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by Chuck Swanson - New Orleans Figaro (2 December 1972)
Records: Everything by David Bowie
David Bowie is not from earth. He is from outer space, and with his Spiders From Mars, he is invading us, flooding the planet with irresistible, cosmic rock n roll. Unlike any other rock music I've heard, Bowie's is the FUTURE abruptly thrust at us, here in the present. It's "A Clockwork Orange" (as suggested by selections from the movie's soundtrack eerily wailing to stroboscopic lights, to open and to close this show) come to rock, but its more. At least "Clockwork" takes place on earth!
Bowie has put out four good albums so far, all really part of one continuous revelation. Incredible as his stage presence might be, his music transcends even a live performance. With such songs as "The Man Who Sold The World," he goes beyond the medium of the visible rock guitarist on stage. He's a lonely man strumming his guitar on some desolate asteroid in the far reaches of space. He's also out of "Star Trek."
You either have to listen intensively to Bowie's music, or not at all, for it demands (and deserves) full attention. His songs are incredibly slick, tight, smoothed over, perfect, literally sweeping you away to some new, undefined terrain. He knows where he's going, what he's doing, - and you feel unsettled, yet comfortable with him in full command of your space module as you journey inward to "new" rock n roll.
Ziggy Stardust (1972)
And now we come to "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars." Fully accepting his role of rock star, Bowie becomes Ziggy Stardust.
Making love with his ego,
Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band
"Bi" being best, he is of course "Lady Stardust" as well
People stared at the makeup on his face
...And Lady Stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and dismay
Oh how I sighed when they asked if I knew his name
"Five Years", a piercing surreal song about the anguish on earth as mankind learns it has five years left to live, and "Rock n Roll Suicide" both mirror Bowie's current belief that a famous rock star will soon be killed on stage. (Needless to say a train did not derail and come thundering through the Warehouse, as I had predicted).
The album flows from song to song, all whole and in proper sequence. Undoubtedly the best cut of all his albums is the driving "Suffragette City":
Don't lean on me man,
cause you can't afford the ticket
I'm back on Suffragette City
It winds up with a do-or-die "Ohhhhhh, Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am!" Pow! "Hang Onto Yourself" and "Star" provide some more shake-ass music, and balance out this most perfect of records.
David is many things: the future, "A Clockwork Orange," bisexual, gay, alien, an actor, Peter Pan, The Man Who Sold The World, a prophet of doom, and a Rock 'n' Roll Suicide, but most of all he's an incredible musician. His songs change mood and tempo to the point that most of them are really two or three songs blended to make one, and his lyrics are, simply a world unto themselves.
Its easy to say that an artist is ahead of his time, but Bowie just may be. Figures on his record sales will eventually tell (his albums express his total range and depth more than his performances). To start your Bowie collection, its a toss-up between "The Man Who Sold The World" and "Ziggy Stardust," but whatever you get, don't stop there.
---This page last modified: 13 Dec 2018---