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2023 Albums Thing #025 - David Bowie “Aladdin Sane”

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Or Ziggy Goes To America…Bowie and the Spiders toured extensively from the release of “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”, including 3 spins around the UK, Japan and two tours of the USA. For the first US tour between September and December 1972 pianist Mike Garson was added to the Spiders line up and he would play a big part on Bowie’s next record. Many of the songs for the record were written on the road and with a lot of that time being spent in America the country had an influence on the record, notably songs concerning drive-ins and Detroit. The second US tour wound up in Hollywood in March 1973, just a month before the release of “Aladdin Sane”.

Most of the album was recorded at Trident Studios in London between December 1972 and January 1973, squeezed in between US tours and after the band finished playing 8 shows around the UK from London up to Glasgow. However the first song recorded for the album was “The Jean Genie” in October 1972, recorded in NYC and mixed a week later in Nashville. A couple of weeks later “Drive-In Saturday” was also recorded in New York and the band reconvened after the UK shows to finish recordings before heading back to the US for the 2nd leg of what had become known as The Ziggy Stardust tour.

In here we find two absolutely classic singles (“Drive-In Saturday” and “The Jean Genie” which was so good The Sweet lifted most of it and called it “Blockbuster” !), two very under-valued Bowie songs (the title track where Mike Garson is allowed absolutely free rein, and “Lady Grinning Soul” which is, to my ears, one of the greatest songs Bowie ever wrote and Mike Garson’s playing is beautiful), a re-recorded oldie (“The Prettiest Star” previously a single in early 1970, then featuring Marc Bolan but now re-invigorated by Mick Ronson), another stinker of a cover version (The Stones “Let’s Spend The Night Together” why, just why ?) and some good old glam rocking (“Watch That Man”, “Panic In Detroit” and “Cracked Actor” which was to become one of Bowie’s great set piece live songs for years to come). Also let’s not forget “Time” if only for the amount of sniggering it has engendered in school age boys across the years.

But if you mention “Aladdin Sane” then one thing comes to mind, the cover (apparently the most expensive album cover made at the time), not even the cover but Bowie’s face and not even Bowie’s face but that red and blue lightning bolt, drawn in lipstick across his face by makeup artist Pierre La Roche. It has come to represent Bowie, when you see it in isolation you immediately think BOWIE, you can buy all kinds of merchandise from earrings to socks featuring the lightning bolt, it now lives a life of its own without even needing Bowie’s face for you to know what it is and what it represents.

This was the last time the Spiders From Mars would all record together. Mike Garson would go on to work with Bowie right up until the end. Ronno, Woody and Trevor were destined for other things and Bowie was about to make some of the greatest music of his career.

Lady Grinning Soul - https://youtu.be/18d_pLKgMoY

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