The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is the fifth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 16 June 1972 in the United Kingdom by RCA Records. It was produced by Bowie and Ken Scott and features Bowie’s backing band the Spiders from Mars — Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. Most of the songs were written around the same time as its predecessor Hunky Dory. After that album was completed, recording for Ziggy Stardust commenced in November 1971 at Trident Studios in London, with further sessions in early February 1972.
Described as a rock opera and a loose concept album, Ziggy Stardust concerns Bowie’s titular alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a fictional androgynous, bisexual rock star who is sent to Earth as a savior before an impending apocalyptic disaster. The character was inspired by numerous musicians, including English singer Vince Taylor. Most of the album’s concept was developed after the songs were recorded. The character was retained for the subsequent Ziggy Stardust Tour. A concert film of the same name, directed by D. A. Pennebaker, was filmed in July 1973 and released in 1979, and a live album from the same show followed in 1983.
The music on Ziggy Stardust has been characterised as glam rock and proto-punk. Unlike its predecessor Hunky Dory, which was generally piano-led, the songs on Ziggy Stardust are primarily guitar-based, mostly due to the departure of keyboardist Rick Wakeman. The songs were influenced by Iggy Pop of the Stooges, Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, and Marc Bolan of T. Rex. The album’s lyrics discuss the artificiality of rock music, political issues, drug use, sexual orientation and stardom. The album cover, photographed by Brian Ward in monochrome and recoloured by Terry Pastor, was taken in London, outside the home of furriers “K. West”.
Preceded by the single “Starman”, Ziggy Stardust peaked at number 5 on the UK Albums Chart and number 75 on the US Billboard 200. The album received widespread critical acclaim and, following his performance of “Starman” on the English television programme Top of the Pops, propelled Bowie to stardom. Not wanting Ziggy to define him, Bowie created a new character, Aladdin Sane, for his next album, which Bowie described as “Ziggy goes to America”. It has since been called one of the most important albums in the glam rock genre and one of the greatest albums of all time. The album has been reissued several times and was remastered in 2012 for its 40th anniversary. In 2017, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or artistically significant” by the Library of Congress.