Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And How An Album Changed My Life

Today in 1972, David Bowie's monumental album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was released.  The album that really kickstarted Bowie's chameleon-like identity is now fourty-one years old.  Amazing.  Not only is it Ziggy's birthday, but it also happens to be my own birthday.  The connection between myself and Bowie's otherworldly tale doesn't stop at just a date, however coincidental this day may or may not be, for Ziggy Stardust is an album very dear to me.  Yeah, that sounds about as melodramatic as you can get, but it's true.

I feel like there have been two major musical turning points in my life.  The first is a story for another time, but it involves a heavy dose of alternative rock.  The second turning point was when I reached my late teens.  By this time I was really branching out into a variety of genres.  Pop music somehow found a home on my stereo, something that hadn't really happened since the early 2000's.  Electronic production opened another world and music from before my time suddenly seemed accessible.  Around that same time, I discovered Ziggy Stardust.

It was during a late night of flipping between the music channels that I stumbled upon the magnificent 1973 concert film, Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.  The movie was near over and I probably only saw the last five songs or so, but it was like nothing I had ever seen before.  I dare to say that the final performance of "Rock 'N' Rock Suicide" where David announces it was Ziggy's last show changed my life.  I don't want to pass it off as your average discovery of a new favorite artist, because I feel like it came at an essential and pivotal moment.  From that point on, I became obsessed with "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" and every aspect of the song.  The life shattering climax of "Oh no, love. You're not alone" sealed the deal.  That song will forever be my favorite David Bowie creation.

"Listening to the album felt important.  Ziggy Stardust was emotional, political, sexual, and liberating."

I didn't actually buy the full Ziggy Stardust album until some time later.  I would go to every store looking for it, only to find "Best Of" compilations. Eventually, I managed to gather 2002's Heathen and Bowie's strange electronic-industrial adventure, Earthling.  Those two extreme sides of Bowie held me over until I finally had a CD copy of Ziggy Stardust in my possession.

Listening to the album felt important.  Ziggy Stardust was emotional, political, sexual, and liberating.  It held some of the most invigorating words I had ever heard, while spawning what seemed to be a grab bag of phrases. And yet it wasn't simply the record, but also David Bowie's ability to possess such a demanding presence.  He was completely fascinating and quite frankly, it didn't even seem possible.

To this very day, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars remains a regular listening habit.  As much as I adore Bowie's entire discography, none of the albums resonate quite like this one.  I've slowly acquired multiple copies of Ziggy in various formats and releases, as seen above. The bottom right CD was my first.  Yes, I'm listening to it as I write this.  "Star" just began.

So as I turn twenty-one and Ziggy turns fourty-one, we share a deeper connection.  It's truly amazing how one album can mean so much.  There are only a handful of albums able to fulfill that achievement for me and Ziggy Stardust is among the best.  With that final note, happy birthday Ziggy. You're wonderful.

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