Keno's Classic Rock n Roll Web Site
THE RISE AND FALL OF
Released - 1972 by EMI Records. Produced by David Bowie & Ken Scott.
David Bowie: Lead and Backing Vocals, Guitar, Saxophone
Mick Ronson: Guitar, Piano & Backing Vocal
Additional Personnel - Dana Gillespie - Backing Vocals on "It Ain't Easy"
All songs written by David Bowie except "It Ain't Easy", written by Ron Davies.
Gosh, where do you start with this one? In my book (and in many others') it's one of rock's best concept albums ever made. But really, that's only skimming the surface. It wasn't just that, but a way of life for Bowie, at least for a few years after it's release. Bowie was Ziggy! But who was Ziggy suppose to be? Well, Ziggy was a spaceman who came to Earth and took on the role of a rock n' roll star, as the song "Star" explains. All of the songs found here tell us a little about him and the album's opening number, "Five Years" explains why he came to cheer everybody up in the first place. Ziggy seems to live up to the roll of a rock star in true spirit. Of course, he would end up like many of the rock stars of that day - dead, a true "Rock & Roll Suicide", as the song goes.
As far as the songs on this album go, well, everyone of them is either good or great. That's not even considering the fact that they are telling a story. If you just listen to them alone, removed from the others, they are even better! The best songs found here are: "Ziggy Stardust" - a great song for sure and the best one on the album. Tells us in a nutshell the story of Ziggy. But was the song at first written for Ziggy the spaceman/rockstar? From what Bowie has said in past years, no. Mr. Stardust and the rest of the album came about after the song was written. So who was Ziggy? Some fans swore it was about Jimi Hendrix. In part, yes it was. Jimi was the one with the "screwed down hairdo" and "he played it left hand, but made it too far". But it wasn't just about him. Seems that other fallen rock stars were on Bowie's mind when he wrote about Ziggy, like Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. Even more so the fallen Stone, Brian Jones: "screwed up eyes", "snow white tan", and "like a leper messiah". Not to mention that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (perhaps referred to in the song as "Weird and Gilly") did "bitch about" Jones' "fans". But with all that said and done, Bowie has also stated that at least part of Ziggy was taken from the little known sixties rocker, Vince Taylor, who was still alive when the song came out, but very much not what you would call normal.
So what are the other great song found here? "Suffragette City" is just as great as the title cut, but it's lyrics are not as deep. It's the one song that perhaps don't fit in with the other songs as far as the story goes. But then again, maybe it does. All rockers seem to have groupies and 'this mellow thighed chick' seems to make his friendship with 'Henry', over and done.
The last great song on this album is "Starman". You get the feeling it should have been the second song on the album, but the songs and their stories don't really follow the correct order of what they deal with anyway. "Starman" isn't about the fact that Ziggy is a rock star. It's about the fact that he's a spaceman who hasn't yet made it to Earth to become that rock star. It's such a powerful number! One of those great spaceman songs, it's lyrics almost reminds you of the Byrds "Mr. Spaceman" except in this case, instead of the Earthling wanting to join the alien spaceman up there, he is coming down to Earth to join us.
All of the remaining songs on this album are good, very good, better than your average rock song. Bowie's band here was just so tight. Mick Ronsen adds some great guitar riffs. Guess it should be pointed out that when this album was released, Bowie's band was not called "The Spiders From Mars". However, they were re-named that after the release.
In closing, no question, a great album that stands the test of time.
- Keno, 2002
To listen to some soundclips from
or to purchase it click on:Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust [CD]