We all use the phrase "classic" quite a bit in the context of masterpieces that have left their mark on the world of music. The album "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars", released by David Bowie on June 16, 1972, is without a doubt one of those "classics" that will stay with us forever.
Although a collection of songs written in different periods, Ziggy Stardust is actually a concept album, devoid of bombast reserved for rock operas or the progressive rock genre, whose plot revolves around the character of "Ziggy Stardust" - an androgynous alien and a rock star sent to Earth as a messenger and a preacher, with a message of hope and try to persuade humanity to change its destructive nature.
The album opens with a "Fade In" with the epic and desperate "off-beat" drumming of Mick Woodmansey, and we are already entering the plot story with "Five Years" and the bitter news that falls on the human race: the world will be destroyed in 5 years, due to lack of natural resources. The song further describes the madness that will grip the earth after the destruction, as the strings section that accompany the band "The Spiders from Mars" get louder along with the screaming voice from Ziggy's pain, slowly dying in "fade out" along with the same apathetic and desperate drumming that started the song. Bowie said that the Fade In and Out were intended to convey a message that the song comes out of nowhere and ends in nothing.
The second song, "Soul Love," documents the different shades of love in that futuristic-dystopian world and the relationship between them. "Stone Love" - describes the love for those who died and left us behind, when the stone is actually a "tombstone". "New Love" - the romantic love between a boy and a girl, a man and a woman. "Soul Love" - is love in its religious sense, like the priest to his God. Similar to the previous song, this song is also led by Woodmansey's percussion, with Bowie's acoustic and soft strumming, synchronized with the slow rhythm throughout the verses. Ronson's bold electric seems to disturb the serenity during the chorus, but immediately succumbs to Bowie's saxophone solo at the end, and so on to Mick Ronson's guitar solo that accompanies us to the end of the song.
In the third song "Moonage Daydream" we finally get to know Ziggy Stardust, alien, Messiah, superstar, who offers salvation from the impending disaster, in the form of rock 'n' roll. David Bowie's gentle acoustic from the previous two songs, alternate here with the electric dirty riff of Mick Ronson and with a beautiful bass work by Trevor Bolder who also plays the trumpet here. Mick Ronson also enriches the sound with his piano playing, and will also be the one to take us to the end of the song, with one of his most powerful solos on the album. And if you ask Woodmancy, Boulder and producer Ken Scott, this song is their favorite from the album. Probably also for "Eifo HaYeled" who chose to cover it.
"Starman" is one of the strongest songs on the album and is said to be one of the most influential in the entire Bowie repertoire. The song tells the story of alien Ziggy (Starman)'s attempts to send a message of hope and love to youth on the dying star via the radio. This is a turning point in the plot, where Ziggy turns from a preaching and manipulative alien to the hallucinatory "rock star". Mick Ronson's orchestral arrangements in this song are amazing and Bowie's short piano piece in the transition to chorus is no less ingenious. The sharp-eared must have noticed the influence of "Over The Rainbow" from the film The Wizard of Oz, during the chorus. If you did not notice Try replacing Bowie's octave jump in the word "Starman" at the chorus, with that of Judy Garland's in the word "Somewhere."
The first side of the vinyl ends up with the only cover version of Ron Davies' "It Ain't Easy". Bowie's choice of a non-original song for a concept album may be puzzling, but the song fits the atmosphere of the album as well as the plot story and it actually tells the difficulties and struggles of the rock star (Ziggy). It is interesting to note, that the legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman (YES) plays piano here, but did not receive credit for it.
The other side of the vinyl opens with the melancholy and sad "Lady Stardust". The almost complete absence of the guitar and the dominance of the piano reminds us of Elton John-style ballads. In terms of plot the song skips between "him and her", between "Lady Stardust" and the "rock star", as if to prove to us that this is an androgynous creature belonging to both sexes or neither.
From Lady Stardust's melancholy ballad we move on to "Star"'s fast pace and retro piano, which speaks of the dream of becoming a superstar and making a difference using his power of influence as a rock star.
We increase the pace with "Hang On to Yourself". A sort of rooted rock and roll combination, early punk, with a glam rock twist, featuring Ronson's brilliant slide guitar. The song tells the story of Ziggy who "burns" the stages with the spiders from Mars, and it starting to lead us towards the climax end of the story.
The theme song "Ziggy Stardust" comes right after, and tells of the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. The song is built on the simple but no less brilliant choruses of Mick Ronson that made this song timeless. The song won an amazing cover version of "Bauhaus" exactly a decade later. A lot of speculation revolved around the character about whom the song was allegedly written. There were many who thought it was Jimi Hendrix (screwed down hairdo and He played it left hand), but the lyrics also hint that it was precisely Bowie himself (screwed up eyes and snow-white tan). There is no clear answer on the matter, but it is probably a homage to all those tragic stars who soared like meteors and fell like lead, in the world of music.
The song "Suffragette City" was initially suggested by Bowie to the band "Mott the Hoople", who very wisely chose the song "All the Young Dudes", which will give them great success. This is a classic rock and roll style song that tells about the difficulties of the "rock star".
The album closes with "Rock n 'Roll Suicide" - the fall of Ziggy Stardust whose life as a rock star completely eroded him. A calm and acoustic opening that intensifies until the dramatic end in the climax of an electric guitar solo and strings.
In conclusion, Ziggy Stardust is without a doubt a "classic", a "masterpiece". The ultimate concept album, with a brilliant sequence of songs and a flawless production by Ken Scott and David Bowie.