History-making occasions are inclined to develop into extra apparent as soon as context develops. This definitely holds true in music. While some actions are clearly earth-shattering within the second — to call a number of, Beatlemania, punk and the ascent of Nirvana — their true influence takes some time to sink in. For instance, it was simple to see that Nirvana would develop into the form of rock band that outlined a era — however who may’ve predicted the 2022 resurgence of the band’s brooding album lower “Something In the Way” because of the film “The Batman”?
In the summer season of 1972, these glam innovators set rock ‘n’ roll on a cosmic trajectory from which it is nonetheless in orbit.
Momentous days additionally develop into identified largely in hindsight. Take June 16, 1972, which is broadly thought-about to be the discharge date of two of crucial albums of all time: Roxy Music’s self-titled debut and David Bowie’s “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” The coincidence is gobsmacking — and, relying in your supply, this date may very effectively be too good to be true — though what’s not in query is that this: In the summer season of 1972, these glam innovators set rock ‘n’ roll on a cosmic trajectory from which it is nonetheless in orbit.
Roxy Music had solely been a band for a bit of over a 12 months after they recorded their debut with Peter Sinfield, King Crimson’s lyricist and co-founder. “Re-Make/Re-Model” set the tone for each the album and Roxy Music’s profession. The music opens with crowd noise that seems like a hopping completely happy hour earlier than Bryan Ferry’s jubilant piano broadcasts musical revelry: Andy Mackay’s twirling tenor saxophone, Phil Manzanera’s scorching electrical guitar, Brian Eno’s synthesizer scribbles. The music hints at lacking their probability with a mysterious “she” that could possibly be interpreted to be a lady — however may additionally signify the methods Roxy embraced the longer term: “Looking again all I did was look away/Next time is the perfect time everyone knows”
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That doesn’t suggest “Roxy Music” is reinventing the wheel musically; in distinction, the band took current musical types and filtered them by means of an experimental, contemporary lens. That’s definitely largely due to Eno, a synth mad scientist who delighted in processing and manipulating acquainted sounds and coaxing otherworldly sounds from cutting-edge synths. But different songs had apparent antecedents: “If There Is Something” boasts a flippantly twanging intro; “Would You Believe?” each polishes up ’50s rock and finds Ferry vamping like his beloved Motown and soul idols; and Humphrey Bogart tribute “2 H.B.” places a solemn sheen on zone-out psychedelic atmosphere.
Phil Manzanera, Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay (seated) Brian Eno, Rik Kenton and Paul Thompson (seated) of Roxy Music posed group shot on the Royal College Of Art video studio in London on July 5 1972 (Brian Cooke/Redferns/Getty Images)
[Roxy Music] took current musical types and filtered them by means of an experimental, contemporary lens.
Lyrically as effectively, Ferry explores a timeless trope — love — though his takes supplied a extra complicated view of pursuit and attraction. “Ladytron” includes a louche man who loves (and leaves) a lady, whereas different songs come collectively to color an image of a hopeless romantic who has pangs of regrets and longs for higher relationship days, though that is not at all times possible. But buoyed by the data that fairy-tale endings do not exist, the characters on “Roxy Music” exude a extra susceptible form of masculinity: “But even angels there make the identical errors in love/In love, in love.”
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If “Roxy Music” felt like a starting, “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” was meant as an ending. That’s comprehensible: It was truly Bowie’s fifth LP, and he had already cycled by means of his people, psych-rock and proto-glam guises earlier than touchdown on his Ziggy persona. As with “Roxy Music,” there have been some apparent nods to the previous (bluesy rock ‘n’ roll, the Beatles-reminiscent “It Ain’t Easy,” solemn gentle rock) though these influences felt extra trendy. Bowie and his band cannibalized themselves — in hindsight, it really feel like a pure sonic development from 1971’s “Aladdin Sane” — and up to date traits, just like the proto-punk of the Stooges, for inspiration. Mick Ronson’s swaggering electrical guitar, introspective piano and string preparations possess a readability of execution and intent matched by the swinging rhythm part of bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey.
The thematic arc of “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” that of a flamboyant rock star navigating fame’s minefields and their very own unhealthy behaviors, explored a darker aspect of romance: a dalliance with intoxicating self-sabotage and the seduction of the highlight. Bowie inhabited this persona together with his complete self, drawing on his malleable vocal strategy to convey a spread of feelings: the ferocious melodramatic chanteuse of “Ziggy Stardust,” demure crooner of “Starman,” stinging rock god of “Suffragette City” and the determined, craving idol within the midst of free-fall in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.”
The thematic arc of “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” … explored a darker aspect of romance: a dalliance with intoxicating self-sabotage and the seduction of the highlight.
In the UK, “Roxy Music” peaked at No. 10 on the charts. “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” in the meantime, additionally carried out effectively, crashing the UK charts at No. 15 for the interval of June 25-July 1, the highest-charting debut of that week, and finally reaching No. 5.
Both bands additionally had high-profile Top of the Pops appearances that summer season, with Bowie’s July efficiency of “Starman” adopted by Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” in August. Of course, these performances revealed it wasn’t simply the music, however their appears to be like that made these acts such sensations. Ferry’s Elvis-from-Mars look was nearly understated in comparison with the remainder of the band’s glittering and gleaming outfits. Bowie’s colourful look and renegade strategy — together with his bodily familarity with Mick Ronson on TOTP — upended masculinity another way than Roxy Music. As Ziggy, he was playful and conspiratorial, coy and assured. His androgynous look confirmed folks prospects and choices — that 1, and there have been some ways to be a rock star and a human on the earth.
As it was with many bands from England, reception in America was completely different. Roxy Music’s debut album did not attain the U.S. charts in 1972; up to now, it nonetheless hasn’t graced the primary Billboard album chart. (It did hit No. 19 on the Vinyl Albums chart in 2020.) Support for the band got here from extra adventurous retailers, just like the Cleveland radio station WMMS, who acknowledged how Roxy slot in with the remainder of the forward-looking musical pantheon. Later Roxy Music albums would not less than chart, though the band’s popularity definitely nonetheless has room to develop in America.
Guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder, David Bowie and drummer Mick Woodmansey of “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” pose for a portrait in November 1972 in London, England. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
As it was with many bands from England, reception in America was completely different … It’s clear that Ziggy’s myth-making was already in progress in 1972.
David Bowie is one other story. “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” in the meantime, debuted at No. 196 on the Billboard album charts the week of June 17, 1972, after effervescent beneath the primary chart at No. 207 the week earlier than. (These chart placements probably debunk claims of a mid-June U.S. launch date, though the official Bowie web site discovered record label correspondence to nail down a June 16 UK launch.) It finally peaked at No. 21 — though that prime water mark occurred within the weeks after Bowie’s 2016 passing.
However, it is clear that Ziggy’s myth-making was already in progress in 1972. In a June 3 evaluate of “Starman,” Cash Box praised the music, writing that it “proves fairly actually that the perfect rock is just not of this world, however is moderately ‘hazy cosmic jive.’ Should outshine ‘Changes’ in its stellar orbit to the highest, establishing a brand new famous person in our galaxy.” Record World additionally gushed in regards to the single, which was backed by “Suffragette City”: “Another two-sided area oddity from the primary nice British famous person of the ’70s; a pleasant teen-tune backed with risque rocker. Forget it, Bowie’s acquired it.”
The June 10, 1972, subject of Billboard additionally featured a glowing evaluate of the “Ziggy Stardust” LP: “Nineteen and Seventy-Two might effectively go down because the 12 months Davy Bowie put the glitter and glamour again into rock. He is sort of [an, sic] indestructibly delicate lyricist in popdom. Already an avant-garde famous person, this album will make him accessible to the plenty for house consumption.” That mainstream saturation did not fairly occur, not less than not but — however Ziggy’s (and, by extension, Bowie’s) popularity was already beginning to crystallize.
Yet in the present day, each of those albums nonetheless reverberate all through trendy music. That’s partly as a result of so many UK punk and post-punk artists impressed by Bowie and Roxy are nonetheless lively — to call a number of, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, and Toyah. However, these LPs confirmed that you would construct on musical blueprints and provide you with a wholly new strategy; “Ziggy Stardust” proved that idea albums may work if the songwriting is powerful sufficient. And each demonstrated that being fiercely unique does repay finally — as soon as the remainder of the world catches up along with your greatness and creativity.
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