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

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"Let all the children boogie!"

The Glam Rock album.

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. It is his most famous, most popular and generally most critically lauded album. "Ziggy Stardust", "Starman", "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" were big international hits at the time.

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. But 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. He succeeded, but still Ziggy Stardust remains the persona he is closest identified with among the general public.


Upon release, the album was downright rapturously received by critics, who praised its songwriting and blend of Bowie's theatrical leanings with rock accessibility. Its stature has only grown since: Time Magazine included The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in their 2006 list of 100 timeless and essential albums, and it was listed at No. 35 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, No. 23 on NME's same-named list, and No. 16 on Acclaimed Music's 2018 list of their All Time Top 3,000 albums.

The album was also 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. While the album was less successful in the United States, peaking at a much more modest No. 75 on the Billboard 200, it did help establish a cult following there that Bowie would ride to later mainstream success in that country in the middle of the decade, eventually being 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 success among the American mainstream 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)"

"Freak out in a tropeage daydream, oh yeah":

  • 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: "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!).
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", despite its title, is actually one of the album's most uplifting songs.
  • 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.
  • 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 Davies is still a fairly obscure artist to this day.
  • Discount Lesbians: If one goes with the interpretation that Ziggy is Touched by Vorlons, then he's a discount bisexual.
  • 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, shown from a distance.
  • Fake Band: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
  • Fan Dumb: invokedZiggy'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
  • Long Title: The album title is so long that the record is generally just referred to as "Ziggy Stardust".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One-Man Song: "Starman".
  • 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 was weaseling his way out of his contract with Philips and Mercury Records following a feud with executives regarding the cover art to The Man Who Sold the World. 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.
  • 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".
    • The starman in "Starman" is inspired by the Starchild in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, the chorus is loosely based on "Somewhere 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.
    • The punk band Crass took its name from the line "the kids were just crass" in "Ziggy Stardust".
    • Ziggy playing guitar left-handed is likely a reference to Jimi Hendrix.
    • "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" quotes "Jef" ("No, Love, You're Not Alone") by Jacques Brel. Bowie was a noted fan of Brel's songs.
  • Speculative Fiction LGBT: Bowie uses Glam Rock and Sci-Fi together to push the boundaries of gender, sexuality, and human experience.
  • Spiritual Successor: Aladdin Sane (which is about a Ziggy expy touring the U.S.).
  • 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
  • Touched by Vorlons: Maybe.
  • Tuckerization: Ziggy Stardust is partly named after the eccentric American musician The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
  • Uncommon Time: The first two measures of each verse of "Soul Love" are in 7/4.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are and You Are Not Alone: The points of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide".

Alternative Title(s): Ziggy Stardust


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