Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My Story Goes... Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

I encountered David Bowie for the first time by accident. In the U.S. in the early 70s, Bowie was an unknown. The rock scene in the states was dictated at the time by AOR radio which embraced early Springsteen and Patti Smith, The Who (but only Tommy), Elton John and Fleetwood Mac, but Bowie flew under the radar. His only radio play, with one obvious exception, would come in the off-hours (I remember a live broadcast of the Santa Monica Civic concert on The King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1972). The exception, of course, was the limited radio play of "Space Oddity," a 1969 U.K. release from the eponymously titled LP that wasn't released in the States until 1972 (with the new title Space Oddity). I was the only misfit in my school to embrace the single but didn’t know the song's name.

I ventured out with allowance monies to the Licorice Pizza and mistakenly bought The Man Who Sold the World, Bowie’s heaviest and loudest effort until Tin Men. While it wasn't my bent, the brash and wonderful "Width of a Circle" was too much for my 10-year old sensibilities (not to mention the frightening "She Shook Me Cold"), I was intrigued by the funky beat of "Black Country Rock" and especially embraced "All the Madmen" and listened to it all day long. 

Still, I'd spent my hard-earned money (washing dishes) and didn't get the song I wanted. On a subsequent Sunday, I recorded the track from America's Top 40 with Kasey Kasem on a kids reel to reel and a few days later my brother snagged The Man Who Sold the World and took it to one of his pot parties. I never got it back.

My brother's trick was always to buy LPs he liked for my birthday or Christmas. Then he'd borrow them. While I could resent that little ploy, it accounted for some of the most enlightening moments in my musical rearing. Among those LPs he gave me was King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King (the album cover so frightening I didn't listen to it), Burt Bacharach's Reach Out and Blood Sweat and Tears. Then on my birthday in November '72, he gave me Ziggy Stardust. I was 11, and oh my God, it was a story. It was like the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits or like Crack in the World. It was loud and it was meant to be. On the back, it said "TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME." Too young to truly appreciate Sgt. Pepper when it came out and a decade too soon for Pet Sounds, Ziggy was the first truly meaningful album that I'd ever heard. And, as the story goes, it was on that day that music became an integral part of who I was and have remained nearly 50 years later.  

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