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Described as a loose concept album and rock opera, Ziggy Stardust is about Bowie's titular alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a fictional androgynous and bisexual rock star who is sent to Earth as a saviour before an impending apocalyptic disaster. In the story, Ziggy wins the hearts of fans but suffers a fall from grace after succumbing to his own ego. The character was inspired by numerous musicians, including singers Vince Taylor and Iggy Pop. Most of the album's concept was developed after the songs were recorded. The glam rock and proto-punk musical styles were influenced by Pop, the Velvet Underground, and Marc Bolan of T. Rex while the lyrics discuss the artificiality of rock music, political issues, drug use, sexual orientation, and stardom. The album cover, photographed in monochrome and recoloured, was taken in London outside the home of furriers "K. West".


Preceded by the single "Starman", Ziggy Stardust peaked at number 5 in the UK and number 75 in the United States. It initially received favourable reviews from music critics; some praised the musicality and concept while others were unable to comprehend it. Shortly after its release, Bowie performed "Starman" on Britain's Top of the Pops in early July 1972, which propelled him to stardom. The Ziggy character was retained for the subsequent Ziggy Stardust Tour, leaving Bowie unable to differentiate between Ziggy and himself. Not wanting Ziggy to define him, Bowie created a new character for his next album Aladdin Sane (1973), which Bowie described as "Ziggy goes to America". Performances from the tour were later released on a concert film of the same name with an accompanying live album (1983) and Live Santa Monica '72 (2008).

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars is about a bisexual alien rock superstar named Ziggy Stardust.[28][29] It was not initially conceived as a concept album; much of the story was written after the album was recorded.[30][31] Tracks rewritten for the narrative included "Star" (originally titled "Rock 'n' Roll Star"),[31] "Moonage Daydream",[32] and "Hang On to Yourself".[33] Some reviewers have categorised the record as being a rock opera,[34][35][36] although Paul Trynka argues that it is less an opera and more a "collection of snapshots thrown together and later edited into a sequence that makes sense."[37] The characters were androgynous. Mick Woodmansey said the clothes they had worn had "femininity and sheer outrageousness". He also said that the characters' looks "definitely appealed to our rebellious artistic instincts".[38] Nenad Georgievski of All About Jazz said the record was presented with "high-heeled boots, multicolored dresses, extravagant makeup and outrageous sexuality".[39] Bowie had already developed an androgynous appearance, which was approved by critics, but received mixed reactions from audiences.[40]

The album's lyrics discuss the artificiality of rock music in general, political issues, drug use, sexual orientation, and stardom.[41][20] Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the lyrics as "fractured, paranoid" and "evocative of a decadent, decaying future".[29] Apart from the narrative, "Star" reflects Bowie's idealisations of becoming a star himself and shows his frustrations at not having fulfilled his potential.[42] On the other hand, "It Ain't Easy" has nothing to do with the overarching narrative.[31][43] The outtakes "Velvet Goldmine" and "Sweet Head" did fit the narrative, but both contained provocative lyrics, which likely contributed to their exclusions.[44][45] Meanwhile "Suffragette City" contains a false ending, followed by the phrase "wham bam, thank you, ma'am!"[46][47] Bowie uses American slang and pronunciations throughout, such as "news guy", "cop" and "TV" (instead of "newsreader", "policeman", and "telly" respectively).[48][49] Richard Cromelin of Rolling Stone called Bowie's imagery and storytelling in the track some of his most "adventuresome" up to that point,[47] while James Parker of The Atlantic claims Bowie is "one of the most potent lyricists in rock history".[35]

Sources for the Ziggy Stardust name included the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the song "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael, and Bowie's fascination with glitter.[37] A girlfriend recalled Bowie "scrawling notes on a cocktail napkin about a crazy rock star named Iggy or Ziggy", and on his return to England he declared his intention to create a character "who looks like he's landed from Mars".[40] In 1990, Bowie explained that the "Ziggy" part came from a tailor's shop called Ziggy's that he passed on a train. He liked it because it had "that Iggy [Pop] connotation but it was a tailor's shop, and I thought, Well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy. So Ziggy Stardust was a real compilation of things."[55][56] He later asserted that Ziggy Stardust was born out of a desire to move away from the denim and hippies of the 1960s.[57]

"Starman" sees Ziggy bringing a message of hope to Earth's youth through the radio, salvation by an alien 'Starman', told from the point of view of one of the youths who hears Ziggy.[31] "Lady Stardust" presents an unfinished tale with what Doggett states as "no hint at a denouement beyond a vague air of melancholy".[65] Ziggy is recalled by the audience using both 'he' and 'she' pronouns, showing a lack of gender distinction.[31][65] Ziggy then looks at himself through a mirror, pondering what it would be like to make it "as a rock 'n' roll star" and if it would all be "worthwhile" ("Star").[31][42] In "Hang On to Yourself", Ziggy is put in front of the crowd. The track emphasises the metaphor that rock music goes from sex to fulfilment and back to sex again; Ziggy plans to abandon the sexual climax for a chance at stardom, which ultimately leads to his downfall.[31][33]

As well as including faster-paced numbers ("Star"),[42] the album contains the minimalist tracks "Five Years" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". Both tracks are mostly led by Bowie's voice,[81] building intensity throughout their runtimes.[82][83] While "Five Years" contains what author David Buckley calls a "heartbeat-like" drum beat,[84] "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" starts acoustic and builds to a lush arrangement, backed by an orchestra.[83] Pegg describes "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" as Bowie's own "A Day in the Life".[68] The album also features some experimentation. "Soul Love" contains bongos, a hand-clap rhythm, and a saxophone solo from Bowie which Doggett calls "relaxing".[20][85] "It Ain't Easy" features a harpsichord contribution from Rick Wakeman and backing vocals from Dana Gillespie, both of which were uncredited.[c][44] Additionally "Suffragette City" features one of Bowie's earliest uses of the ARP synthesiser, which later became the backbone of his late-1970s Berlin Trilogy.[78][77]

The idea was to hit a look somewhere between the Malcolm McDowell thing with the one mascaraed eyelash and insects. It was the era of Wild Boys, by William S. Burroughs ... [It] was a cross between that and Clockwork Orange that really started to put together the shape and the look of what Ziggy and the Spiders were going to become ... Everything had to be infinitely symbolic.[87]

The album cover photograph was taken by photographer Brian Ward in monochrome;[88] it is recoloured by illustrator Terry Pastor, a partner at the Main Artery design studio in Covent Garden with Bowie's longtime friend George Underwood. Both Ward and Underwood had done the artwork and sleeve for Hunky Dory.[18][89] The typography, initially pressed onto the original image using Letraset, was airbrushed by Pastor in red and yellow, and inset with white stars.[89] Pegg said that unlike many of Bowie's album sleeves, which feature close-ups of Bowie in a studio, the Ziggy image has Bowie almost in the foreground. Pegg describes the shot as: "Bowie (or Ziggy) [stands] as a diminutive figure dwarfed by the shabby urban landscape, picked out in the light of a street lamp, framed by cardboard boxes and parked cars".[18] Bowie is also holding a Gibson Les Paul guitar, which was owned by Arnold Corns guitarist Mark Pritchett and was the same guitar Pritchett used on Corns' recordings of "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang On to Yourself". Similar to Hunky Dory's cover, Bowie's jumpsuit and hair, which was still his natural brown at the time,[89] were artificially retinted. Pegg believes it gives the impression that the "guitar-clutching visitor" is from another dimension or world.[18]

The photograph was taken during a photoshoot on 13 January 1972 at Ward's Heddon Street studio in London, just off Regent Street. Suggesting they take photos outside before natural light was lost, the Spiders chose to stay inside while Bowie, who was ill with flu[90] went outside just as it started to rain. Not willing to go very far, he stood outside the home of furriers "K. West" at 23 Heddon Street.[91][92] According to Cann, the "K" stands for Konn, the surname of the company's founder Henry Konn, and the "West" indicated it was on the west end of London.[89] Soon after Ziggy Stardust became a massive success, the directors of K. West were displeased with their company's name appearing on a pop album. A solicitor for K. West wrote a letter to RCA saying: "Our clients are Furriers of high repute who deal with a clientele generally far removed from the pop music world. Our clients certainly have no wish to be associated with Mr. Bowie or this record as it might be assumed that there was some connection between our client's firm and Mr. Bowie, which is certainly not the case". However tensions eased and the company soon became accustomed to tourists photographing themselves on the doorstep.[89] K. West moved out of the Heddon Street location in 1991 and the sign was taken down; according to Pegg, the site remains a popular "place of pilgrimage" for Bowie fans.[18] Bowie said of the sign, "It's such a shame that sign [was removed]. People read so much into it. They thought 'K. West' must be some sort of code for 'quest.' It took on all these sort of mystical overtones".[87] 041b061a72


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