Bowie and A Lad Insane
David Bowie’s sixth album was released in 1973. It followed his breakthrough album from the previous year: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. This was the first album to be released following his rise to stardom, fortune and glory. It would settle the question whether Bowie was anything more than just his previous release. It also represented his conflict over the nature of fame and stardom and how it affected him. In particular through his tour of the US that inspired many of the tracks on this album. In fact, Bowie described the album as
Ziggy Stardust goes to America.
Recently sprung from school and out on the streets of my youth, charged with testosterone and alcohol, the album was part of my soundtrack. It became the wanton beat to my aimless energy, dancing to a pre-punk nihilism of lost childhood. I played this album as a prelude to my evenings out at the local pubs and clubs, where hope was drained from the bottom of a glass. It was my gap year of dissent, with nothing to do but rebel against whatever was going, especially the Cold War where we were still waiting for some crazy to push the final button.
The decadence and despair of Aladdin Sane is part of that glam rock zeitgeist. With the ephemeral triumph of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane represented its lost innocence and the start of Bowie’s long addiction to cocaine.
The album cover was the most expensive to date, developing an iconic status all of its own, reproduced in posters, studios and galleries across the land. A jagged lightning bolt of red and blue, strikes diagonally across Bowie’s silver hued face. It is a line of separation, indicating Bowie’s conflicted feelings towards his own stardom. He had achieved all he had aspired to, yet was now travelling across the States with a busload of strangers, ill fitting to his introverted nature. The cover depicts the theme of alienation that is central to the album’s music.
Watch That Man kicks off the album in style. It opens with a buzzy riff from Mick Ronson that slams into a full rock out, leaving a trail of broken sleaze in its wake. As with throughout the album, this track was influenced by the Rolling Stones in their Exile on Main…