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Review of the Ziggy Stardust album

Nick Kent - Oz Magazine (July 1972)


David Bowie, easily the most brilliant young songwriter in this country, seems to have been going through quite a few rapid changes over the last year or so.

It all started with the release of his miserably under-rated "Man Who Sold The World", which portrayed him as some bi-sexual Greta Garbo figure with rather tortured Nietzsche overtones!

The neurotic elements of that album manifested themselves in part of the schizophrenic "Hunky Dory", but now things have developed even further.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust ... personifies Bowie's new image as the intended messiah of Teenage Wasteland.  Live, he is an almost grotesque parody of early Elvis Presley complete with outrageously tasteless costume, butch hairstyle and calculated effeminate gestures.  On the new album, Bowie attempts to live and fully verbalise his fantasies.  Ziggy Stardust is his wish fulfillment - "came on so loaded man ... well hung and snow white tan" - the last great superstar before the Apocalypse (fully described in the first track "Five Years"), who is eventually torn to pieces by his fans in a scene straight out of Nik Cohn's "I am still the greatest, says Johnny Angelo".

The only problem is that it all doesn't quite come off and this all becomes very clear once one has witnessed his awkward posturings on stage.  Bowie is over-reaching himself, trying to cover too much ground.  The character he ultimately portrays has more in common with the amazing Iggy Stooge than anything Bowie could extend himself to.  All of which is sad because taken on its own terms, the Ziggy Stardust album is quite superb.  Bowie is now working in new areas, having been studying the art of punk rock poetry from Lou Reed, while effectively developing his own talents in the realm of his lyrical fascination for science fiction.  His unique sexual imagery (previously best illustrated in The Man Who Sold The World's chilling "She Shook Me Cold") has lost its neurotic edge, giving way to lines like "This mellow-thighed chick just put my spine out of place or, even better, we move around like tigers on vaseline".  The best track of all is the single Starman which is perfect pulp sci-fi rock complete with killer chorus.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is the vital link around which Bowie's new image is to be projected, and I have a feeling it will, if only temporarily, succeed. It's all a little unfortunate, though, that someone as capable as David Bowie should attempt to hype himself as something he isn't.

---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)