“If the house was on fire and I could only grab one David Bowie album, I’d die for sure because I’d be stuck there trying to make up my mind. Or maybe I’d just be f***ing honest with myself and grab Diamond Dogs, because I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the one I’ve listened to the most over the years, the one that doesn’t even begin to have a weak or misguided moment, the one I’ve never seemed to grow even slightly allergic to, perhaps because it’s so witheringly uninterested in being pleasant. And Sweet-Thing-Candidate-Sweet-Thing (the mini-epic that takes up most of side one) is the high water mark.
The Ziggy alien is long gone by now. This new Bowie creature is very much earthbound – half human, half dog, and rolling in the muck and mire of an apocalyptic hellscape that’s equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dali, and George Orwell. And he’s running for political office,. He wants to be Big Brother. Which is sort of the concept here. Diamond Dogs being the album that was originally intended to be an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, but Mr. Bowie couldn’t secure the rights, so it ended up being its own uniquely dark and harrowing thing. And yet there’s a sweetness at the heart of it, a sorrow even, a sliver of soul and humanity that suggests maybe all is not lost. Not yet anyway. Welcome to the early-middle part of the 1970s, the outlook may be grim, but damn, if the noise isn’t superlative.” (Philip Random)
“At first I wasn’t even going to include anything from Ziggy Stardust on this list. It just seemed inconceivable that there was anybody who hadn’t already heard it all perhaps way too many times. But then Five Years popped up on an old mix tape and young Tracy (who isn’t even that young) said, is this John Lennon? Five Years being the 1972 song in which David Bowie accurately predicted the end of the world in 1977. Which I realize is a confusing fact to lay down, particularly to those born since 1977. Just trust me, it’s true. This is not the same world as before. Something very odd happened in 1977 and we’ve all been spinning in weird gravity ever since.” (Philip Random)
“A song with the word bitch in the title in 1971!? It wasn’t done (unless you were the Rolling Stones). And to be honest, I didn’t actually hear Queen Bitch until 1973. Just one more element of that tidal wave of brilliance and threat that kept coming our way with Mr. David Bowie‘s name attached in the latter part of the early 70s. Who was this stranger, this alien, this queen, this bitch? What the hell was going on? I was still fumbling around with puberty at the time. I believe it was exactly what I needed to hear.” (Philip Random)
“As the story goes, David Bowie’s first post-Ziggy Stardust album was supposed to be a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, but he couldn’t secure the rights, so it morphed into Diamond Dogs which was its own weird, extreme thing with a few explicitly 1984 songs included in the mix, including the climactic Big Brother that manages to get quite epic before things go deeply off kilter with the Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family. Which is not just some b-grade horror stuff. It’s real. I’ve heard that infernal family, while deep inside the wrong kind of acid trip, the ‘I’m Dead’ kind, the kind you just want to end, but it goes on for millions of years, with all these wraith-like forms howling at you forever, because you’re dead, you died, this is what comes next. Which I suppose is relevant to 1984. What it feels like to get stomped in the face with a boot. Forever. Great music though.” (Philip Random)
“David Bowie at his rawest, glammest, most rockingest. The time I saw him do Cracked Actor live, he sang it to a skull, a cracked actor indeed. Or was he an alien? Aladdin Sane being the last of Ziggy albums that wasn’t all cover tunes. Either way, it was a harder rock than pretty much anyone was delivering at the time, except maybe Iggy and Stooges … and almost nobody knew they even existed.” (Philip Random)
Pin-Ups, the last of the Ziggy-era Bowie albums, was an all covers affair, in which the thin, strange alien paid tribute to the musical heroes of his youth. As a whole, the album’s not his greatest, feeling pretty tossed off overall. But the take on Here Comes The Night is superb. Loud and brash, a full-on show-stopper that at least matches the original. Which is pretty amazing when you consider Van Morrison sang that. How often has he been equaled?
“As I’ve heard it argued, Aladdin Sane (the album) is song-for-song the best of the Ziggy-era Bowie albums. Yet as a whole, it somehow doesn’t add up the way the previous two do, and thus hasn’t gotten heard as much. Which is great for our purposes as it gives us a bunch of cool non-allergenic gems, like the genuinely insane title track, particularly the part where it goes all free jazz toward the end. Stratospheres over my teenage head when I first heard it. But I listened anyway. It was David f***ing Bowie.” (Philip Random)
The Solid Time of Change is our overlong yet incomplete history of the so-called Prog Rock era – 661 selections from 1965 through 1979 with which we hope to do justice to a strange and ambitious time indeed, musically speaking.
Part Thirty-Three of the journey went as follows:
Jethro Tull – skating away on the thin ice of a new day
David Bowie – starman
David Bowie – moonage daydream
Hawkwind – space is deep
Jon Anderson – flight of the moorglade
Jon Anderson – solid space
Jon Anderson – Moon Ra
Jon Anderson – song of search
Yes – Remembering the Ancient
Gong – psychological overture
Gong – The Isle of Everywhere
Gong – master builder
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