Aladdin Sane (2013 Remaster)

Aladdin Sane (2013 Remaster)

By the dawn of the 1970s, David Bowie had chased fame in so many different ways that he had to invent a fake rock star to become a real one. With 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, he introduced the androgynous alien alter ego that confirmed glam rock’s status as the new Beatlemania, and granted Bowie the kingmaking powers to revive the careers of then-unsung heroes like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Mott the Hoople. Of course, the natural response to a blockbuster hit is to quickly crank out a sequel that delivers more of the same, and Aladdin Sane obliged—up to a point. Written primarily during his first major US tour in 1972 and released the following year, Aladdin Sane was conceived as “Ziggy goes to America”—a stranger-in-a-strange land travelogue that bottles up all the surging euphoria and creeping paranoia of the experience. Though it shot to No. 1 in the UK, and became his first album to crack the Top 20 in the US, Aladdin Sane occupies a peculiar place in the Bowie canon. It’s arguably more famous for its iconic cover image—an eternal source of inspiration for runway shows and Halloween costumes—than its contents. Aside from the jackboot stomper “The Jean Genie,” the songs on Aladdin Sane are largely excluded from classic-rock radio playlists and mythmaking compilations like ChangesOneBowie. (The fact that rollicking opener “Watch That Man” isn’t widely considered a glam standard on par with “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City” is a grave injustice.) But while it comes loaded with some of guitarist Mick Ronson’s toughest and heartiest riffs, Aladdin Sane displaces the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am swagger of its predecessor with ominous portraits of social unrest (”Panic in Detroit”) and faded celebrity (“Cracked Actor”) that provide a looking-glass glimpse into this turbulent moment for Bowie and America at large. Just three months after Aladdin Sane’s release, Bowie famously staged his rock ’n’ roll suicide at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, announcing the demise of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider From Mars to the shock of thousands of weeping fans. But after hearing Aladdin Sane’s ghostly title track, they shouldn’t have been so surprised. Featuring an astonishing free-jazz piano solo from Mike Garson, the song clearly communicates Bowie’s desire to break free—not just from glam hysteria, but from rock ’n’ roll itself.

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