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Review of the Ziggy Stardust album

by Michael Watts - Melody Maker (1 July 1972)

The cover of Bowie's new album has a picture of him in a telephone booth looking every inch the stylish poseur.  Style and content have now become inextricably tangled in Bowie's case.  Campness has become built-in to his public persona.  I mean that, however, in a far from derogatory sense. The main preoccupation of David's work is not directly gay sexuality, though that element is there, as with a flourishing theatricality and dramatic sense. 

On Ziggy Stardust this is apparent even with a song like "Five Years".  Ostensibly about the death of the world; Bowie turns it into a "performance" by virtue of his gift for artful mannerism and by creating a convincing mise-en-scene (a cop kneels at the feet of a priest and a soldier is run over by a car after it is announced on the news that the earth has five years left).  It would also go some way towards explaining why this album has such a conceptual sounding title. 

There is no well-defined story line, as there is in "Tommy" say, but there are odd songs and references to the business of being a pop star that overall add up to a strong sense of biographical drama.  On one track "Star" he sings about playing "the wild mutation of a rock n roll star. I'd send my photograph to my honey and I'd come on like a regular superstar").   Then "Ziggy Stardust," the title track, is about a guitar superhero who "took it all too far." (Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind.").

The final track is simply called "Rock n Roll Suicide" - it speaks for itself.  In the space of three songs he thus suggests the ascent and decline of a big rock figure, but leaves the listener to fill in his own details, and in the process he's also referring obliquely to his own role as a rock star and sending it up.  There are many layers to the Bowie the artist, but he has this uncanny knack of turning a whole album or stage performance into a torch song. 

Ziggy Stardust is a little less instantly appealing than Hunky Dory, basically because that album was written with the intention of being commercial.   This one rocks more, though, and the paradox is that it will be much more commercially successful than the last, because Bowie's bid for stardom is accelerating at lightning speed.

---This page last modified: 13 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)