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Music / Aladdin Sane

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"Millions weep a fountain, just in case of sunrise."

Aladdin Sane is the sixth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1973. A loosely-constructed semi-sequel to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it's been described as "Ziggy goes to America" by Bowie. The character of Ziggy Stardust was officially retired at the end of the subsequent tour via an infamous impromptu announcement from Bowie that "not only is it the last show of the tour, but it's the last show we'll ever do," the vague wording of which led fans and press to believe for a short while that Bowie was quitting the music industry altogether; in reality he'd keep going all the way until his death in 2016, barring a hiatus from 2006 to 2011. The album's music is best known for the hits "Aladdin Sane", "Let's Spend The Night Together" and "The Jean Genie".


The album is probably best known not for any of the music within it but for its cover art, with the front portrait of Bowie with a lightning bolt painted across his face becoming so emblematic of the musician in the decades after Aladdin Sane's release that it became the basis for the "singer" emojis (👨🏼‍🎤 and 👩🏼‍🎤) a few years after Bowie's passing in 2016. That said, the album's music still stands as a critical turning point for Bowie, introducing a number of jazz and art rock influences that would come to define his later output, especially once he dropped the glam act entirely just two years after this album's release. As such, Aladdin Sane sound-wise is much more of a Genre Roulette than Ziggy Stardust was, featuring mixes of conventional hard-tinged glam rock, piano-driven jazz fusion, art rock, and even rockabilly and Doo-wop throwback.


The album was listed at No. 279 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Aladdin Sane was supported by four singles: "The Jean Genie", "Drive-In Saturday", "Time", and Bowie's cover of The Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together". For Bowie, this was an unprecedented amount of singles for a single album; up until now, the most an album would get was just two.


Side One

  1. "Watch That Man" (4:30)
  2. "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)" (5:06)
  3. "Drive-In Saturday" (4:33)
  4. "Panic In Detroit" (4:25)
  5. "Cracked Actor" (3:01)

Side Two

  1. "Time" (5:15)
  2. "The Prettiest Star" (3:31)
  3. "Let's Spend The Night Together"note  (3:10)
  4. "The Jean Genie" (4:07)
  5. "Lady Grinning Soul" (3:54)

Trope that man, oh honey trope that man:

  • Album Title Drop:
    Oooo, we love Aladdin Sane.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "Panic In Detroit"
  • Body Paint: Bowie's face is painted in garish colours on the front cover.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "The Jean Genie"
    He says he's a beautician and sells you nutrition and keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear.
  • Call-Back: "Time" references his earlier song "Sell Me a Coat".
    Sell Me a Coat"
    Sell me a coat, 'cause I feel cold.
    You'll freeze and catch cold/'cause you left your coat behind.
  • Cover Version: "Let's Spend The Night Together" was, of course, originally by The Rolling Stones, from the American version of Between the Buttons.
  • Darker and Edgier: Due to the American influence and the fast-paced songwriting, Aladdin Sane is a darker, harder, nastier, gaudier glam rock album than Ziggy Stardust. The lyrics reflect the pros of Bowie's newfound stardom and the cons of touring, and paint pictures of urban decay, drugs, sex, violence and death.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Time itself "falls wanking to the floor" in "Time".
  • Doo-wop: "Drive-In Saturday".
  • Driven to Suicide: Apparently, the Che Guevara look-alike of "Panic In Detroit".
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Like his earlier song "Five Years", "Aladdin Sane" the song is based on Bowie’s then-conviction that the world had only a few years left. Its full title is "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)", the first two dates being the years before a world war began, thus foreshadowing World War III happening in the coming years.
  • Epic Rocking: The Title Track and "Time" are both over five minutes long.
  • Face on the Cover: Bowie's face is featured on the album cover, filling the entire image.
  • Genre Roulette: Bowie plays with numerous styles here. "Watch That Man" sounds more like The Rolling Stones than the actual Stones cover. "Drive-In Saturday" is Doo-wop. "Aladdin Sane" is jazz influenced and allows pianist Mike Garson to do a Theolonious Monk-ish solo. "Lady Grinning Soul" is European art music. "The Jean Genie" is Delta blues while "Panic In Detroit" has a Bo Diddley Beat.
  • Grief Song: Bowie wrote "Time" when friends in his own age group started dying, among them New York Dolls drummer Billy Murcia, who's mentioned as "Billy Dolls".
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: The titular "Cracked Actor" is known for his wholesome image.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: "Watch That Man" takes place at a party so nuts that Ziggy/Bowie takes off into the street.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Aladdin Sane" = "a lad insane".
  • Rearrange the Song: Similarly to "Hang On to Yourself" and "Moonage Daydream" off of the previous album, "The Prettiest Star" is a rerecorded version of a non-album single from 1970, originally released as a follow-up to "Space Oddity".
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mick Jagger and model-actress Twiggy are name-checked in "Drive-In Saturday".
    • Bowie wrote "The Jean Genie" about Iggy Pop. He says on some level he was probably thinking about Jean Genet too.
  • White Void Room: Bowie is photographed in one on the album cover.


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