Aladdin Sane at 50

If Ziggy was Cary Grant, Aladdin Sane was Peter Fonda. Recorded between December 1972 and January 1973, this iconic album, Bowie’s sixth, still feels like a deconstruction of fame and the American Dream from an outsider’s perspective.

It’s experimental, as exemplified by Mike Garson’s wayward jazz piano on the wild title track. He goes maniacally sonically off-grid as only a jazz musician can, and it’s thrilling.

Then there’s the wilful parody of doo-wop that is Drive-In Saturday… “His name was always BUDDY! ” rubbing up against the warped majesty of Cracked Actor, which feels like a twin to The Velvet Underground, with its tales of faded glamour, prostitution and excess.

Meanwhile, Lady Grinning Soul bridges the uneasy gap between the sublime and the ridiculous, but still manages to be affecting and sexy. It’s easily one of his best vocal performances.

By this time, Bowie was by his own admission “off my gourd”, a too-skinny, paranoid, coked- up mess, tiring of the reductive pigeonholed way he was being perceived. For me, this album pointed to him attempting to wriggle out of the straitjacket marked Pop Star, and lifting up the skirts of Hollywood.

Fifty years young, and a timeless “Fuck you” to both the stultifying glam rock cliches and the boring fame bandwagon. ..This marks the real turning point at which Bowie became a true artist, impossible to ever second- guess again. All hail the contrary swagger and smarts of Aladdin Sane.

Published by loreleiirvine

I'm a freelance arts monkey. Come see my brain vomit.

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