David Bowie: Aladdin Sane 40th Anniversary Remaster
Aladdin Sane 40th Anniversary Remaster
It starts with an all-night party and ends with a mind-blowing sexual tryst. If you thought Ziggy Stardust was decadent, Aladdin Sane took things even further into the realm of the sensual, becoming David Bowie’s most lasciviously dissolute creation. Ziggy played guitar, but Aladdin was the playboy at the end of the world, partying wildly with no thought for the next day.
Bowie’s recent “resurrection” has spurred a renewed interest in his legacy, with tickets for the David Bowie Is exhibition at London’s V&A as rare as stardust. So this 40th anniversary rerelease of one of his finest albums should benefit from the current Bowie-love.
Following the breakthrough success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, the world was Bowie’s for the taking, and he grabbed it with both hands and had his wicked way with it. The album distils his experiences while conquering the US and decants it into a heady cocktail of songs about sex, drugs, rock’n’ roll, fashion, fame and inevitably, death.
Aladdin Sane starts off with a bang, as opening track Watch That Man documents a surreal party attended by a coterie of weirdos, whackos and wanton women. Then Bowie brings out his latest secret weapon: New York pianist Mike Garson, whose dextrous, dissonant lines drive the title track forward on its two-chord trajectory.
“Who will love Aladdin Sane?” croons Bowie. By that stage we were all smitten and ready to be debauched by this passionate, bright young thing.
With Bowie’s core trio of Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey still on board, and Garson adding that extra New York glitz to the proceedings, Aladdin Sane was able to go one further than Ziggy, delving into the sexual cesspit of Hollywood via Cracked Actor and digging deeper into the realm of paranoia with Panic in Detroit. And listening to Time all of 40 years later brings on a strange feeling of déjà vu: here we are again, with Bowie on the cultural cutting edge, and all of us thinking, “My God, I’m still alive”.
The Prettiest Star has some great hooks (an earlier version featured Marc Bolan on lead guitar) but its innate tweeness sits uncomfortably with the out-and-out sexual force of Let’s Spend the Night Together, Bowie’s blam-blam cover of the Rolling Stones hit. But the brace of Top 5 hits, Drive-In Saturday (a retro-futurist paean to the doo-wop era) and the twisted urban blues of The Jean Genie are perfectly pitched for maximum effect. Closer Lady Grinning Soul depicts the ultimate Bond siren, beating you at Canasta, stealing your heart, then exacting the ultimate price for her favours.
Put on Aladdin Sane before you head out on the town tonight – it’s guaranteed to give your evening an extra edge.
Download tracks: Aladdin Sane (1913-1938 -197?), Drive-In Saturday, Time, The Jean Genie