This week, the extremely sad news was broken that the music world and the world at large had lost the immense talent of David Bowie. Never one to conform to the normal or seek out the mainstream, Bowie made a career out of bold choices that have paid off in spades. Has there ever been such a brave performer? He’s created various stage personas, most notably the spaceman Ziggy Stardust, and changed his style so often, but still remained a powerful voice to millions. And while people may have come to see the oddities of his performance, they would not have stayed if the music wasn’t good.
In honour of the man, our Classic Album feature will do the difficult job of picking just one of his great albums. He has so many fantastic pieces it feels like an exercise in futility to narrow in down so much. But with all due respect to Low, Hunky Dory, and Station to Station, we’ll look at a piece of work that really showed the world what David Bowie could offer: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
An incredibly brave concept album, this 1972 record was an odd story of the destruction of Earth and a saviour in the form of an alien rock star. Despite the truly “out-there” concept, the album is strangely personal as it explores themes of sexuality, drug use and fame that seem to overlap with aspects of Bowie’s personal life. It also introduced the world to a character who would become synonymous with Bowie himself. When speaking of the few “perfect albums” throughout history, this gem certainly deserves mentioning for its complexity and completeness. Not a misstep is taken for Bowie to tell a whole story that generations continue to enjoy.
The album not only provided a hit for Bowie that launched him into a new level of popularity, but it has stood the test of time to become a true classic. It appears on countless rankings of the greatest albums of all time from Rolling Stone to Q to Time. The album was a showcase of everything that Bowie was capable of through his music. It was controversial, universal, a social commentary, completely unique, and thrilling to behold. So as we remember the man of many looks, pop this one on the record player and, as the record suggest, play it “AT MAXIMUM VOLUME”.
It seems strange to single out a particular song from such intertwined album. It’s also no easy feat to choose a favourite from the buffet of classics like “Starman”, “Moonage Daydream”, and “Suffragette City”, but the top spot goes to the “Ziggy Stardust”. It’s a hypnotizing, wild and epic tune that rings in the climax of the album. It’s David Bowie in at his best, in full-on rock-star mode. Like so many of Bowie’s songs, this one has only grown in popularity over the years and generations after will continue to enjoy it. But only we will be able to say that we had the privilege of living in the world when David Bowie was making music.