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The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

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The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is the fifth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 16 June 1972 in the United Kingdom. Production was handled by Bowie himself and Ken Scott, featuring contributions from Bowie's backup band, the Spiders from Mars, consisting of Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. The album was recorded in Trident Studios, London. The initial sessions, which produced a large part of the album, went from 8 to 17 November 1971, with final sessions from January to February 1972.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 16 June 1972
Recorded 8–17 November 1971; January 1972–4 February 1972
Studio Trident Studios, London
Length 38:29
Label RCA Records
David Bowie chronology
Hunky Dory
(1971)Hunky Dory1971
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Aladdin Sane
(1973)Aladdin Sane1973
Singles from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
and the Spiders from Mars
  1. "Starman" / "Suffragette City"
    Released: 28 April 1972
  2. "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
    Released: 11 April 1974

It is a loose concept album about Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a fictional rock star who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. Bowie created Ziggy Stardust while in New York City promoting Hunky Dory, and performed as him on the Ziggy Stardust Tour through the United Kingdom, Japan and North America. The album, and the character of Ziggy Stardust, was known for its glam rock influences and themes of sexual exploration and social commentary. Besides that, the ambiguity surrounding Bowie's sexuality and a performance of "Starman" on Top of the Pops brought public attention to the album. A concert film of the same name, directed by D. A. Pennebaker, was recorded in 1973 and released a decade later in 1983.

Considered Bowie's breakthrough album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars peaked at number 5 on the UK Albums Chart and number 75 in the US Billboard 200 chart, and has sold 7.5 million copies worldwide, as of January 2016. Upon release, the album received widespread critical acclaim and has been considered one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it 35th on their list of the greatest albums of all time. It was ranked the 41st by Q magazine, and one of the 100 greatest releases ever by Time magazine. In 2017, the album was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" by the Library of Congress.


Concept and themesEdit

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust is a loose concept album about a bisexual alien rock superstar, called Ziggy Stardust.[1][2] The story was written after Bowie had already finished the album,[3] and discusses the artificiality of rock music in general, political issues, drug use, and sexual orientation.[4] Regarding the androgyny and clothes of the characters, Mick "Woody" Woodmansey, drummer for Bowie's backing band the Spiders from Mars wrote:

Singer Vince Taylor (pictured in 1963), one of the main inspirations for the character Ziggy Stardust.

The character was inspired by British rock 'n' roll singer Vince Taylor, whom David Bowie met after Taylor had had a breakdown and believed himself to be a cross between a god and an alien.[6][7] However, Taylor was only part of the blueprint for the character.[8] Other influences included the Legendary Stardust Cowboy[9] and Kansai Yamamoto, who designed the costumes Bowie wore during the tour.[10] The Ziggy Stardust name came partly from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and partly because Ziggy was "one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter 'Z'".[11] In 1990, Bowie explained that the "Ziggy" part came from a tailor's shop called Ziggy's that he passed on a train. He liked it because it had "that Iggy [Pop] connotation but it was a tailor's shop, and I thought, Well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy. So Ziggy Stardust was a real compilation of things."[12][13]

Within the album's universe, the humanity will end within five years, because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy Stardust starts to believe in the existence of "infinites", extraterrestrial beings who are black hole jumpers, and in a spaceman who will be coming down to save the Earth. According to Bowie, he "takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples". During the song "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", the infinites arrive, and tear Ziggy Stardust to pieces on stage, taking his elements to become visible.[14]

Recording and productionEdit

The album's recording sessions took place at Trident Studios in London, using a 16-track 3M M56 tape machine to record it.[15] The first sessions started on 8 November 1971,[16] and there were posterior sessions until 4 February 1972.[17] Bowie said that he had recorded "about half of the Ziggy album" before Hunky Dory was released, claiming that he had to release Hunky Dory due to his recording contract with his label.[18] Early versions of the tracks "Ziggy Stardust", "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang On to Yourself" were written by Bowie in February 1971; the latter two were also recorded in the day 25 of the same month, at Radio Luxembourg's studios. In March 1971, at the same studio, Bowie recorded a stereo demo of "Lady Stardust". Sessions in November 1971 produced the final versions of the aforementioned four songs, along with "Rock 'n' Roll Star" (later shortened to "Star"), "Soul Love", and "Five Years" and other unreleased tracks.[19] In 2012, album producer Ken Scott said that "95 percent of the vocals on the four albums I did with him as producer, they were first takes."[17]

Also recorded during the November sessions were five more songs: two covers, Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" (re-titled "Round and Round") and Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam" (re-titled "Port of Amsterdam"); and three original tracks: "Velvet Goldmine", "Bombers", and a re-recording of "Holy Holy". All these songs were initially slated for the album.[15][19] Bowie also intended "All the Young Dudes",[20] "Rebel Rebel" and "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" to be on a Ziggy Stardust musical, which was later aborted.[21][22]

On the album's final running order, "Round and Round" was replaced by "Starman", and the Ron Davies cover "It Ain't Easy", recorded on 9 July 1971 during the Hunky Dory sessions, closed the first side of the album.[19] After recording some of the new songs for radio presenter Bob Harris's Sounds of the 70s as the newly dubbed Spiders from Mars in January 1972, the band returned to Trident in early February to record the final master takes of "Starman", "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide".[23]

RCA executive Dennis Katz rejected the album at first, stating that there wasn't a single on it.[24] Then, Bowie wrote "Starman", the final song on the album, which was completed in 4 February 1972. Bowie handled it to Katz, who convince Bowie to release it as a single and include it in the album. "Starman", then, replaced "Round and Round" in the album.[25] The song was released as a single on 28 April 1972, and became a hit after a successful performance on the programme Top of the Pops.[26][27]

Music and lyricsEdit


Ziggy Stardust has been retrospectively described as glam rock[28][29][30] and proto-punk.[31] Mick Ronson used an electric guitar plugged to a 100-watt Marshall amplifier and a wah-wah pedal in all songs,[17] and Bowie's acoustic guitar rhythm is also present in all the album.[30] The album begins with the track "Five Years", which opens with a minimalist drum figure. The track contains a repeated diatonic chord progression, resembling early 1950s rock and roll music.[32] The next track, "Soul Love", has a pop-jazz orchestration. In the song, Bowie's vocals are double tracked, which gives an effect of two people singing and suggests a band performance. Bowie also performs the alto saxophone.[33] The following track, "Moonage Daydream", uses harmonic and melodic hooks, and heavy metal-style percussions and guitar.[33] The Ron Davies cover "It Ain't Easy" is the only song in the album that was not written by Bowie.[34] The track closes the first side of the album.

"Lady Stardust" has a moderate tempo, piano accompaniment and a pop hook.[34] "Star" has a "piano-based retro feel".[34] The guitar and Bowie's and Ronson's arrangement on "Hang on to Yourself" resemble late 1970s punk rock.[34] "Ziggy Stardust" . "Suffragette City", the album's penultimate song, is a "straight-ahead" track[35] which contains a saxophone-like section, produced with an ARP 2500 synthesiser.[15] The album closer "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" has a simple and "long-standing" chord progression and a minimalist acoustic guitar texture, which builds as the song reaches its climax.[30][36]

Release and promotionEdit

Widely considered to be Bowie's breakthrough album,[37][38][39] Ziggy Stardust was released on 16 June 1972 in the UK.[40] There was an ambiguity surrounding Bowie's sexuality (even after Bowie declaring himself as gay)[41][42] and a performance of "Starman" on Top of the Pops[26] brought public attention to the album.[43]


David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust Tour.

In promotion of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie went on the Ziggy Stardust Tour.[44] It started in the United Kingdom in 29 January to 7 September 1972.[45] The tour lasted eighteen months, which had also passed through United States, Canada and Japan, had more than 170 gigs.[46] Bowie announced the end of the tour on 3 July 1973,[47] at the Hammersmith Apollo.[48]

Commercial performanceEdit

Ziggy Stardust entered the top 10 in its second week on the UK Albums Chart. After dropping down the chart in late 1972 the album began climbing the chart again, peaking at No. 5 in February 1973.[49] The album was released several weeks earlier in the US and peaked at No. 75 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart in April 1973.[50] It was eventually certified platinum and gold in the UK and US respectively.[51][52] The first single from the album, "Starman", charted at No. 10 in the UK while peaking at No. 65 in the US.

The album returned to the UK chart on 31 January 1981, amid the New Romantic era that Bowie had helped inspire. This reissue peaked at No. 33 and remained on the chart for 62 weeks. It was followed by a reissue of Aladdin Sane, which spent the first of 24 weeks on the chart in March 1982.[53] In the wake of Bowie's death in January 2016, the album reached a new peak of No. 21 in the US.[54] It has sold an estimated 7.5 million worldwide, making it Bowie's second-best-selling album.[55][56]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic      [57]
Blender      [58]
Chicago Tribune     [59]
Christgau's Record Guide B+[60]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music      [61]
Pitchfork 10/10[41]
Q      [62]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide      [63]
Spin      [64]
Uncut      [65]

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars received widespread acclaim by music critics. In Rolling Stone, dated 20 July 1972, writer Richard Cromelin gave the album a favourable review of "at least a 99" (assumed out of 100). But while Cromelin thought it was good, he felt that the record and its style might not be of lasting interest. "We should all say a brief prayer," he suggested, "that his fortunes are not made to rise and fall with the fate of the 'drag-rock' syndrome".[66][67] Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote for AllMusic: "Bowie succeeds not in spite of his pretensions but because of them, and Ziggy Stardust — familiar in structure, but alien in performance — is the first time his vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion."[57] Greg Kot, writing for Chicago Tribune, described the album as a "guitar-fueled song cycle", saying it "enacted the deaths of Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and the '60s and presaged the dread, decadence and eroticism of a new era."[59]


In 1987, as part of their 20th anniversary, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 6 on "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years".[68] In 1997, Ziggy Stardust was named the 20th greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the UK.[69] It was named the 35th best album ever made by Rolling Stone. In 2004, it was placed at number 81 in Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s.[70] In 2006, Q magazine readers placed it at number 41,[71] In the same year, the album was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[72] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[73] In 2013, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it 35th on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[74]


In 2004, Brazilian singer Seu Jorge did a cover album of 14 Bowie songs, many of them from Ziggy Stardust, as a soundtrack for the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou called The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions.[75] The translation into Portuguese is not always exact, as Seu Jorge maintains the melodies and styles, but often varies the lyrics. Bowie himself said of Seu Jorge's covers: "Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with".[76] Musician Saul Williams named his 2007 album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!, a play on the title of Bowie's album.[77]

In 2012, on the 40th anniversary of the album's release, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the location of the cover photo on Heddon Street in London. After Bowie's death from cancer on 10 January 2016, the album re-entered the Billboard 200 to achieve a new peak of No. 21. The album was covered as part of rock band Phish's Halloween 'musical costume' on 31 October 2016.[78] In 2017, the album was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" by the Library of Congress.[79]

Artwork and packagingEdit

Commemorative plaque for Ziggy Stardust in Heddon Street, where the original album cover photo was taken.

The album cover photograph was taken outside furriers "K. West" at 23 Heddon Street, London[80] in January 1972,[81] looking south-east towards the centre of the city. Bowie said of the sign, "It's such a shame that sign went [was removed]. People read so much into it. They thought 'K. West' must be some sort of code for 'quest.' It took on all these sort of mystical overtones."[82] The post office in the background (now "The Living Room, W1" bar) was the site of London's first nightclub, The Cave of the Golden Calf, which opened in 1912. As part of street renovations, in April 1997 a red "K series" phonebox was returned to the street, replacing a modern blue phonebox, which in turn had replaced the original phonebox featured on the rear cover.[83]

Of the album's packaging in general, Bowie said:

We did the photographs outside on a rainy night, and then upstairs in the studio we did the Clock Orange look-alikes that became the inner sleeve. The idea was to hit a look somewhere between the Malcolm McDowell thing with the one mascaraed eyelash and insects. It was the era of Wild Boys, by William S. Burroughs. That was a really heavy book that had come out in about 1970, and it was a cross between that and Clockwork Orange that really started to put together the shape and the look of what Ziggy and the Spiders were going to become. They were both powerful pieces of work, especially the marauding boy gangs of Burrough's Wild Boys with their bowie knives. I got straight on to that. I read everything into everything. Everything had to be infinitely symbolic."[82]

The cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.[84][85] The rear cover of the original vinyl album bore the instruction "TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME". The instruction was omitted, however, from the EMI 1999 re-release.[86]

In March 2012, The Crown Estate, which owns Regent Street and Heddon Street, installed a commemorative brown plaque at 23 Heddon Street in the same place as the "K. West" sign on the cover photo. The unveiling was attended by original band members Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder, and was unveiled by Gary Kemp.[81] The plaque was the first to be installed by The Crown Estate and is one of the few plaques in the country devoted to fictional characters.[87]

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Five Years" 4:42
2. "Soul Love" 3:34
3. "Moonage Daydream" 4:40
4. "Starman" 4:10
5. "It Ain't Easy" (Ron Davies) 2:58
Total length: 20:04
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Lady Stardust" 3:22
7. "Star" 2:47
8. "Hang On to Yourself" 2:40
9. "Ziggy Stardust" 3:13
10. "Suffragette City" 3:25
11. "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" 2:58
Total length: 18:25 38:29


Original albumEdit

Adapted from liner notes of Ziggy Stardust[88] and AllMusic.[89]

Additional personnel



  • Dr. Toby Mountain – remastering engineer (for Rykodisc release)
  • Jonathan Wyner – assistant remastering engineer (for Rykodisc release)
  • Peter Mew – remastering engineer (for EMI release)
  • Nigel Reeve – assistant remastering engineer (for EMI release)
  • George Underwood – artwork

CD releasesEdit

Ziggy Stardust was first released on CD in November 1984 by RCA. The digital master recording was made from the equalised master tapes used for the LP release.[90]

1990 Rykodisc/EMIEdit

Dr. Toby Mountain remastered Ziggy at Northeastern Digital Recording, Southborough, Massachusetts,[91] from the original master tapes for Rykodisc, who released it with five bonus tracks:

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing" (1979 remix of 1972 single) – 2:43
  2. "Velvet Goldmine" (Single B-side from the 1975 RCA re-release of "Space Oddity"; original recording from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars sessions, 1971) – 3:09
  3. "Sweet Head" (Previously unreleased outtake) – 4:14
  4. "Ziggy Stardust" (Demo) – 3:35
  5. "Lady Stardust" (Demo) – 3:35

1999 EMI/VirginEdit

The album was remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios and released on 6 September 1999 by EMI without bonus material – the same track listing as the original LP and 1984 CD release.

2002 EMI/VirginEdit

On 16 July 2002, a 2-disc version was released by EMI/Virgin. The first in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Editions, this release included a newly remastered version as its first CD. The remaster on this edition reverses the left and right stereo channels on the first disc and many of the songs have been edited. Among other things, the three-note bridge between "Ziggy Stardust" and "Suffragette City", and the count-in to "Hang on to Yourself" are missing.[92]

The second disc contains twelve tracks, most of which had been previously released on CD as bonus tracks of the 1990–92 reissues. "Sweet Head" is the same version as on the 1990 reissue, but with extended studio banter in the beginning. The new mix of "Moonage Daydream" was originally done for a 1998 Dunlop television commercial. The bonus tracks:

  1. "Moonage Daydream" (Arnold Corns version) – 3:53
  2. "Hang on to Yourself" (Arnold Corns version) – 2:55
  3. "Lady Stardust" (Demo) – 3:34
  4. "Ziggy Stardust" (Demo) – 3:38
  5. "John, I'm Only Dancing" – 2:49
  6. "Velvet Goldmine" – 3:14
  7. "Holy Holy" (1971 re-recording) – 2:26
  8. "Amsterdam" (Jacques Brel, Mort Shuman) – 3:25
  9. "The Supermen" (Alternate version, recorded for the Glastonbury Fayre in 1971, originally released on Glastonbury Fayre Revelations – A Musical Anthology, 1972[93] and on CD on 1990s Rykodisc/EMI Hunky Dory) – 2:41
  10. "Round and Round" (Chuck Berry) – 2:44
  11. "Sweet Head" – 4:53
  12. "Moonage Daydream" (New mix) – 4:47

All tracks written by David Bowie, except as noted.[92]

At the same time, a hybrid SACD version was released, which includes high resolution stereo and 5.1 mixes.

Personnel (only on tracks where it differs from album)

  • David Bowie – vocals (tracks 1, 2), guitar (tracks 1, 2 and 4,) piano (tracks 1–3)
  • Freddie Burretti – vocals (tracks 1, 2)
  • Peter De Somogyl – bass guitar (tracks 1, 2)
  • Mark Carr Pritchard – guitar (tracks 1, 2)
  • Tim Broadbent – drums (tracks 1, 2)
  • Lindsay Scott – violin (track 5)

2012 EMI/VirginEdit

On 4 June 2012, a "40th Anniversary Edition" was released by EMI/Virgin. This edition was remastered by original Trident Studios' engineer Ray Staff (at London's AIR Studios).

It was made available on CD and a special, limited edition format of vinyl featuring the new 2012 remaster, together with a 5.1 mix and high resolution audio on DVD, including previously unreleased 5.1 and stereo bonus 2003 Ken Scott mixes of the album, as well as of "Moonage Daydream" (instrumental), "The Supermen", "Velvet Goldmine" and "Sweet Head".[94]

The 2012 remaster of the album and the 2003 remix were both included in the 2015 box set Five Years 1969–1973.[95][96] The album, in its 2012 remastering, was also rereleased separately, in 2015–2016, in CD, vinyl, and digital formats.[97]


Weekly chartsEdit

Year Chart Peak position
1972 UK Albums Chart[98] 5
1973 US Billboard 200[99] 75
2016 US Billboard 200[100] 21
2016 US Top Catalog Albums (Billboard)[101] 3


Year Single Chart Peak position
1972 "Starman" UK Singles Chart 10[102]
1972 "Starman" Billboard Pop Singles 65[103]
1974 "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" UK Singles Chart 22[102]

Sales and certificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[104] Platinum 1,500,000[105]
United States (RIAA)[106] Gold $1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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  19. ^ a b c Dates and other informations of tracks, according to Pegg 2016:
    • "Five Years": "'It's Gonna Rain Again' enjoyed its brief moment in the studio on the very same day, 15 November 1971, that 'Five Years' was committed to tape."
    • "It Ain't Easy": "[...] the Ron Davies cover 'It Ain't Easy' [...] [cut] on 9 July 1971 and originally slated for inclusion on Hunky Dory."
    • "Lady Stardust": "'Lady Stardust' was one of the first Ziggy songs to be composed [...]. A stereo demo was recorded at Radio Luxembourg's studios on 9-10 March 1971.", "After an initial recording on 8 November 1971 was deemed unsuccessful, the definitive Ziggy Stardust version was cut three days later."
    • "Moonage Daydream": "David recorded early versions of 'Moonage Daydream' and 'Hang On to Yourseld' at Radio Luxembourg's studios on 25 February.", "[...] the definitive Ziggy version, recorded at Trident on 12 November 1971."
    • "Soul Love": "'Soul Love' was recorded at Trident on 12 November 1971."
    • "Star": "After an initial recording on 8 November 1971 was deemed unsuccessful, the definitive Ziggy Stardust version was taped on 11 November under the working title 'Rock 'n' Roll Star'."
    • "Sweet Head": "'Sweet Head' casts an intriguing light on the album's development. Completed on 11 November 1971, [...]"
    • "Velvet Goldmine": "This [...] out-take was recorded at Trident on 11 November 1971."
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Further readingEdit

  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 

External linksEdit