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Music / The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

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He could lick 'em by smiling, he could leave 'em to hang
He came on so loaded, man, well-hung, snow-white tan

"Wherein Ziggy Stardust makes himself manifest to all."
Tagline from the album's advertising campaign.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust or even just Ziggy) is the fifth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1972 through RCA Records. "Ziggy Stardust", "Starman", "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" were big international hits at the time.

Conceived after the songs were already finished, the ambiguous story of this Concept Album revolves around Ziggy Stardust, a bisexual rock star (either from space or Touched by Vorlons) who rises to stardom in a time when Earth is on its last legs and its people need hope. However, he succumbs to the hedonistic lifestyle that comes with fame, and it's his own fans who are responsible for his death. Ironically, Bowie himself nearly fell into the same trap, as "Ziggy Stardust" became such a global phenomenon that he did everything to distance himself from the "Ziggy" character, in essence reinventing himself each album.

The album was a major commercial success in Bowie's native UK, peaking at No. 5 on the UK Albums chart, being certified double-platinum by the British Phonographic Industry, and marking Bowie's true Breakthrough Hit in the British mainstream. The album was less successful in the United States despite favorable critical reviews, peaking at a much more modest No. 75 on the Billboard 200, though it was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America two years after its release; the album was also certified gold in Italy. It did however see belated American success following Bowie's death in 2016, peaking two years later at both No. 3 on Billboard's Top Catalog Albums charts and No. 21 on the mainline 200.

As has apparently become standard practice by this point, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was supported by two singles: "Starman" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". The former was recorded specifically with the intent of being a hit single, at the request of RCA Records; the song ended up replacing a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around".


Side One

  1. "Five Years" (4:44)
  2. "Soul Love" (3:33)
  3. "Moonage Daydream" (4:35)
  4. "Starman" (4:13)
  5. "It Ain't Easy"note  (3:00)

Side Two

  1. "Lady Stardust" (3:20)
  2. "Star" (2:50)
  3. "Hang On to Yourself" (2:40)
  4. "Ziggy Stardust" (3:13)
  5. "Suffragette City" (3:25)
  6. "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" (3:00)

Tracklist (2002 Bonus Disc):

  1. "Moonage Daydream (alternate version)"note 
  2. "Hang On to Yourself"note 
  3. "Lady Stardust (demo)"
  4. "Ziggy Stardust (demo)"
  5. "John, I'm Only Dancing"
  6. "Velvet Goldmine"
  7. "Holy Holy"
  8. "Amsterdam"
  9. "The Supermen"
  10. "Round and Round"note 
  11. "Sweet Head"
  12. "Moonage Daydream (remix)"

"Trope is not troping":

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: The song "Ziggy Stardust" itself, which is sung from the point of view of his Spiders from Mars band-mates, claims Ziggy grew egotistical once he became famous. Two of Bowie's actual band-mates from this period, Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey, claim this actually happened to the real Bowie — that he spent less and less time off-stage with them and other old acquaintances as his star rose — and Bowie later admitted that he wrote the song partially as an apology to his loyal bandmates for his behaviour during the recording of Hunky Dory.
  • Actor IS the Title Character: The album was promoted with an ad proclaiming "David Bowie is Ziggy Stardust"; at the bottom, in smaller type, it read "Ziggy Stardust is David Bowie". According to Lou Reed, Bowie apparently did start to think he was Ziggy after a few drinks!
  • Album Title Drop: Played with; "Ziggy Stardust" name-drops some words from the title, but never the entire title.
    Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly and the Spiders from Mars.
  • Alter-Ego Acting: Ziggy in relation to Bowie is a Type 3 example (alternate persona of the performer).
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ziggy (with Bowie himself following suit!).
  • Artistic License – Biology: Despite what the narrator of "Five Years" may tell you, the human brain is incapable of feeling pain as a result of it lacking sensory nerve endings; any physical pain felt in the head typically comes from the rest of the head (if not referred pain), assuming that the line "my brain hurts a lot" doesn't refer to emotional distress.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: "Ziggy Stardust" describes the title character as "well-hung," tying in with the hypersexuality associated with rock stardom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", despite its title, is actually one of the album's most uplifting songs. Yes, Ziggy dies during the song, but at the same time he uses his death to signal out a final message of lasting hope for a (maybe) saved Earth.
  • Book Ends: "Five Years" features the narrator complaining about how much his brain hurts from having to absorb so much dire information about the world's end at such a young age. In "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide", the bridge features a line about how "all the knives seem to lacerate your brain."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "Starman", Ziggy notes during the second verse that "I had to phone someone, so I picked on you," implicitly referring to the listener; this is accentuated by Bowie's performance of the song on Top of the Pops, where he intentionally points at the camera (and by extent, the viewer) during the line.
  • Briefer Than They Think: The Ziggy Stardust stage persona (and Aladdin Sane Expy) lasted less than two years and only covers two albums, one tour, and the 1980 Floor Show TV special. The Ziggy look persisted into early 1974, as can be seen on the cover of Diamond Dogs, but by the time he toured for that album it was gone too, with the distinct red mullet being the last bit to go (it was gradually phased out during the tour, and was completely gone by the second leg).
  • Call-Back: The album evokes the space imagery Bowie used earlier in "Space Oddity" and Hunky Dory.
  • Camp: Ziggy Stardust is the most famous example of this in David Bowie's work, intentionally evoked.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Ziggy is one of the many, many Bowie personae who dies.
  • Climactic Music: "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", beginning in the third verse when the horns enter.
  • Concept Album: Ziggy's entire life is told on this album.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: According to an interview that Bowie gave with William S. Burroughs, this is a possible interpretation:
    The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There's no electricity to play it. Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. "All The Young Dudes" is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite... The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I've made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage... Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a Starman, so he writes "Starman", which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately... The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don't have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox... Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen. He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make them real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide". As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible.
  • Cover Version: The only song on the album not written by Bowie is a cover of Ron Davies' "It Ain't Easy"... not that you can tell without looking at the credits, as the lyrics are excluded from the liner notes and Davies is still a fairly obscure artist to this day.
  • Digital Destruction: The 30th anniversary expanded edition of the album in 2002 reverses the stereo channels.
  • Discount Lesbians: If one goes with the interpretation that Ziggy is Touched by Vorlons, then he's a discount bisexual, being an otherworldly figure who engages in same-sex relationships with regular humans.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Done with an instrument of all things: "Suffragette City" prominently features buzzes from an ARP synthesizer, a tool which would be brought front-and-center on the Berlin Trilogy at the tail end of the decade.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Ziggy Stardust lived up to his name when it came to make-up — including, on occasion, a glittering circle in the middle of his forehead known as a "love jewel".
  • Face on the Cover: Bowie in costume as Ziggy Stardust, shown from a distance.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Very subtly done in the transition from the Title Track to "Suffragette City", and from "Suffragette City" to "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide", all through cold ends.
  • Fake Band: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The Spiders From Mars actually was the name of Bowie's backing band, but the album features a fictionalized version of them.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Suffragette City" has a false ending, followed by Bowie's cry of "Aaaaawww wham bam thank you ma'am!" before the band gets back into the groove, which ends with Bowie shrieking "Suffragette!"
  • Fan Dumb: Occurs in-universe: Ziggy's fans love him so much that they accidentally lynch him.
  • Glam Rock: One of the best-known examples of this genre; in exchange, it's the one that made David Bowie truly famous.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: The newsreader in "Five Years". It's something the narrator sees as a sign of honesty.
    News-guy wept and told us
    Earth was really dying
    Cried so much his face was wet
    Then I knew he was not lying
  • Intercourse with You: It's hard to imagine any other explanation for the "Aaaaawww wham bam thank you ma'am!" in "Suffragette City".
  • Just Before the End: "Five Years" is a look at how people respond to the news that The End of the World as We Know It is only five years off. Some take it with cheerful indifference, but the main result is chaos, panic, and suicidal depression:
    A girl my age went off her head
    Hit some tiny children
    If the black hadn't pulled her off
    I think she would've killed them
    A soldier with a broken arm
    Fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac
    A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest
    And a queer threw up at the sight of that
  • Longest Song Goes First: The album opens with the 4:44 "Five Years".
  • Lost in Character: After playing Ziggy for awhile, Bowie reportedly had difficulty figuring out where Ziggy ended and the real him began. On-stage at a concert, to the surprise of his fans (and his band), he announced that Ziggy would be retiring, as it was difficult for him (Bowie) to keep his sanity.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: "Soul Love":
    Love is careless in its choosing
    Sweeping over cross a baby
    Love descends on those defenseless
    Idiot love will spark the fusion
  • Messianic Archetype: Ziggy Stardust is worshipped to the point that he believes the hype about himself by the time he dies at the hands of his fans.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Ziggy and the Spiders from Mars are mentioned, but never the entire title.
  • The Not-Remix: Received one in 2003 by producer Ken Scott, but it wasn't officially released until the 2012 remastered release by EMI, being included on the supplementary DVD-Audio disc. The remix would later be made available on CD, LP, and digitally exclusively as part of the Five Years [1969-1973] Boxed Set by Parlophone Records in 2015.
  • Officially Shortened Title: The 1990 and 1999 remasters shorten the album's memorably unwieldy title to Ziggy Stardust; the full title is still included on the CD and LP disc labels (as well as on cassette labels outside North America), however.
  • One-Man Song: "Starman" and "Ziggy Stardust". "Lady Stardust" is both this and a One-Woman Song, thanks to the intentionally Ambiguous Gender of the title character.
  • Pep-Talk Song: Surprising from the title, but "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" is one:
    Oh no love! You're not alone
    You're watching yourself but you're too unfair
    You got your head all tangled up
    But if I could only make you care
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang On to Yourself" were originally released by B&C Records as two sides of a 1971 non-album single with the Arnold Corns, made while Bowie's manager was weaseling the artist out of his contract with Philips Records and Mercury Records out of discontent with the labels' practices. For this album, Bowie re-recorded both songs from the ground up with the Spiders from Mars. Following the success of this album, B&C reissued the original single with the sides switched around.
    • "Starman" was substantially remixed for its single release, with this version commonly being referred to by biographers as the "loud" version of the song. This mix would replace the original version on the UK release of the album thanks to its commercial success.
  • Re-Cut: After "Starman" became Bowie's most successful single since "Space Oddity", the British division of RCA Records went back to the album before release and altered the UK edition to both replace the album mix of "Starman" with the single one and fix a dropout on "Suffragette City". However, RCA would prioritize the US edition of the album worldwide, to the point where their CD releases exclusively used it. Reissues since 1990 combine elements of the two versions, featuring the album mix of "Starman" like the US edition but fixing the dropout on "Suffragette City" like the UK one; another dropout at the start of the album mix of "Starman" is also fixed on these later releases.
  • The Rock Star: Ziggy Stardust is one of the most famous fictional examples of this trope, and Bowie's exploration of the concept via Ziggy made him a real life example!
  • Rock-Star Song: "Star" and "Ziggy Stardust" are about the rise and fall of a rock star.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Ziggy becomes a hedonist as his star rises.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A Clockwork Orange was a key visual inspiration for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and the term "droogie" is dropped in "Suffragette City".
    • Speaking of "Suffragette City", the repeated shouts of "hey man" are taken from the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat", and the piano riff is audibly inspired by Little Richard, the artist who inspired Bowie to get into music.
    • The starman in "Starman" is inspired by the Starchild in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, the chorus is loosely based on "Over the Rainbow", and the song also has musical references to T. Rex and the Diana Ross and the Supremes hit "You Keep Me Hangin' On".
    • Ziggy Stardust himself was inspired by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, where Bowie took the name from.
    • Ziggy playing guitar left-handed is likely a reference to Jimi Hendrix doing the same thing.
    • "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" quotes "Jef" ("No, Love, You're Not Alone") by Jacques Brel. Bowie was a noted fan of Brel's songs. Bowie also stated that the song was partly inspired by The Who's "My Generation", specifically the line "hope I die before I get old" and the anxiety of losing one's youth.
  • Special Guest: Yes keyboardist and longtime Bowie collaborator Rick Wakeman plays harpsichord on "It Ain't Easy", his final contribution to a Bowie album.
  • Speculative Fiction LGBT: Bowie uses Glam Rock and Sci-Fi together to push the boundaries of gender, sexuality, and human experience.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: "Starman"
    There's a starman waiting in the sky
    He'd like to come and meet us, but he thinks he'd blow our minds
  • Time Title: "Five Years", named after how much time Earth has left in the album's story before it becomes uninhabitable by humans.
  • Touched by Vorlons: One possible interpretation of Ziggy's story is that he went through a case of this.
  • The Troubles: Referenced in "Star":
    Tony went to fight in Belfast
  • Tuckerization: Ziggy Stardust is partly named after the eccentric American musician The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The album already begins examining many popular Rockstar tropes in a more nuanced way. showing the pitfalls of the Rock N' Roll lifestyle and the rise to fame. But Ziggy himself would be a major inspiration and popularizer for rock stars to come. The aesthetic of rock stars with facepaint and makeup would be popularized through Ziggy and other Glam Rock artists, influencing subsequent music genres such as Punk Rock and its various subgenres as well as Glam Metal.
  • Uncommon Time: The first two measures of each verse of "Soul Love" are in 7/4.
  • Writing Around Trademarks:
    • One promotional release of the Rykodisc remaster features both the expanded CD and a mock-RCA LP with added surface noise. The LP is designed after the original RCA US release, but with the RCA logo replaced with "RYK" and the Dynaflex logo slightly adjusted to say "dynoflex."
    • Since 2012, reissues of the album feature a disc label design patterned after the original RCA design from the 1970s, but with a stylized "Bowie" in place of the RCA logo. Parlophone's reissues go a step further and use the actual font that RCA used for their logotype. This would occur again with Aladdin Sane in 2013, and would become standard for Parlophone's reissues of the Bowie back-catalog from 2015 onwards (with modifications to match each album's respective UK LP label). Perhaps not coincidentally, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane are the only two albums that Parlophone never remastered during their gradual reissuing campaign, instead choosing to recycle EMI's 40th anniversary remasters for both.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In the bridge of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", Ziggy notes how "you're watching yourself, but you're too unfair."
  • You Are Not Alone: The point of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", to the point where the bridge opens with the line "oh no, love, you're not alone!"
  • You Need to Get Laid: Ziggy tells the listener to "get some pussy now" at the end of "Lady Stardust".

Alternative Title(s): Ziggy Stardust