Aladdin Sane is the sixth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released by RCA Records on 13 April 1973. The follow-up to his breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it was the first album he wrote and released from a position of stardom.[2]The album cover featuring a lightning bolt across his face is regarded as one of Bowie's most iconic images.[3]

Aladdin Sane
Studio album by
Released13 April 1973 (1973-04-13)
Recorded6 October 1972, 4–11 December 1972, c. 18–24 January 1973[1]
StudioTrident Studios, London
RCA Studios, New York City
David Bowie chronology
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Aladdin Sane
Pin Ups
Singles from Aladdin Sane
  1. "The Jean Genie"
    Released: 24 November 1972
  2. "Drive-In Saturday"
    Released: 6 April 1973
  3. "Time"
    Released: 13 April 1973
  4. "Let's Spend the Night Together"
    Released: July 1973

In 2003, the album was ranked among six Bowie entries on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (at #277), and 279 in a 2012 revised list.[4] It was later ranked No. 77 on Pitchfork Media's list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s.[5]

"Ziggy goes to America"Edit

The name of the album is a pun on "A Lad Insane". An early variation was "Love Aladdin Vein", which David Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations.[6] Although technically a new Bowie 'character', Aladdin Sane was essentially a development of Ziggy Stardust in his appearance and persona, as evidenced on the cover by Brian Duffy and in Bowie's live performances throughout 1973 that culminated in Ziggy's 'retirement' at the Hammersmith Odeon in July that year. Lacking the thematic flow found on its predecessor,[7] Aladdin Sane was described by Bowie himself as simply "Ziggy goes to America"; most of the tracks were observations he composed on the road during his Ziggy Stardust Tour, which accounted for the place names following each song title on the original record labels.[2] Biographer Christopher Sandford believed the album showed that Bowie "was simultaneously appalled and fixated by America".[8]

His mixed feelings about the journey stemmed, in Bowie's words, from "wanting to be up on the stage performing my songs, but on the other hand not really wanting to be on those buses with all those strange people ... So Aladdin Sane was split down the middle."[9] This kind of "schizophrenia", as Bowie described it, was conveyed on the cover by his makeup, where a lightning bolt represents the duality of mind, although he would later tell friends that the "lad insane" of the album's title track was inspired by his brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.[9][10][11] Bowie himself came up with the idea of the lightning bolt over his face, but said the teardrop was Brian Duffy's idea: "He [Brian] put on that afterward, just popped it in there. I thought it was rather sweet."[12] Regarded as one of the most iconic images of Bowie, it was called "the Mona Lisa of album covers" by Mick McCann writing for The Guardian.[13]

Production and styleEdit

The majority of Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studios in London in January 1973, between legs of the Ziggy Stardust Tour. A desire to rush release the record was blamed for mixes on the Rolling Stones-influenced "Watch That Man" and "Cracked Actor" that buried vocals and harmonica, respectively.[2][14] Bowie and producer Ken Scott later rebuffed this suggestion regarding "Watch That Man", claiming that a remix they produced which brought the vocals forward was considered by Mainman management and RCA Records to be inferior to the original that was eventually released.[14][15]

Aladdin Sane featured a tougher rock sound than its predecessor Ziggy Stardust,[14] particularly on tracks like "Panic in Detroit" (built around a Bo Diddley beat) and Bowie's breakneck version of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together".[2] The album also explored unusual styles such as avant-garde jazz in the title track and Brechtian cabaret in "Time". Both numbers were dominated by Mike Garson's acclaimed piano work,[14] which also featured heavily in the faux James Bond flamenco ballad "Lady Grinning Soul", inspired by singer Claudia Lennear.[2]


Two hit singles that would be included on the album preceded its release, "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday". The former (recorded at RCA's New York studios during the first leg of the Ziggy Stardust Tour in late 1972) was a heavy R&B chug with lyrics loosely based on Iggy Pop,[16] the latter a futuristic doo-wop number describing a time when the population has to relearn sex by watching old movies.[2] "Time" was later issued as a single in the US and Japan, and "Let's Spend the Night Together" in the US and Europe. In 1974, Lulu released a version of "Watch That Man" as the B-side to her single "The Man Who Sold the World", produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [17]
Blender     [18]
Chicago Tribune    [19]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[20]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [21]
Mojo     [22]
Q     [24]
Rolling Stone     [25]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [26]

Aladdin Sane was released in the UK on 13 April 1973.[27] [nb 1] With a purported 100,000 copies ordered in advance,[14] the album debuted at the top of the UK charts and reached No. 17 in America, making it Bowie's most successful album commercially in both countries to that date. The album is estimated to have sold 4.6 million copies worldwide, making it one of Bowie's highest-selling LPs.[29] The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums notes that Bowie "ruled the (British) album chart, accumulating an unprecedented 182 weeks on the list in 1973 with six different titles."[30]

Critical reaction was generally laudatory, if more enthusiastic in the US than in the UK.[16] Rolling Stone remarked on "Bowie's provocative melodies, audacious lyrics, masterful arrangements (with Mick Ronson) and production (with Ken Scott)",[31] while Billboard called it a combination of "raw energy with explosive rock". In the British music press, however, letters columns accused Bowie of 'selling out' and Let it Rock magazine found the album to be more style than substance, considering that he had "nothing to say and everything to say it with".[16] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote a few years later that his favorite Bowie album had been Aladdin Sane, "the fragmented, rather second-hand collection of elegant hard rock songs (plus one Jacques Brel-style clinker) that fell between the Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs concepts. That Bowie improved his music by imitating the Rolling Stones rather than by expressing himself is obviously a tribute to the Stones, but it also underlines how expedient Bowie's relationship to rock and roll has always been."[32]

NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray called the album "oddly unsatisfying, considerably less than the sum of the parts",[2] while Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg describes it as "one of the most urgent, compelling and essential" of his releases.[33] The Rolling Stone review by Ben Gerson pronounced it "less manic than The Man Who Sold The World, and less intimate than Hunky Dory, with none of its attacks of self-doubt."


Bowie performed all the tracks, except "Lady Grinning Soul", on his Ziggy Stardust Tour, and many of them on the Diamond Dogs Tour. Live versions of all but "The Prettiest Star" and "Lady Grinning Soul" have been released on various discs including Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, David Live and Aladdin Sane – 30th Anniversary. "The Jean Genie" is the only song on the album that Bowie played in concert throughout his career. However "Panic in Detroit" also appeared regularly in Bowie's later years, a remake of which was cut in 1979 but not released until added as a bonus track to the Rykodisc CD of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

Belgian amateur astronomers at the MIRA Public Observatory in conjunction with Studio Brussel created a "Bowie asterism" in homage to David Bowie in January 2016; it depicts the iconic lightning bolt of Aladdin Sane using the stars Sigma Librae, Spica, Zeta Centauri, SAO 204132, Sigma Octantis,[34] SAO 241641 and Beta Trianguli Australis which were near Mars at the time of Bowie's death.[35][36][37][38]

The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[39]

Two songs from the album, "Cracked Actor" and "Time" were included in the 2017 feature-length biographical documentary, and compilation Soundtrack,[40] entitled Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story.[41]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side one
1."Watch That Man"4:30
2."Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)"5:06
3."Drive-In Saturday"4:33
4."Panic in Detroit"4:25
5."Cracked Actor"3:01
Side two
2."The Prettiest Star"3:31
3."Let's Spend the Night Together" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards)3:10
4."The Jean Genie"4:07
5."Lady Grinning Soul"3:54


Additional personnelEdit

Production personnelEdit

  • David Bowie – producer, arrangements
  • Ken Scott – producer, engineer
  • Mick Moran – engineer
  • Mick Ronson – arrangements

CD releasesEdit

Aladdin Sane was first released on CD in 1984 by RCA.

1990 Rykodisc/EMIEdit

Dr. Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, Massachusetts,[42] remastered Aladdin Sane from the original master tapes for Rykodisc, which released it with no bonus tracks.

1999 EMI/VirginEdit

The album was remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios, and again released with no bonus tracks.

2003 EMI/VirginEdit

In 2003, a 2-disc version was released by EMI/Virgin. The second in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition sets (along with Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs), this release includes a remastered version of the first disc. The second disc contains ten tracks, a few of which had been previously released on the 1989 collection Sound + Vision.

Bonus CD (2003 EMI/Virgin)Edit

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing" ('Sax' version) – 2:45
  2. "The Jean Genie" (Single mix for single A-side, 1972) – 4:07
  3. "Time" (Edit for single A-Side, 1973) – 3:43
  4. "All the Young Dudes" (Mono mix) – 4:12
  5. "Changes" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 3:20 (From Sound + Vision CD-Video)
  6. "The Supermen" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 2:42 (From Sound + Vision CD-Video)
  7. "Life on Mars?" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 3:25 (Previously unreleased)
  8. "John, I'm Only Dancing" (Live at Boston Music Hall, 1 October 1972) – 2:40 (From Sound + Vision CD-Video)
  9. "The Jean Genie" (Live at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 20 October 1972) – 4:10 (From Santa Monica '72)
  10. "Drive-In Saturday" (Live at Cleveland Public Auditorium, 25 November 1972) – 4:53 (Previously unreleased)

2013 Parlophone/AIREdit

A 40th anniversary edition, remastered by Ray Staff at London's AIR Studios, was released in CD and digital download formats in April 2013.[43]

This 2013 remaster of the album was included in the 2015 box set Five Years 1969–1973 and rereleased separately, in 2015–2016, in CD, vinyl and digital formats.[44][45][46] A 12" limited edition of the 2013 remaster, pressed in silver vinyl, was released in 2018 to mark the 45th anniversary of the album.[47]

Release history (selected)Edit

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom (UK) 13 April 1973 (1973-04-13) RCA LP RS 1001[48]
United States (U.S.) 13 April 1973 (1973-04-13) RCA LP AFL1 4852[49]
Worldwide 1985 RCA CD PD-83890/PCD1-4852[48][50]
U.S. 13 July 1990 (1990-07-13) Rykodisc CD RCD-10135
Worldwide (except U.S.) July 1990 (1990-07) EMI CD EMC-3579/CDP 79 468 2[48]
Worldwide 28 September 1999 (1999-09-28) EMI/Virgin CD 7243 521902 0 1
Worldwide 26 May 2003 (2003-05-26) (UK)[51]
24 June 2003 (2003-06-24)
EMI/Virgin 2 CD 30th Anniversary Edition 72435 83012 2
Worldwide 15 April 2013 (2013-04-15) EMI/Universal CD 40th Anniversary Edition 5099993447423


Weekly chartsEdit

Chart (1973) Position
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[52] 7
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[53] 20
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[54] 4
French SNEP Albums Chart[55] 3
Italian Albums Chart[56] 8
Japanese Oricon LP Chart[57] 41
Norwegian Albums Chart[58] 11
Swedish Kvällstoppen Chart[59] 5
UK Albums Chart[60] 1
US Billboard 200[61] 17

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (1973) Position
French Albums Chart[62] 39
Italian Albums Chart[56] 32
UK Albums Chart[63] 2


Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[64] Gold 100,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[65] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[66] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ There is some debate about the release date. In 2018, the David Bowie official website stated that new evidence had come to light proving that the official release date was 20 April 1973, but because this was Good Friday (a public holiday in the UK), the album was made available on 19 April.[28]


  1. ^ Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now – The London Years: 1947–1974: pp. 270, 277, 283
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Carr, Roy; Murray, Charles Shaar (1981). David Bowie: An Illustrated Record. New York: Avon Books. pp. 52–56. ISBN 0-380-77966-8.
  3. ^ "David Bowie on the iconic lightning bolt from his Aladdin Sane cover". The Independent. 25 March 2017.
  4. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Staff Lists: Top 100 Album of the 1970s". Pitchfork Media. 23 June 2004. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  6. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2004) [2000]. The Complete David Bowie. London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-903111-73-0.
  7. ^ Kris Needs (1983) Bowie: A Celebration: p.29
  8. ^ Christopher Sandford (1996, 1997). Loving the Alien: p.109
  9. ^ a b Pegg, Nicholas (2006). The Complete David Bowie (4th ed.). London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 286. ISBN 1-905287-15-1.
  10. ^ Pegg, 2006, pp.19 and 286.
  11. ^ Seventies' Greatest Album Covers: Aladdin Sane. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  12. ^ Loder, Kurt (23 April 1987), "Stardust Memories", Rolling Stone (498): 74–77, 80, 82, 168, 171
  13. ^ "Bowie By Duffy': Iconic Glam Photos Glitter At Foam In Amsterdam". Huffington Post. 25 March 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e Buckley, David (2000) [1999]. Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books. pp. 182–189. ISBN 0-7535-0457-X.
  15. ^ David Bowie (2003). Aladdin Sane 30th Anniversary Edition: CD liner notes
  16. ^ a b c Pegg, Nicholas (2004) [2000]. The Complete David Bowie. London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 110–111. ISBN 1-903111-73-0.
  17. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Aladdin Sane – David Bowie". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  18. ^ "David Bowie: Aladdin Sane". Blender (47). May 2006. Archived from the original on 24 June 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  19. ^ Kot, Greg (10 June 1990). "Bowie's Many Faces Are Profiled On Compact Disc". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  20. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "David Bowie: Aladdin Sane". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  21. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "David Bowie". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
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  23. ^ Wolk, Douglas (1 October 2015). "David Bowie: Five Years 1969–1973". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  24. ^ O'Brien, Lucy (July 1999). "David Bowie: Aladdin Sane". Q (154): 132.
  25. ^ Walters, Barry (10 July 2003). "David Bowie: Aladdin Sane". Rolling Stone.
  26. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "David Bowie". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  27. ^ Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now – The London Years: 1947–1974: p. 291
  28. ^ "Aladdin Sane 45th anniversary silver vinyl due". Archived from the original on 16 February 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  29. ^ Dee, Johnny (7 January 2012). "David Bowie: Infomania". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  30. ^ *Roberts, David (editor). The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums, p16. Guinness Publishing Ltd. 7th edition (1996). ISBN 0-85112-619-7
  31. ^ Gerson, Ben (19 July 1973). "Aladdin Sane". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  32. ^ Christgau, Robert (5 April 1976). "David Bowie Discovers Rock and Roll". The Village Voice. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  33. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2004) [2000]. The Complete David Bowie. London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 281–283. ISBN 1-903111-73-0.
  34. ^ Internet images of the "Bowie asterism" actually indicate Delta Octantis.
  35. ^ "StardustForBowie, Mira in the eye of a Cyclone ... - MIRA". Archived from the original on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  36. ^ "Belgians give 'Starman' Bowie own constellation".
  37. ^ Malkin, Bonnie (17 January 2016). "David Bowie: astronomers give the Starman his own constellation". The Guardian.
  38. ^ "Astronomers Pay Tribute to Bowie With New Constellation". Rolling Stone.
  39. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  40. ^ Discogs ~ Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story the Soundtrack
  41. ^ YouTube ~ Beside Bowie: the Mick Ronson Story (2017) Trailer #1
  42. ^ "Northeastern Digital home page". Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  43. ^ "40th anniversary remaster of Aladdin Sane due in April". David Bowie Official Website. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  44. ^ FIVE YEARS 1969 – 1973 box set due September Archived 18 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine at
  45. ^ How to buy the new David Bowie 2015 remasters individually at
  46. ^ David Bowie / 'Five Years' vinyl available separately next month at
  47. ^ Aladdin Sane 45th anniversary silver vinyl due at
  48. ^ a b c Pegg, Nicholas (2006). The Complete David Bowie (4th ed.). London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. p. 284. ISBN 1-905287-15-1.
  49. ^ "Aladdin Sane (1973)". The Ziggy Stardust Companion. Archived from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  50. ^ Ruud Altenburg. "Albums (1973–1977)". Illustrated db Discography. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  51. ^ Davidson, John (22 August 2003). "Aladdin Sane 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition". PopMatters. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  52. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  53. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 19, No. 20". RPM. 30 June 1973. Archived from the original (PHP) on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  54. ^ " David Bowie – Aladdin Sane". MegaCharts. Archived from the original (ASP) on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  55. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste". Archived from the original (PHP) on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2014. Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  56. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1973" (in Italian). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  57. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  58. ^ " David Bowie – Aladdin Sane". Archived from the original (ASP) on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  59. ^ "Swedish Charts 1972–1975/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Maj 1973 > 15 Maj" (PDF). (in Swedish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2014.Note: Kvällstoppen combined sales for albums and singles in the one chart; Aladdin Sane peaked at the number-nine on the list in the 2nd week of May 1973.
  60. ^ "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  61. ^ "allmusic ((( Aladdin Sane > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  62. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1973 par InfoDisc" (in French). Archived from the original (PHP) on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  63. ^ "The Official UK Charts Company : ALBUM CHART HISTORY". Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  64. ^ "Les Certifications depuis 1973: Albums". Retrieved 3 January 2020. (select "David Bowie" from drop-down list)
  65. ^ "British album certifications – David Bowie – Aladdin Sane". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 3 January 2019. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Aladdin Sane in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  66. ^ "American album certifications – David Bowie – Aladdin Sane". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 31 January 2014. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit