I need to be honest here, I never intended for Aladdin Sane to be the second album on the site. I planned on waiting until April for the Classic Rock section as I hardly feel qualified to give my thoughts on such a stellar Bowie album now, but life doesn’t always play out how you want it to.
I don’t wish to reduce this to either a senseless grab for attention, but merely as a means to express the spirits and ideas of a man who deserves every bit of praise.
Aladdin Sane, a play on a lad insane, was released in 1973 featuring 10 tracks. Nine of those tracks were written by Bowie himself, while Let’s Spend The Night Together written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard. The first track, Watch That Man, starts with a blaring guitar and tells you right off the bat that this is the Bowie you’re dealing with: loud, strange, and ready to dance. It’s an infectious beat that you can’t help but smile to the whole album.
Then you slide into the titular Aladdin Sane, which if you haven’t seen his live performance of from 1996 I highly recommend that you stop reading this right now and go do it, and the lyrics hit you. “Battlecries and champagne just in time for sunrise,” mix with the sounds of a gentle guitar and a flailing piano and you’re left with an image of something simultaneously tender and violent.
Jumping ahead to Panic In Detroit, you start to realize just how ahead of his time he really was. An odd song to say the least, Panic sounds like no other song of its time, a mix of not quite hair metal with it’s screeching guitar but not punk either. It’s not a simple genre, it’s merely a song that stood alone in an era where the sounds of punk rock where being born in the back alleys of London by the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
I made it through the entire A-side without crying, but the first track of the B-side, Time, almost got to me. A song dedicated to how time is controlling our lives and is unavoidable. The guitar wailing like a neighing horse and Bowie’s voice conveys that soul you’d expect on a heavy subject.
Any chance of getting through the album without crying disappeared at the closing song Lady Grinning Soul. This is not a dancing song by any means. Time could be danced to slowly, but Lady Grinning Soul is not that kind of song. It’s the kind one might hear in a movie when you see the main character breakdown in a drunken fit or sob to over his lost love. Lady Grinning Soul is about how heartbreak comes to use in the most innocent and unexpected ways. You wont notice that you’re gone until it’s happening, and by then you can’t be saved. Aladdin Sane, very much a living character Bowie created like Ziggy Stardust, ends in much the same way Bowie himself did.
Quietly, without warning, and wishing that there was some way to get more from a man now gone.