Reexaminating Ziggy Stardust
It’s a sorry statement that even the best of bloggers tend to have the habit of condensing and boiling down an artist’s catalog into the most base and common denominators.
While we tend to roll out with gleeful delight and snobbish superiority our bangles of track obscurities and private elitist delights, some of us from time to time need someone to grab, with a skilled and muscled arm, the poles of our private, twirling musical calliopes and forcibly grind the damn machine gears to a halt.
Me? I on occasion tend to be one of the more blatant examples of trumpeting out the ‘hidden’ or the ‘buried’ and have even been called eclectic to that end.
When showcasing tracks from colossal and prestigious albums past, instead of stating the all too obvious, we sorely sometimes need to take pause and decelerate enough to cull, peruse and pick apart the essence of a monumental album - in hindsight. Such is the case with Bowie’s 1972 Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
I am going to, from time to time, enjoy reexamining albums that are carelessly tossed about in snobbish trivia parlor games as among the “greatest of the greatest” with more attention to the not forgotten, but lesser of the well remembered tracks that made the album worth listening to.
While we could extol the virtuoso that is “Moonage Daydream”, the majesty of “Ziggy Stardust” and the impact of “Suffragette City” we tend to forget that this was not just a short playing EP. This was a full length LP brimming with musical impressions that went far beyond its release! I believe that here, we have an illustration showing that the sum of the album is not greater than the parts.
To start off with, let’s revisit a few of the missing parts and pieces of Ziggy Stardust that helped make this the gargantuan Titan it still is today, realizing that this isn’t a definitive sampling, but merely a wedge into further review.
It Ain’t Easy
This is the only song on the album not written by Davie Jones but who would have known? I’ve always felt that one of the hallmark traits of a great artist is their ability to embrace a song, work their original machinations on it and have the output sound as if they had indeed spawned it on their own.
Intensely powerful with thumping bass keeping time, and alternating between David’s vocal and acoustic guitar and Mick Ronson’s distinct, godlike lead, this is some of the most dynamic 2’58 Bowie has ever laid out.
Here’s a candied tidbit: among many others, did you know that Three Dog Night covered this song?
When you climb to the top of the mountain
Look out over the sea
Think about the places perhaps, where a young man could be
Then you jump back down to the rooftops
Look out over the town
Think about all of the strange things circulating round
It ain't easy, it ain't easy
It ain't easy to get to heaven when you're going down
Without a doubt, one cannot escape the time period in which Ziggy was released – the glorious glam rock trend. Ziggy was actually a steeled stamp upon it. Written with the original title of ‘A Song For Marc’ - Marc Bolan, he of gigantic stature and influence in glam, this is a monster, marble cornerstone of the album, placed on track one, side two.
Understood within the Glam context, the track unquestionably takes on a different meaning reflecting on Marc. But, given that we’re interpreting it with reference to a star man, we now have a unique perspective into the story, and persona, of Ziggy.
The piano is played in such an exquisitely expressive manner that I can clearly see this standing alone as an instrumental!
People stared at the makeup on his face
Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace
The boy in the bright blue jeans
Jumped up on the stage
And lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and disgrace
And he was alright, the band was altogether
Yes he was alright, the song went on forever
And he was awful nice
Really quite out of sight
And he sang all night long
Yea, we could sit back on our haunches and talk of “Rock and Roll Suicide”, “Five Years” and “Soul Love”, simulating verbally that we know the core of the album lying beneath the usually defined tracks. But, I strongly feel that the above two are seldom discussed and much too easily overlooked.
It’s time to give reverential due not only to the body as a whole, but to the supporting cast. Let's dispense feigning expertise without complete knowledge.
David Bowie: It Ain’t Easy
David Bowie: Lady Stardust
From: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars