david bowie and all the old dudes...the last of a trilogy

In one week.....The Beach Boys, Neil Young and now...David Bowie. I wrote about the first two already and wasn't blown away by neither of them. Beautiful moments indeed, but poor choices mars (not Mars) each. And then I get this Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars remastered disc in the mail, celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the release and damn...it's a keeper. What a smooth move to not go in and do some new fangled sounds, but to take a classic album and sonically clean it up with studio pixie dust. 

(I could probably include Paul Simon's Graceland remaster as well in this post, but then it wouldn't be a trilogy and I'd have to change the title so I'll keep it the way I started it.)

David Bowie. Nothing to do with roots music or Americana or surf or acoustic or folk. Glitter and glam fairy (a Jerseylicious reference) rock from the early seventies that is as anti-anti as anything we here at No Dep-ville say that we like. Some of you must be cringing this wasted space that we could best be using for more about Neil or Bob or Gram or Alejandro or Townes or any number of our hunky dory heroes (a Bowie reference). 

But once upon a time when I was just a young Deadhead before they even came up with that term, the east coast promotion man for RCA Records laid tickets on me for every night - three of them in a row - that Bowie debuted Ziggy and The Spiders from Mars, with Mott The Hoople opening up for them. Long haired, denim bells and cowboy boots...I didn't quite fit in with the boys and girls in dresses and makeup that lined up outside the Tower Theater in Upper Darby. I thought I was going to some stupid concert, but I walked into a movement. Glam. Wham. Bam. 

Mott blew the hair off my back and were one of the most powerful bands I'd ever seen live. And when Bowie comes out in just a suit with a sax around his neck to play on "All The Young Dudes" it was a dark cherry chocolate moment. Rich and deep sound as the walls pulsed in and out. Electricity in the air and then the theater went dark for a moment, the lights came up and they were gone. And we waited for the man.


Except for a carnival sideshow I went to as a little kid and saw a two-headed man, bearded lady and lizard skinned kid, Bowie in full Ziggy regalia was as if...as if...as if...he had just landed from Mars. A strange alien creature. The Dead and New Riders and the Stones and the Byrds and Gram and Pete Seeger and Dylan and Spooky Tooth and Duane Allman....none of those guys looked like David Bowie. They just played music. Ok....maybe Alice Cooper, the Fugs and Mothers and a few others were hitting up mommy's closet too, but nothing like this. And here it is almost 40 years ago and I can remember every note, every song, every move. I was transfixed and bewildered and no...I didn't trade in my acoustic and stop playing bluegrass and folk music. But I was psychedelicized by the performances. 

Now let me tell you about Dynaflex. RCA called it a "flexible formulation" that made your records lay flatter on the turntable. Less breakage and warping. And, oh by the way, much lighter and cheaper to ship. And the funny little secret about this disc was that the plastic shrink wrap would tighten up and actually increase warpage...making your record look like a post-modern ashtray made in high school pottery class. And it made the sound go wah wah wah wah wah. From 1969 to 1980 those little Nippers' at RCA pushed it on us like heroin in Needle Park. 

So to the point or stylus if you must: 40 years after the fact we have a remastered Ziggy album released that sounds the way it's supposed to sound and you know what? Screw Neil Young and his Americana grunge and the Beach Boys' "let's prop up Brian and suck his blood again" album and listen to me: if you want to re-experience your youth and wax nostalgic about the old days, get this one for sure. I'm hearing sounds on it that I've never, ever heard before. And although I'm not a huge Bowie fan, for three nights in 1972 this was the shit. As I sit here and listen to it all cleaned up and pretty...consider me a happy little spider. 





Views: 1741

Tags: David Bowie, Easy Ed, Mott The Hoople, Tower Theater, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars

Comment by Mainy on June 11, 2012 at 9:36am


Bowie doing Ziggy is my time machine gig....well one of my time machine gigs.

If I had one I would have been front and centre.

Always great to hear from people who were there.

I did however see Mott the Hoople on the first of their run of London gigs when they reformed for a tour.


Comment by Pete on June 11, 2012 at 11:09am

...would have loved to have seen even one Bowie show from Ziggy...closest i came was at Forest Hills Tennis stadium in '83 I worked the tear-down from his Serious Moonlite tour -- but didn't see the show!  I like several cuts on Neil's Americana record -- the reimagining of those songs is interesting and shows his perpetual willingness to bombard his listeners with new notions of how music can be heard...anyone know what Bowie's up to lately?  I read the tome on him that came out a couple of years ago, and it seems he's creatively, well, uncreative, for some years now...thanks for redirecting me to Ziggy and the Spyderz...

Comment by Mainy on June 11, 2012 at 11:59am

Biggest mistake I made was selling my Glass Spider ticket.

Hindsight is 20-20 of course.

I also missed out on seeing him front Tin Machine in the Glasgow Barrowlands.

A much dismissed project from him, but I'll happily march out of time and say I liked both TM albums.

No idea what he is doing now Pete.

Last I heard he was claiming to be retired, and his recent birthday went past without him making a public appearance. 

Comment by Jack on June 11, 2012 at 3:14pm
I can't stand Bowie's music and never did understand the hoopla about his various personas, which to me were no more interesting than frigging Bono's Fly or McPhisto or whatever his alter egos were later called. With that said, I do enjoy reading your writing Ed, I am often amused, entertained and learn a thing or two, this piece included, despite the subject, not because of it.
Comment by Jamie on June 12, 2012 at 3:41am

Would have loved to see Ziggy in full flight ... Alladin Sane was my introduction to him, and have seen him several times, but I think Ziggy was the zenith.

I have it on good authority that The Thin White Duke is not a well Hero.  Heart problems mean that he won't perform again, and he was always more excited, so I am told, by the performance aspects of his work than by the songwriting and recording, so he won't write if he can't get on stage to perform the songs.

Thanks again Ed, I always enjoy the flow of your words.

Comment by Christopher Coolidge on June 12, 2012 at 5:07am

Bowie's dignified and old enough that maybe his only career move is to do a country album his way. The closest he's come so far is some of the more folksy material on Hunky Dory and the bluisiness of some of Let's Dance, thanks to Stevie Ray. Otherwise I can't think of anybody less country than David Bowie, but a "fake country"  album from David might just work as an artistic statement, from Bowie everything's an artistic statement. He's done everything else, that's why he's pretty much retired these days. Not much left for him to do without repeating or parodying himself. Even Queen's done countryish stuff, mostly some of the songs Brian May sang himself.

Comment by James West on June 12, 2012 at 6:12am

I had a copy of Nilsson Schmilsson on Dynaflex.  You could bend the record clear around until its edges touched each other.  Ziggy is a great record and I look forward to hearing this version with headphones;  if I was going to a desert island though, I'd grab Hunky Dory first.  It's a better singalong record :-)

Comment by RP N10 on June 12, 2012 at 7:58am

Not such a stretch - Alejandro wouldn't have been Alejandro without Mott the Hoople and way fewer people would have heard Mott without Bowie.  The vision for Mott was Dylan meets the Stones while Bowie had a Song for Bob Dylan on Hunky Dory.  Coincidentally I was listening to my original (UK) RCA copy of Ziggy a month or so back and was struck by how much is going on there musically.  Not Dynaflex - that was import only in the UK and generally involved  many returns due to the tendency to skip through the grooves unless the arm was weighted down so it cut through the vinyl like an icebreaker almost to the point of playing side 2 backwards instead.  OTOH as sales dept probably got bonus for shipments (ignoring returns) they'd likley have loved the format.

Comment by eafinct on June 12, 2012 at 9:36am

My best friend in high school in 1970 or so loved Mott the Hoople -- I didn't get it.  The girl across the hall in the dorm in 1973 love Bowie -- I didn't get it.   I was busy listening to Hot Tuna and Steve Goodman -- well, who could blame me? 


But, now I love "Sufragette City" and "All the Young Dudes", and yes, I finally get it!

Comment by Daniel T on June 12, 2012 at 1:11pm

Mott the Hoople I got right away. Their cover of Sonny Bono's "Laugh At Me" off their 1st LP was marvelous. Ian Hunter and the boys nailed it, and made me appreciate Mr. Bono as a writer. I've been a Mott fan ever since.

"Ziggy" was the only Bowie LP I did "get" right away. I usually end up loving David's releases only years after they 1st come out. Takes me that long to "get" him. But "Ziggy" was an instant classic.


You need to be a member of No Depression Americana and Roots Music to add comments!

Join No Depression Americana and Roots Music


If you enjoy this site please consider helping us with a small donation!

Don't like PayPal? Mail a check to: No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

When you shop at Amazon please enter through this search box and No Depression receives a referral fee



Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.