LP: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie
1975 RCA Victor LSP-4702
Favorite Track: Moonage Daydream
The night before I was celebrating David Bowie’s birthday at the Drinkery, watching a Ziggy Stardust cover band blast their way through the Spiders material while a costumed crowd danced and sang along. Then at 6:30 in the morning, I received a shocking text message.
David Bowie was gone.
I didn’t have time to mourn; I had to catch a flight for a job interview. Both my flight there and back were delayed resulting in long travel days. My one day in Milwaukee was bitter cold, windy, and sluggish. The interview, however, went great. But never did I have time to process that one of my all-time favorites had died.
And then Alan Rickman passed away too.
By the time, I returned to Cincinnati, I was exhausted and fell asleep. My dreams were odd but short. When I woke up, it was night time so I went to the bar and ordered some bourbon before returning home to a nearly dreamless sleep. Then it was back to work where I was asked to co-host a David Bowie tribute program. Meanwhile, I read countless articles about Bowie. Slowly, my own memories were returning. It dawned on me how much I took Bowie for granted; he was always there in the background of my life.
I cannot say for sure what David Bowie song I heard first. It was probably on the radio with the good chance that it was “Fame”, “Under Pressure”, or “Space Oddity”. I learned about Bowie, saw pictures of his space kimono and glam boots of the Ziggy Stardust years, and nodded me head. What he thinks he is an alien from another planet? So do I. It didn’t take me long to buy The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on CD. It remains, in my opinion, a perfect album. I had only heard “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City” at the time, but the strength of those alone were worth spending $15. Plus, there was a booklet full of intriguing photos of this lithe man who somehow took up the whole picture even if he was the smallest guy in it. By the time “Five Years” was done (a song I should say is the opposite of the type of music I liked at the time) I was a Bowie fan for life.
My first Bowie record was Young Americans. At the time, I had ideas of being a DJ and mimicking the Danceable Solutions/Dance or Die events I went to in college. “Young Americans” and “Fame” always made people, especially me, dance. I bought it for $8 and put it on eagerly. Before I had only listen to Ziggy Bowie. This was a new sound or, perhaps this is more accurate, a new re-invented sound. I understood why they called him a musical chameleon but I didn’t care. He was good; he was talented. He often wrote lyrics that people who feel alienated, marginalized, different, and isolated could relate too. I’ve heard people say and have said myself that when Bowie came on ,it was like he was singing directly to you and nobody else. He told you: “You are not alone.”
I got lucky. Papa Jazz was always well stocked in Bowie and I picked up Space Oddity, Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, Low, “Heroes”, and a rare tracks album of his folk songs, all for under ten dollars except for The Man Who Sold the World, which was an import complete with alternate Ziggy cover and matching poster for twelve. When I moved to Cincinnati, I found Lodger and the “Under Pressure” 7-inch. Sadly, I have not been able to find a copy of Blackstar. Nor have I heard it yet.
Every time I got a new Bowie album, especially when I found Rise and Fall, that would dominate my speakers for the month. I also bought all those albums save for Rise and Fall without ever hearing them before. I trusted Bowie. Granted, I was familiar with his more famous songs so I knew I would like at least one or two songs per album, but every time I found more and more favorite songs. Low and “Heroes” were a big chance because they are not your typical album. They expended my taste in music–my head quite a bit too. Through Bowie I learned of Brian Eno and then Roxy Music. My absolutely favorite Bowie moment was when I first put on “Heroes”. The opening track, “Beauty and the Beast”, blew me away. How was this not played at Dance or Die? How is this not his most popular song? It is my favorite David Bowie song.
And then there is his movies. And watching people trying to sing “Under Pressure” at karaoke. And his love story with Iman. His different colored eyes. The fact that his death reminded me that I never had a chance to see him in concert, that I have seen very little concert footage of him in the first place.
Thank you Starman.
I will be making a David Bowie mix for my next blog post. Keep tuned.
But, of course, let us say a quick word about Alan Rickman. He deserves an equally long post but I am having computer issues so I am going to have to wrap it up fast. Alan Rickman was a wonderfully talented actor and, from accounts I’ve read about him, a charming, pleasant human being. He could play serious, angry, sad, suffering, and funny at the drop of a hat. Die Hard brought him into my life but Galaxy Quest is my favorite role of his. Perhaps he did it to show he didn’t take himself so seriously. And then of course he is Professor Snape. There is no other person who could play that role. Only he could say “Turn to page 394” with as much venom as required. RIP Alan, you too will be missed.