How David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' was received then and now - 50 years on from release

music news 17/06/2022

David Bowie’s fifth studio album, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’, was released on this day fifty years ago.

The album, well known as simply ‘Ziggy Stardust’, contains many of Bowie’s most well-known tracks.

Classics like ‘Starman’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’ were all gifted to the world half a century ago today.

Many view it as the album that thrust Bowie into superstardom. Nicholas Pegg, who wrote a biography on Bowie - ‘The Complete David Bowie’ - said that despite it not being Bowie’s best album, it was hugely influential on music and culture at the time.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ made [Bowie] a household name and left a milestone on the highway of popular music,

“‘[It rewrote] the terms of the performer’s contract with his audience and ushering in a new approach to rock’s relationship with artifice and theatre that permanently altered the cultural aesthetic of the twentieth century,” he said in a revised version of the biography in 2016, after the artist's death.

It’s viewed very favourably now, with Rolling Stone Magazine ranking it as the 40th best album of all time in their 2020 list, but when it first came out, the album received lukewarm reviews and rankings in the charts - peaking at number five in the UK and number 75 in the US.

‘Rolling Stone’ writer Richard Cromelin said that he enjoyed the album, but thought it might not have lasting value.

“We should all say a brief prayer that his fortunes are not made to rise and fall with the fate of the ‘drag-rock’ syndrome”.

The album cover is unique and aesthetically mysterious, just like Bowie himself, and added to the intrigue of the album.

It came about during a recording session for the album when Bowie strolled down the street and stood outside a fur shop called ‘K. West’. It was there that the iconic photo was snapped.

K. West were originally unhappy with their business being featured on the cover, sending a letter to the record label saying:

“Our clients are furriers of high repute who deal with a cliente generally far removed from the pop music world."

"Our clients certainly have no wish to be associated with Mr. Bowie or this record as it might be assumed that there was some connection between our client’s firm and Mr. Bowie, which is certainly not the case.”

Soon though, they were fine with it, as tourists would visit the store to recreate the photo themselves.

When K. West moved sites, they took the sign with them, which Bowie was disappointed with since fans seemed to love it and even glorify it to a certain degree.

It’s such a shame that the sign [was removed]. People read so much into it. They thought ‘K. West’ must be some sort of code for ‘quest’. It took on all these sorts of mythical overtones.

The album has certainly stood the test of time, reaching number 20 in the NZ charts over 40 years after its release in 2016, after Bowie passed away.

Give it a listen tonight and relive the story of Ziggy Stardust and Bowie’s transcendent musical talent.