Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie

"There's a starman waiting in the sky"
-David Bowie , "Starman"

Concept albums were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall are probably the most known examples today -thanks to Roger Waters' endless World tour, which is nothing else than the rock version of Cirque du Soleil.

David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust is a vague concept album about some kind of alien who lives in the Earth, which will disappear in 5 years as a result of ecologic exhaustion. Concept albums are disappearing. The main reason is the business model inherent to music in MP3 music, which tries to sell as many units of a song as possible instead of albums. But probably there is something about the existential vacuum lived by people since the Berlin Wall came down: people simply don't have any stories to tell since we are now living in the End of History.

Though Ziggy Stardust is inevitably included in any list of the best albums ever recorded, some of the songs now sound like Wayne's World, which is partly a tribute to Bowie.

Ziggy Stardust represents Bowie's glam period, which can be summarized as shiny and stretchy clothes wrapping an extremely skinny body jumping around the scenario and singing happy songs.  Bowie's success in the 70s was a consequence of his dressing style as much as it was of his music. Marylin Manson would try to copy glam's visual style in Mechanical Animals 25 years later.

Ziggy Stardust must be in anyone's Ipod, if anything else because of its tremendous reputation, and also because it represents an interesting period in popular music: a transition between the happy 60s and the most retrospective 70s. Hang Onto Yourself is probably the best testimony of a song made up of happy music and sad lyrics:


  1. Qué me dices de Gorillaz? Su mezcla de historieta y música me parece muy interesante, en la línea de The Wall. No sé si exista algo así en México ahora..
    Por cierto, ya leíste Opening Mexico, the making of a democracy? Lo saqué el otro día de la biblio: highly recommendable.

  2. Excelente observación: Gorillaz está en esa tradición.
    Dudo que exista algo parecido en México.
    Opening Mexico tendrá que esperar. Ahora estoy leyendo A Monetary History of the United States, escrito por el diablo Milton Friedman