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

God, I don’t want to write any more about this album after taking that entire class on Bowie, but it definitely belongs on this list. Bowie’s follow-up to his excellent albums The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory may not have kept their complexity, but it had a real direction. Ziggy Stardust, a combination of Vince Taylor, Gene Vincent, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange, and the entire nation of Japan, is the rockstar at the end of the world, and he watches everything humanity has made crash while hoping that contact with aliens will prevent the apocalypse. I’m not going to spoil how it turns out, but it’s a crazy album, from the excellent waltz of “Five Years” which begins the album (seems rock operas like opening in waltz) to the catharsis of “Rock n’ Roll Suicide”, the waltz which ends the album. Bowie’s always emotional, especially in the way Ziggy pleads with us, and emotional lyrics of all kinds abound on this album; it’s why so many of us can recite every word of “Starman”, the cosmic epic with one of the most joyful choruses of all time. “Moonage Daydream” is a great track as well, and I’d encourage any guitarist to learn that D-F# opening, which makes the listener ask “What’s going on?” over some full stops before resolving to a Bm. The harmony is always raw, basic, and hard-hitting, from the brilliant key changes of “Ziggy Stardust” (G major to A minor) and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (C major to C# minor to an ending of nonfunctional movement) to the fast, coalescent resolutions of “Star”, “It Ain’t Easy”, and “Soul Love”. I can’t go on without mentioning “Suffragette City”, a brilliant fast song with that typical I-VIb-VIIb vamp, but this whole album is wonderful. Camp pervades every one of these songs, bringing the listener into a loving play they’ll never outgrow. This album has so many awesome, memorable moments, and the air of utter despair that pervades this story of apocalyptic anthems compels you to just dance.

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