David Bowie's seminal Ziggy Stardust album marks its 40th anniversary.
"Watch out you rock 'n'rollers
Pretty soon you're gonna get older."
"I guess you still have to pay for the past,
but it's much better medicated."
When David Bowie released his fictional persona, Ziggy Stardust, into the world on June 6, 1972, I was all of 14 years old. It was a turbulent time in my life on a number of levels.
It had not been a year since my father's sudden passing, my mother had remarried and we decided to move from Pennsylvania to what seemed to be the deep south - a place called Charleston, West Virginia. I was enrolled in a new school and pitifully trying to fit in while awkwardly being called "the new kid" every five minutes.
When I became friends with Charlie, I found a comrade not only in music, but in photography, graphic art and even martial arts. Charlie was as intuitive as me and just as eclectic.
One afternoon, we found ourselves gathered in a friend's basement and on the stereo, playing at wall-shaking volume, was something so different, so odd and yet so compelling that I had to know what it was.
I was informed that this was Bowie's new album and what did I think? Needless to say, I was in shock. I knew David Bowie from Space Oddity like everyone else, but this was not a pleasant looking chap with a red shag haircut singing about a mishap in space, this was a whole new world.
From the Ziggy inner sleeve: Bowie and the Spiders From Mars. This was not the Fab Four, babe.
With the black lights making their eerie glow and a strobe light making a jumble of time and movement, Ziggy's androgynous voice was the guide through what seemed to be startling new musical territory. A rock music that rocked, but was buttressed by attention to instrumentation (craftily mixing hard rock guitars with acoustic ones) with lyrics that gave you pause ("Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into to his mind, like a leper messiah." We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.) and hooks that leapt out and seared into your mind.
I remember so clearly that I held the album, looking over it again and again, as if I could understand this alien invasion.
I could not. All I knew was that my parents were going to go mental if I brought this album home. Jimi Hendrix was already a confirmed "no" at our household. Oh yes, we could play music, but my step-father would often burst in and yell at us: "You call that music?"
Why, yes, I did and I still do.
Forty years later, this is still some of my favorite Bowie and some of my favorite music.
P.S. Ryko released an edition of Ziggy that had some really cool bonus tracks like acoustic demo versions of "Lady Stardust" and "Ziggy Stardust." Audiophiles, obnoxious as they can be sometimes, love to expouse their not-so-humble experiences on Amazon about which remastered edition is best, but use your own judgement. Those creeps don't really like music anyway.Like a leper messiah