5 Albums I'd Like to Read
If this one comes as a surprise, I'm not sure what to say. Few musicians have been as conscious of character as David Bowie, and Ziggy Stardust is arguably the most iconic figure to emerge from the annals of concept album history. In interesting ways, Ziggy Stardust is full of pinwheeling fractals of intertwining meaning, connecting the arc of the story to the arc of Bowie's career, to the nature of rock music, and back again.
As a concept, it falters, but this is not necessarily a weakness. Defined as it is by bombast, it is a perfect macrocosm to the story of Ziggy, himself, torn apart (literally, as it were) by his own ambition. There's so much backstory to the thing that it creates its own built in fan fiction, if one can create one's own fan fiction (Ziggy would, no doubt), but very little of this actually bears out in the album. Grand, slightly misunderstood plans wrest the creation from the grasp of its maker, spiraling it out of control in blindingly confusing yet brilliant fashion.
If you look at all that backstory (start with this amazing Rolling Stone interview between Bowie and William S. Burroughs), it's easy to see how the fact that the story doesn't pan out plays perfectly into the story itself. Paranoid, floundering, lost, its characters want so desperately to hold onto something that they'll grasp at any sign of meaning. It's like a glimpse of the schizophrenic zeitgeist, rendered terribly cohesive in its utter lack of cohesion.
Given the story's (and, naturally, the album's) fractured nature and innate fixation on style as substance, Ziggy Stardust belongs in a graphic novel. As my brother Zack so aptly put it, "I always wondered why someone hasn't made this into some super trippy anime bullshit." Picture Ziggy, his "screwed-up eyes and screwed-down hairdo," staring out at you from glossy-paged panels.
"Well hung and snow white tan," a voice-bubbled sex symbol, prophesying first the end of days, then a salvation that never comes. The grit, glamor, and grandiosity would never come across in text alone, but would shine, gaudy and wonderful, in comic form. I have no doubt the Starman would approve, right before he tore the pages from their binding, incorporated them into his incorporeal self, and disappeared from our universe.