Initially, a soundtrack to a concert documentary may not seem of the greatest importance. It is David Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, that should, surely, be featuring in this article. However, in 1973 Bowie performed his last ever concert as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, and this is the album that documents that performance, during which Bowie stated ‘not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do.’
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust is often hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time, and certainly one of Bowie’s greatest. It is a concept album that tells a tale of Ziggy Stardust, a rockstar who acts as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings set five years before the end of the earth, who eventually dies of consumption at the end of the album (hence, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’). The album was originally intended by Bowie for a television production or stage show. Ziggy Stardust was created while Bowie was in New York promoting his 1971 album Hunky Dory. That Ziggy Stardust became such a huge part of Bowie’s persona augments the importance of the album that shows him being left behind, which is also part of the reason that the album was recorded in 1973 but not released until 10 years later.
This album coincides with the concert documentary of the same name, released in 1973 by D.A. Pennebaker. The film was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in London on 3rd July 1973, whilst Bowie was promoting his album Aladdin Sane. Bowie’s performance of Ziggy Stardust is characterised by an androgynous figure falling somewhere on the spectrum between human and alien, featuring the iconic lightning bolt makeup seen on the cover of Aladdin Sane, and tight, metallic outfits. It is no wonder that Ziggy became as important a feature of Bowie’s career as he did, making him being left behind a pivotal moment.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack features many songs from the narrative of Ziggy Stardust, ending with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’ as per the 1972 album. Bowie’s words at the end of this concert, terming it the ‘last show’ led many to believe that it was he who was going rather than a splitting of his persona Ziggy. The song is preceded on the album by a recording of Bowie’s farewell speech, which describes the show as one that will remain with them the longest. This achieves a certain sense of sadness and loss to conclude the album when combined with the slowness and clarity of the lyrics in ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.’ The concert is not all doom, gloom and loss though. It features some of Bowie’s most well-known songs, including ‘Changes’ (which can of course be recognised from Dreamworks’ Shrek 2), ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ and ‘Suffragette City.’ Although not a ‘best of’ album, it could be seen to represent some of Bowie’s best work up until that point in his career in the summer of 1973.
Although not an initially obvious album of importance, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack documents an extremely important point in Bowie’s career as he bid farewell to Ziggy Stardust. The album does what only a concert album can do; featuring Bowie’s words throughout, it captures a specific point in Bowie history and preserves it wonderfully.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack was released in October 1983 via RCA Records.