said) he noticed a young German couple meeting at the Wall at lunchtime, and he wondered why they met there of all places.

In fact, as he admitted many years later, what he’d actually seen was producer Tony Visconti snogging one of the backing singers, but didn’t go public with this at the time as Visconti was still married.

At any rate, the result is a stunning song. Although the music does sound heroic, the words are less so — at one point Bowie said it was a love song for two alcoholics — and the italics around the word are intended to show that it is meant ironically.

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4. “Sons Of The Silent Age”
This stunningly evocative song is one of the highpoints of this excellent album, and concerns itself with life in the Turkish Quarter of Berlin. The music is suitably slinky and tinged with a Middle Eastern aura.

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5. “Blackout”
Arguably one of the weaker songs on “Heroes”, “Blackout” concerns itself both with the then-recent New York Blackout, as well as the panicked blackout Bowie himself suffered after a traumatic confrontation with his wife Angie in the final days of their marriage.

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6. “V-2 Schneider”
The strange title of this piece seems to be a mixture of the V2 rockets that enabled Germany to cause such devastation in the second World War, and the surname of Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, whom Bowie hugely admired.

Perhaps the title is a way — like “Beauty and the Beast” — of combining the good and the bad, the light and the dark — in one. As for the piece itself, it is attractively jaunty and largely instrumental. The words “V2 Schneider” are initially heard distorted and gradually become clearer as the piece progresses.

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7. “Sense Of Doubt”
A very dark piece. Four low, funeral bell-like piano notes keep ominously returning, and are interspersed with fragments of other music.

“Sense of Doubt” was written with Eno using Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” — cards with Zen-like instructions designed to stimulate creativity. In this case, Bowie’s card told him to emphasise differences, and Eno’s to stay the same!

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8. “Moss Garden”
“Sense of Doubt” segues into “Moss Garden” and the dark atmosphere of the former melts away into one of dreamy beauty. A magical moment.

Bowie asked Eno to play some of his ambient music on a synthesizer as a background. Bowie then improvised a koto solo on top of it (a koto is a kind of Japanese guitar) and added some other background effects.

The result is a beautiful evocation of the Moss Garden in Kyoto, but the sound is harder and the lack of frets on the koto enable the player to bend the pitch.

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9. “Neuköln”
The atmosphere undergoes another startling change, as “Moss Garden” segues into “Neuköln” (the name of a suburb of Berlin).

Now we are briefly in some dark, echoey cavern with dripping water, before the huge falling chords that make up the main limb of the piece are heard. Eno has said they wanted to capture something of the decaying splendour depicted in certain early twentieth century German paintings in this piece, and I think they succeeded. A couple of startling key changes follow before the piece ends with some piercing saxophone screams.

Incidentally, trivia buffs may be interested to know that the correct spelling of the area is actually Neukölln, but it was misspelled on the album sleeve.

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10. “The Secret Life Of Arabia”
The anguished saxophone screams that end “Neuköln” would’ve made a dramatic end to the album as a whole, but Bowie has one more trick up his sleeve with this upbeat, attractive song.

Fans disagree on what the song is about. I think it is about Lawrence of Arabia — a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ character if ever there was one — but it doesn’t really matter. This likeable track brings the album to a more positive end than some of the earlier music would have suggested was possible!

“Heroes” by David Bowie

“Beauty And The Beast”

“Joe The Lion”

“”Heroes””

“Sons Of The Silent Age”

“Blackout”

“V-2 Schneider”

“Sense Of Doubt”

“Moss Garden”

“Neuköln”

“The Secret Life Of Arabia”

Young Americans

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Young Americans by David Bowie

“Young Americans”

“Win”

“Fascination”

“Right”

“Somebody Up There Likes Me”

“Across The Universe”

“Can You Hear Me”

“Fame”

“John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)”

“Who Can I Be Now?”

“It’s Gonna Be Me” [with strings]

Diamond Dogs

Diamond Dogs was David Bowie’s last performance as a glam rock superstar.

Bowie was always a little too arty to settle for straight-up glam in the first place. After all, you weren’t too likely to hear other glam stars like Sweet or Slade make something as out-there as the Brecht-meets-McCartney stylings of “Time” from Bowie’s previous album Aladdin Sane.

Diamond Dogs could be seen as one of the first times in Bowie’s career where he was looking back while also moving forward. He had already officially killed off Ziggy Stardust in elaborate fashion and shed his glitter makeup (although not the bright red hair), and was ready to make his next step as an artist.

Diamond Dogs is yet another concept album, and, true to character, it is about the future. The original idea was to base the entire album around George Orwell’s novel 1984, until Orwell’s widow refused to give her permission. As a result, the setting became Hunger City, a place where people live on rooftops and morality is in short supply.

Musically, the album seems to be a mix of Andrew Lloyd Weber and the hard rock of The Man Who Sold The World. Just to prove he could still be a star when he wanted to, he threw the hit single “Rebel Rebel” in there too, but the true heart of the album lies in the macabre delights that surround that track.

David Bowie — Diamond Dogs: Track-by-track review

1. “Future Legend”
Not so much a song as a spoken word piece set to ominous drones and shrieks, “Future Legend” introduces us to the world of Hunger City and sets the post-apocalyptic tone for the rest of the album. This is a world where society’s outcasts live on the rooftops, glaring down on the town with “red mutant eyes.” Also, “fleas the size of rats feed on rats the size of cats”, because what grimy dystopia would be complete without rats?

One of the ominous background noises is a high-pitched childish voice whispering unintelligible things way down in the mix, which seem to echo the “It followed me home, can I keep it?” whisperings from the middle section of “All the Madmen” — the first time this album recalls The Man Who Sold The World.

The album seems to begin proper when Bowie calls out to an enthusiastic crowd, “This ain’t rock ‘n’ roll — this is genocide!” We’ll let that mean whatever you want it to mean.

2. “Diamond Dogs”
The start of this one is pure 1970s, with cowbell included. Over that cowbell is a slightly out of tune and sloppy Keith Richards by way of Grand Funk Railroad chordal guitar riff, played by none other than David Bowie himself! You see, Bowie had a tendency to surprise everyone with rash decisions.

Killing off Ziggy Stardust at a concert was not one of those rash decisions, considering that it was part of Ziggy’s story from the beginning, but it came as a surprise when Bowie then decided to get rid of his Spiders from Mars backing band, who had played with him for five albums.

That means that guitar hero Mick Ronson was gone, with no replacement. And that means that “Diamond Dogs” is one of very few occasions when you can hear Bowie take over on lead guitar (the other times being on his own album Never Let Me Down and on Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot).

He pulls off the job just fine. His playing may be a little rough around the edges, but that works just fine for a concept album about a society that is also a little rough around the edges. Well, “a little” might be an understatement. The song’s lyrics paint a picture of just who these Diamond Dogs are, but not in a way that’s too easy to follow. One of the characters is a “little hussy” whose “face is sans feature but she wears a Dali brooch,” with the reference to Dali being a clear tribute to the surrealism that informs Bowie’s words.

These Diamond Dogs are one of the street gangs who live on the rooftops, who are led by Halloween Jack, which became Bowie’s new persona. Halloween Jack had the same bright red hair as Ziggy, but it was cut shorter and all of the makeup was stripped away. Sans makeup and with haunting shadows, the photos in the album booklet reveal a more gaunt and paranoid Bowie, hinting at his recent dabblings with cocaine which would later become a large problem.

Musically, the track is Bowie’s Jagger tribute of the album. While Aladdin Sane had him purposely skewering the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, this time he uses the sloppy and rollicking Stones sound and swagger to make something single-worthy.

However, when Bowie goes into the studio, he can’t help but add a few off-kilter production touches, such as a wavering background vocal put through an effects pedal and some solo guitar that clashes with the singing during the verses. At the time, the song didn’t perform very well as a single when compared to hits like “Space Oddity” or “Starman,” and for fans of the album, it is unavoidably overshadowed by the three-track magnum opus that follows.

3. “Sweet Thing”
Before beginning this track review, it must be noted that this track and the two that follow, “Candidate” and “Sweet Thing (Reprise),” are basically one track. These three tracks segue into each other and part of their strength is based on the way they come together to form one epic piece.

Because of the 15-minute length of this mini-suite, it was naturally never released as a single or put onto any ‘best of Bowie’ compilations. However, it is often recognized as one of Bowie’s great compositions, as well as perhaps the primary reason to buy the album Diamond Dogs — to get what can’t be found on any other Bowie collections.

The whole thing starts off, naturally enough, with a fade-in with a hint of strings and a piano, hinting at the majesty and drama of the piece as a whole. Bowie comes in with a look at the love-starved sexual depravity of Hunger City:

It’s safe in the city
To love in a doorway
To wrangle some screams from the room
And isn’t it me
Putting pain in a stranger?

To emphasize the darkness of these lines, Bowie for the first time introduces his trademark vocal trick of singing in a shakey basso profundo style in what seems like one octave too low.

The melodramatic scope of the music is complemented by the way Bowie’s singing oscillates between this low register and the pained-sounding sustained notes that are a couple octaves higher, as he asks “Will you see / That I’m scared and I’m lonely?”. The high and low voices harmonize together on the chorus, where the refrain

If you want it boys
Get it here, thing
Boys, boys, it’s a cheap thing

reveal that the first section of the song is about prostitution and the general soullessness of life on the streets of Hunger City.

After a second go-round of this desperate plea of a chorus, we are treated to a stratospheric Bowie guitar solo that seems to be trying to channel Mick Ronson’s classic outro from “Moonage Daydream”. This brings us into part two…

4. “Candidate”
…as the guitar is replaced by a saxaphone that seems to be unsure about whether it should be there or not, until it goes away to make way for phase two of this mini-suite of depravity.

The sustained piano chords and expansive reverb of the first part are replaced in “Candidate” by short, choppy thrashings of a distorted synthesizer as the lyrics become more obscure and nighmarish:

I’ll make you a deal
Like any other candidate
We’ll pretend you’re walking home
‘Cause your future’s at stake

As he says he’s “having so much fun with the poisonous people,” the pace, volume, and intensity seem to slowly pick up and keep doing so, unabated, for the rest of the piece. The song becomes the sound of a nervous breakdown as a screaming background vocal sings, along with Bowie:

When it’s good
It’s really good
And when it’s bad
I go to pieces

…as if Halloween Jack is talking to the voice in his head, or vice versa.

It can only get worse, and there’s still one more verse to go! The imagery turns gruesome and blashphemous, and at the height of intensity Jack suggests

We’ll buy some drugs and watch a band
Then jump in the river holding hands

as the shout of the song turns into a full blown scream…

5. “Sweet Thing (Reprise)”
…and that scream comes from the saxaphone, which loses the uncertainty it had in the previous section, blowing away in an obscene manner and sounding much more like a dying seal than something you would hear on a Bill Haley and the Comets record.

The piano and melody from the first section return, as the drug references become more bleak:

Is it nice in your snowstorm
Freezing your brain?
Do you think that your face looks the same?

These lines become especially chilling as you realize that Bowie’s own cocaine use would eventually lead him to drop down to 90 pounds and look extremely sickly.

The song swoops to more melodramatic heights as he screams that the moral destruction of life on the street has “got me, it’s got you,” as if the lifestyle becomes a trap.

The music on the end of the track represents the mental and moral breakdown of the characters, as the music literally falls apart and turns into formless noisemaking and super-distorted guitar fuzz. A few chugging power chords attempt to bring back some momentum until the track, and the whole fifteen minute rollercoaster finally gives up and comes to an exhausted halt.

6. “Rebel Rebel”
For “Rebel Rebel,” the tone of the album shifts as we leave Hunger City for a while. I consider this song and the following one, “Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me,” to represent the “vacation” section of the album.

For those that are not familiar with the Diamond Dogs album, chances are this is the one song that you have heard. “Rebel Rebel” basically stands as Bowie’s last gasp as a glam rock superstar, as well as being the only obvious single off the album. True to the glam rock tradition of those like T. Rex or Slade, the song is ridiculously simple, mostly based off a single guitar riff which only diverts from the pattern for a measly four measures in the entirety of the song.

Credit has to go for Bowie for creating and playing one of the most memorable guitar parts of his recorded career, one that would be assumed to have been created by one of Bowie’s numerous other guitar masters if the album credits didn’t say otherwise. The lyrics are about the transgressive fashion style that Bowie and his compatriots helped create:

You’ve got your mother in a whirl
She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl

Despite its seemingly misplaced quality as a cheeky celebration of bisexuality in the middle of an album about the downfall of humanity, it still stands as a classic, and makes a case for the art of the stupid-but-great pop song. That riff just keeps going on and on and on!

7. “Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me”
You could call this part two of the “vacation” section of Diamond Dogs. The best way to describe this one would be as a slightly soul-influenced version of Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” (a tune that Bowie wrote for that band), which looks ahead to tracks like “Win” and “Can You Hear Me?” from his soul-influenced next album Young Americans.

This serves as an appropriate place to mention one of the other rash and sudden decisions Bowie made at this point in his career. After recording Diamond Dogs, he toured the album in what was at that time his most lavish and expensive stage production. When he says “My set is amazing / It even smells like a street” on “Candidate,” he is not far off from describing his Diamond Dogs tour, which consisted of a stage setup including — yes, you guessed it — a street, a balcony, and a black curtain that kept his backing band from being seen by the audience.

Halfway through this tour, he ditched the stage setup, switched to a white suitcoat, and decided to rework all of his Diamond Dogs material in the style of the black soul singers he became a fan of when touring America. This was the David Bowie of the post-Spiders era, taking his chameleon tendencies to accelerated levels. The roots of that soon-to-be soul Bowie can be spied in this relatively laid-back anthem.

It appears that the title of the song is a tribute to the audience members who come to his shows, as he boasts “tens of thousands found me in demand,” and “the queue is out of sight and out of sound” (it can be guessed he is talking about the line to buy tickets to his shows).

As always with Bowie, it is a mystery just how personal this track is. When he claims “I’m in tears again / When you rock ‘n’ roll with me” it is ambiguous whether it is Bowie the man or merely another fictional rock star narrating in character for a song about another of Bowie’s mythical universes (such as Hunger City, or the planet Major Tom is stranded on). Either way, it serves as a pleasant enough diversion with a sing-along chorus, working to lighten the mood before plunging us back down in the dirt and grime.

8. “We Are The Dead”
The title of the song comes from the Orwell novel 1984, and the pacing of the song can appropriately enough be called funereal. Bowie’s soft, breathy singing style on “We Are The Dead” suggest a sort of mourning, although it is a mourning for the living.

“We Are The Dead” features the sparsest arrangement on the album, consisting mostly of a ghostly organ and some fuzzy descending guitar arpeggios over the prechorus sections.

The lyrics on the song are the closest to being political as it gets on the album. In between the surrealism of lines like

For you’re dancing
Where the dogs decay defecating ecstasy
You’re just an ally of the leecher
Locator for the virgin king
But I love you in your fuck-me pumps
And your nimble dress that trails

there is the story of an unnamed character who is questioning the morality of what Halloween Jack’s crew of Diamond Dogs are doing. He tries to reason by stating:

I looked at you and wondered
If you saw things my way
People will hold us to blame

and eventually pleading:

Why don’t we pass it by
Just reply you’ve changed your mind

Through all of this the line “we are the dead” becomes a metaphor for the mindlessness of those who follow order without questioning.

This comes at an interesting time in Bowie’s public relations image. Not too long after, he would gain some notoriety for showing a fascination with fascism and going so far as saying that England was ready for a fascist leader. Given Bowie’s fractured state of mind, one can’t positively decide what he really meant by this statement, but it is very possible that it was misinterpreted as Bowie showing support for fascism. On the contrary, it could be that Bowie was criticizing England for failing to question the voices of authority, which is precisely what the protagonist of this song is doing.

For this reason, “We Are the Dead” could very well be a political statement which anticipated Bowie’s later controversial statements to the press. Whatever it is, the song is a chillingly effective lament on a society gone wrong.

9. “1984”
Here is another song that seems to look forward to Bowie’s “Philly Dogs” soul period that led up to Young Americans. This particular song, with its chicka-chicka wah-wah guitar part, Isaac Hayes-style strings and restless hi-hat beat, didn’t really need to reworked at all in order to become a full-blown tribute to black music.

However, as is typical with Bowie, the tone of the music does not match the theme of the piece. There are no Shaft-like declarations of Halloween Jack as a “bad mother (shut your mouth!)”, but rather the warning to “beware the savage lure of 1984.” After the contemplation and questioning of “We Are the Dead” it seems the last three tracks of the album, starting with “1984,” become a sort of resignation, giving up to the powers-that-be and accepting their doomed existence.

The drug use comes back into play as the situation becomes more desperate, as Bowie envisions a future where

You’ll be shooting up on anything
Tomorrow’s never there

Overall, the song serves as a way to build up tension for the next track and its continuation of the Orwellian theme of the album.

10. “Big Brother”
The music on this one is quite similar to “Candidate,” with a stuttering rhythm track of power chords and honking saxaphone. The track takes away the questioning of authority and replaces it with blind admiration.

This Brother is “someone to follow” and more than that, he is “some brave Apollo.” To highlight the soullessness of the characters singing the song, Bowie delivers the chorus and its praises to Big Brother in a soaring vibrato, while the verses are done with a rather robotic and emotionless delivery. This could be just one of many possibilities of what Bowie meant by “plastic soul.”

The intensity of “Big Brother” builds as the chorus repeats itself and more and more praise goes to Big Brother, until the whole thing gets heavy and boils itself over into unchecked excitement as we segue into…

11. “Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family”
…the strangest track on the album, which is not so much a song as it is exactly what the title says it is — a chant. The lyrics of the song in whole (as they are printed in the album booklet), are

Brother
Shake it up
Shake it up
Move it up
Move it up
Brother
Oo-oo

Interpret this however you want, if it needs to be interpreted at all.

Ultimately, what counts is that it is using music and chant as a primal force, a sort of celebration of Big Brother set to what could be some sort of ritualistic dance. And what a strange dance it would be, considering that instead of setting it at a tempo and beat easy to dance to, Bowie instead decides to set the piece to unpredictable rhythms in an odd 5/4 time signature.

Despite its off-kilter meter, the song is quite propulsive and frantic, and the song basically repeats that same rhythm over and over again until the record begins to “skip.” Apparently, this record skipping was unintentional, but Bowie decided to keep it in, as it just adds another dimension to the surreal feel of the piece. Perhaps there is some hidden message in the way that the album ends on an obvious mistake, but I will leave that for someone else to theorize.

From my viewpoint, I will just say that it is an unforgettable ending to an album that is not nearly as celebrated as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, or Hunky Dory, but is quite accomplished, as well as an essential acquisition for the serious Bowie fan.

Diamond Dogs by David Bowie

“Future Legend”

“Diamond Dogs”

“Sweet Thing”

“Candidate”

“Sweet Thing (Reprise)”

“Rebel Rebel”

“Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me”

“We Are The Dead”

“1984”

“Big Brother”

“Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family”

Pin Ups

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Pin Ups by David Bowie

“Rosalyn”

“Here Comes The Night”

“I Wish You Would”

“See Emily Play”

“Everything’s Alright”

“I Can’t Explain”

“Friday On My Mind”

“Sorrow”

“Don’t Bring Me Down”

“Shapes Of Things”

“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”

“Where Have All The Good Times Gone”

Aladdin Sane

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Aladdin Sane by David Bowie

“Watch That Man”

“Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)”

“Drive-In Saturday”

“Panic In Detroit”

“Cracked Actor”

“Time”

“The Prettiest Star”

“Let’s Spend The Night Together”

“The Jean Genie”

“Lady Grinning Soul”

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

Ziggy Stardust is perhaps the most influential rock album of the post-war period. Period.

And it’s the most complete and definitive statement on the meaning of rock stardom/celebrity to date. With its themes ranging from the destruction of earth (“Five Years”) to the extreme crassness of “Suffragette City’s” wham bam, thank you ma’am!, the album runs the gamut when it comes to far-out, way-out and spaced-out. But, somehow, Bowie brings it back to a human place with his wit, soul and perception.

Bowie donned many over-the-top costumes and engaged in some memorable stage antics for his stint as Ziggy, though all that is all-but-forgotten now. While glam rock has died and gone to heaven (where I’m sure Oscar Wilde is trying on some of those Ziggy outfits and having an amusing time of it), the songs on this album are still with us.

Ziggy’s spirit has survived and the song seems like it has, indeed, gone on forever.

David Bowie — The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars: Track-by-track review

1. “Five Years”
“Five Years” sets the scene for the world in which Ziggy is soon to appear. Earth is ‘really dying’ and there are only five years left before destruction. Bowie paints a poetic picture with his heart-felt and earnest lyricism.

I saw you in an ice cream parlour
Drinking milk-shakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine
I don’t think you knew you were in this song

2. “Soul Love”
“Soul Love” starts with a cruisy bossa nova beat and Bowie plays saxophone throughout. The song is uplifting, and almost easy listening — until Ronson’s guitar kicks in, that is.

The song laments Bowie’s lack of love, saying that all he has is a ‘love of love.’ Once again we have imagery of longing and a sense of an outsider’s desire to experience the ultimate human emotion, love.

3. “Moonage Daydream”
“Moonage Daydream” takes us on a trip around the Ziggy Galaxy, and it’s a freaky place. The song begins with a crunched out power chord and Bowie declaring

I’m an alligator
I’m a mama papa coming for you
I’m a space invader
I’ll be a rock ‘n’ rolling bitch for you

And who’s going to argue with that? Not me! Filled with science-fiction references to ‘electric eyes’ and ‘ray-guns,’ “Moonage Daydream” is more scene-setting, building up to the rise of Ziggy.

4. “Starman”
“Starman” was already a hit single when Ziggy Stardust came out. There’s an almost “Over the Rainbow”-esque sentiment expressed in the line;

There’s a starman
Waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds

The music is sugary sweet, with strings and lovely claps in the chorus. Pop perfection, but with a nasty edge.

5. “It Ain’t Easy”
The only non-original on the album, “It Aint Easy” is an example of the bluesy rock which Bowie had a taste for at the time, and it slips in well between the sweetness of “Starman” and the introduction of the man/woman himself…

6. “Lady Stardust”
Finally we meet the Starman himself, as if at an early gig, from the eyes of an admiring, restrained observer who laments not being able to follow ‘a love he could not obey…’

“Lady Stardust” is piano-heavy and the vocals have an ample supply of echo, which give the track its almost cabaret feel.

Bowie’s imagery is such that he is able to evoke smoky, crowed venues in some parallel-universe Earth, in which a being called Lady Stardust ‘sang his songs of darkness and dismay.’

7. “Star”
In “Star” we hear from Ziggy himself as he talks about making the transformation into a rock’n’roll star.

Stylistically, this is perhaps the most clichéd glam rock track on the album, starting with Jerry Lee Lewis piano chords, and exaggerated ‘ooh aah, aaahs’ and ‘lalalalalalalas.’

The irony inherent in the lyric

I could do with the money
(You know that I could!)
I’m so whacked out with things as they are

is obvious. Is this Ziggy or Bowie talking?

8. “Hang On To Yourself”
“Hang on to Yourself” is a catchy, rocking little number, kind of Rolling Stones-like in its rhythm & blues vibe.

I love the real hand claps (not keyboard generated! — you can hear it clearly with headphones) and the frenetic pace of the track (sounding very Sex Pistols in parts), and the decadent lyrics tell us that we are way deep in bona fide Rock Star territory here.

The title of the track ‘Hang On to Yourself’ is a warning to us all — too much decadence leads to self-destruction. Which brings us to the next little song, you may have heard of this one…

9. “Ziggy Stardust”
It almost seems kind of pointless to try and describe a song which is so widely played, even today. From every bar, karaoke joint and greatest hits radio station, the opening chords to “Ziggy” are perhaps the most recognized in the history of rock (ok, maybe Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” could beat it, but just).

Sometimes I have whimsical thoughts and one of them is this: wouldn’t it be cool to have been a fly on the wall at the moment of inspiration, to be there when Bowie first played the opening chord to what would eventually become known as the song “Ziggy Stardust,” and to see the look on an artist’s face when he realizes he has stumbled onto something great! That would be cool!

“Ziggy Stardust” tells us the whole story of the rise and fall of Ziggy from the perspective of one of the spiders. The lyrics are circular in that the opening and closing lines are the same — “Ziggy played guitar.” At the begining of the song it is simply a statement, but by end of the song, it’s a lament.

The song echoes the tragedy of brilliance, the dark side of fame and the loss of innocence.

10. “Suffragette City”
The manic “Suffragette City” is perhaps the most ‘punk’ song on the album, with its straightforward, pounding guitar riff held in check and accompanied by a rhythmic thumping piano.

It’s a ride, a roller-coaster ride of a song. It shakes you up and then leaves you out on your proverbial ‘wham, bam and thank you ma’am!’

But like any scary ride, it’s not long until you want to ‘go again!’

11. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”
The original album ends with this reflective, but ultimately positive end to the sordid tale of Ziggy. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” starts off quietly, in fact acoustic guitar only for the first verse, with its reference to time taking a cigarette and putting it in your mouth.

But the song builds up to an impassioned, full-band crescendo, and by the end Bowie is declaring “You’re not alone!”

The horns, introduced in the chorus, give this track its feeling of theatre and drama, and the strings (a.k.a. Starman) return for the finale.

The song, and with it the album, finish with a traditional orchestral finale, signalling, as it has done for centuries now, the end of the performance.

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars by David Bowie

“Five Years”

“Soul Love”

“Moonage Daydream”

“Starman”

“It Ain’t Easy”

“Lady Stardust”

“Star”

“Hang On To Yourself”

“Ziggy Stardust”

“Suffragette City”

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”

Hunky Dory

Released before the iconic Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Hunky Dory laid the ground work for the world of glam rock.

Still embracing the slightly Dylanesque sounds of his previous albums, Bowie sought to bed rock and folk in hopes of creating a new sound. Hunky Dory has honky tonk piano, guitar riffs, and catchy synthesized voices. Lyrically it is strongly impressionistic, dealing with religion and sprituality.

Hunky Dory is a great prequel to the space rock that would follow.

David Bowie — Hunky Dory: Track-by-track review

1. “Changes”
Rick Wakeman provides the catchy piano intro that makes this song so recognizable. Bowie laments about how “time may change me, but I can’t trace time” and how he doesn’t “want to be a richer man.”

Bowie’s voice is strong and consistent against violins, piano, and a little alto sax. At times it leaves you wondering — is change friend or foe?

2. “Oh! You Pretty Things”
“You gotta make way for the Homo Superior,” supposedly at least. The second track on the album, “Oh! You Pretty Things” is the first real indication of Bowie’s space/alien love affair.

Piano-driven, it is a barroom ballad straight out of a Ray Bradbury book. The story line is that strangers have come to replace the useless Homo Sapiens. The chorus arrives with a call-back style, reminiscent of Little Richard without the flamboyancy.

3. “Eight Line Poem”
A poetic number against a simple melodic musical arrangement. The opening guitar riff is very bluesy; one can nearly picture someone like Stevie Ray Vaughan playing it.

The lyrics give you “cacti” and a “key to the city”… you walk down London’s streets with this song, early in the morning and free.

4. “Life On Mars?”
Perhaps remembered more for Bowie’s striking blue suit in the Mick Rock-directed music video, “Life On Mars?” is a powerful orchestra-led masterpiece. The song showcases Bowie’s ability to go from style to style without losing vocal impact.

We are serenaded with violins while Bowie delivers a strong chorus:

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man, look at those caveman go
It’s the freakiest show!

… only then to be hit with an amazing guitar piece that suggests drama and urgency.

5. “Kooks”
This song first appeared on the BBC Radio’s In Concert with John Peel, where Bowie dedicated it to his newborn son Zowie. It is a sweet number, where Bowie asks:

Will you stay in our lover’s story?
If you stay you won’t be sorry
Cause we believe in you

A slight echo added to the acoustic guitar gives this song its playful edge. It is also paired with a trumpet that conjures images of a little toy parade in his son’s bedroom.

6. “Quicksand”
A song about theurgy and divine spiritualism, here Bowie ponders through lyrics that include meditation and “sinking in the quicksand of my thought.” He proves that no topic is too taboo or in-depth for a rock album.

Bowie’s voice is raspy, as if he had puffed his way through several packs of smokes while writing this out. The orchestral sound is again strong in this piece, a blend of off-Broadway musical with hippie idealism.

7. “Fill Your Heart”
A sort of Neil Diamond piece, with plenty of free love. Forget your mind and you’ll be free to love in the now.

“Happiness is happening” is the sort of feel-good lyric you’ll find in this song. At times you can almost see the cast of the musical Hair running across the grassy bank, singing along: “Love clears the mind and makes you free!”

Bowie’s sax abilities are strongly displayed mid-song with a wonderful solo — and all the while we get a poppy piano that begs a little jig to be danced.

8. “Andy Warhol”
One of three songs written around this time dedicated to the Velvet Underground. “Andy Warhol” is a blend of Spanish guitar and describing the pop artist’s impact:

He’ll think about paint and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do

It attempts to bed the synthetic machines of the 70s with classical guitar. How pop art can you get?

(Interestingly enough, Warhol thought the song was rubbish!)

9. “Song For Bob Dylan”
“Song For Bob Dylan” sounds exactly like its title — it could have been a Dylan song. Or is it an early Bowie attempt at country?

Another one dedicated to the Velvet Underground, it talks about the impact of politically-driven lyricists on society. It’s cryptic in its approach though:

His words of truthful vengeance
They could pin us to the floor
Brought a few more people on
And put the fear in a whole lot more

Ah, the power of words!

10. “Queen Bitch”
In this fan’s opinion, “Queen Bitch” is the only true rock song on the album, and one of Bowie’s first homosexual (or is that counter-cultural?) referencing songs.

You’ve got a disgruntled boyfriend and a lover getting picked up by a prostitute, all to a poppy, up-beat guitar rhythm. Bowie’s voice is noticeably different as well — you get the first hint of the edgy Ziggy Stardust.

You also get the dirty guitar work of Mick Ronson that audiences had fallen for on the previous album, The Man Who Sold the World. This song shows the shedding of the folk influence.

11. “The Bewlay Brothers”
Bowie’s style of story-telling at its finest. Hard core Bowie fans will say it is a description of his relationship with his brother Terry.

I was Stone and he was Wax
So he could scream, and still relax
Unbelievable
And we frightened the small children away

The acoustic guitar leads us through the imagery, while the occasional electric builds the dramatic energy. Old-town London haunts this piece with faded black and white stills.

Hunky Dory by David Bowie

“Changes”

“Oh! You Pretty Things”

“Eight Line Poem”

“Life On Mars?”

“Kooks”

“Quicksand”

“Fill Your Heart”

“Andy Warhol”

“Song For Bob Dylan”

“Queen Bitch”

“The Bewlay Brothers”