|Studio album by|
|Released||13 April 1973|
|Recorded||6 October 1972, 4-11 December 1972, c. 18-24 January 1973|
|Studio||Trident Studios, London and RCA Studios, New York and Nashville|
|David Bowie chronology|
|Singles from Aladdin Sane|
Aladdin Sane is the sixth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released by RCA Records on 13 April 1973. The follow-up to his breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it was the first album he wrote and released from a position of stardom.
NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray called the album "oddly unsatisfying, considerably less than the sum of the parts", while Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg describes it as "one of the most urgent, compelling and essential" of his releases. The Rolling Stone review by Ben Gerson pronounced it "less manic than The Man Who Sold The World, and less intimate than Hunky Dory, with none of its attacks of self-doubt." The album cover featuring a lightning bolt across his face is regarded as one of Bowie's most iconic images.
In 2003, the album was ranked among six Bowie entries on Rolling Stones list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (at #277) and was later ranked No. 77 on Pitchfork Media's list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s.
The name of the album is a pun on "A Lad Insane". An early variation was "Love Aladdin Vein", which David Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations. Although technically a new Bowie 'character', Aladdin Sane was essentially a development of Ziggy Stardust in his appearance and persona, as evidenced on the cover by Brian Duffy and in Bowie's live performances throughout 1973 that culminated in Ziggy's 'retirement' at the Hammersmith Odeon in July that year. Lacking the thematic flow found on its predecessor,Aladdin Sane was described by Bowie himself as simply "Ziggy goes to America"; most of the tracks were observations he composed on the road during his Ziggy Stardust Tour, which accounted for the place names following each song title on the original record labels. Biographer Christopher Sandford believed the album showed that Bowie "was simultaneously appalled and fixated by America".
His mixed feelings about the journey stemmed, in Bowie's words, from "wanting to be up on the stage performing my songs, but on the other hand not really wanting to be on those buses with all those strange people ... So Aladdin Sane was split down the middle." This kind of "schizophrenia", as Bowie described it, was conveyed on the cover by his makeup, where a lightning bolt represents the duality of mind, although he would later tell friends that the "lad insane" of the album's title track was inspired by his brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Bowie himself came up with the idea of the lightning bolt over his face, but said the teardrop was Brian Duffy's idea: "He [Brian] put on that afterward, just popped it in there. I thought it was rather sweet." Regarded as one of the most iconic images of Bowie, it was called "the Mona Lisa of album covers" by Mick McCann writing for The Guardian.
The majority of Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studios in London in January 1973, between legs of the Ziggy Stardust Tour. A desire to rush release the record was blamed for mixes on the Rolling Stones-influenced "Watch That Man" and "Cracked Actor" that buried vocals and harmonica, respectively. Bowie and producer Ken Scott later rebuffed this suggestion regarding "Watch That Man", claiming that a remix they produced which brought the vocals forward was considered by Mainman management and RCA Records to be inferior to the original that was eventually released.
Aladdin Sane featured a tougher rock sound than its predecessor Ziggy Stardust, particularly on tracks like "Panic in Detroit" (built around a Bo Diddley beat) and Bowie's breakneck version of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together". The album also explored unusual styles such as avant-garde jazz in the title track and Brechtian cabaret in "Time". Both numbers were dominated by Mike Garson's acclaimed piano work, which also featured heavily in the faux James Bond flamenco ballad "Lady Grinning Soul", inspired by singer Claudia Linnear.
Two hit singles that would be included on the album preceded its release, "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday". The former (recorded at RCA's New York studios during the first leg of the Ziggy Stardust Tour in late 1972) was a heavy R&B chug with lyrics loosely based on Iggy Pop, the latter a futuristic doo-wop number describing a time when the population has to relearn sex by watching old movies. "Time" was later issued as a single in the US and Japan, and "Let's Spend the Night Together" in the US and Europe. In 1974, Lulu released a version of "Watch That Man" as the B-side to her single "The Man Who Sold the World", produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson.
|Christgau's Record Guide||B+|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Aladdin Sane was released in the UK on 13 April 1973.[nb 1] With a purported 100,000 copies ordered in advance, the album debuted at the top of the UK charts and reached No. 17 in America, making it Bowie's most successful album commercially in both countries to that date. The album is estimated to have sold 4.6 million copies worldwide, making it one of Bowie's highest-selling LPs.The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums notes that Bowie "ruled the (British) album chart, accumulating an unprecedented 182 weeks on the list in 1973 with six different titles."
Critical reaction was generally laudatory, if more enthusiastic in the US than in the UK.Rolling Stone remarked on "Bowie's provocative melodies, audacious lyrics, masterful arrangements (with Mick Ronson) and production (with Ken Scott)", while Billboard called it a combination of "raw energy with explosive rock". In the British music press, however, letters columns accused Bowie of 'selling out' and Let it Rock magazine found the album to be more style than substance, considering that he had "nothing to say and everything to say it with".Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote a few years later that his favorite Bowie album had been Aladdin Sane, "the fragmented, rather second-hand collection of elegant hard rock songs (plus one Jacques Brel-style clinker) that fell between the Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs concepts. That Bowie improved his music by imitating the Rolling Stones rather than by expressing himself is obviously a tribute to the Stones, but it also underlines how expedient Bowie's relationship to rock and roll has always been."
Bowie performed all the tracks, except "Lady Grinning Soul", on his Ziggy Stardust Tour, and many of them on the Diamond Dogs Tour. Live versions of all but "The Prettiest Star" and "Lady Grinning Soul" have been released on various discs including Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, David Live and Aladdin Sane - 30th Anniversary. "The Jean Genie" is the only song on the album that Bowie played in concert throughout his career. However "Panic in Detroit" also appeared regularly in Bowie's later years, a remake of which was cut in 1979 but not released until added as a bonus track to the Rykodisc CD of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).
Belgian amateur astronomers at the MIRA Public Observatory in conjunction with Studio Brussel created a "Bowie asterism" in homage to David Bowie in January 2016; it depicts the iconic lightning bolt of Aladdin Sane using the stars Sigma Librae, Spica, Zeta Centauri, SAO 204132, Sigma Octantis,SAO 241641 and Beta Trianguli Australis which were near Mars at the time of Bowie's death.
Two songs from the album, "Cracked Actor" and "Time" were included in the 2017 feature-length biographical documentary, and compilation Soundtrack, entitled Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story.
All tracks written by David Bowie, except where noted.
|1.||"Watch That Man"||4:30|
|2.||"Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)"||5:06|
|4.||"Panic in Detroit"||4:25|
|2.||"The Prettiest Star"||3:31|
|3.||"Let's Spend the Night Together" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards)||3:10|
|4.||"The Jean Genie"||4:07|
|5.||"Lady Grinning Soul"||3:54|
Aladdin Sane was first released on CD in 1984 by RCA.
In 2003, a 2-disc version was released by EMI/Virgin. The second in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition sets (along with Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs), this release includes a remastered version of the first disc. The second disc contains ten tracks, a few of which had been previously released on the 1989 collection Sound + Vision.
A 40th anniversary edition, remastered by Ray Staff at London's AIR Studios, was released in CD and digital download formats in April 2013.
This 2013 remaster of the album was included in the 2015 box set Five Years 1969-1973 and rereleased separately, in 2015-2016, in CD, vinyl and digital formats. A 12" limited edition of the 2013 remaster, pressed in silver vinyl, was released in 2018 to mark the 45th anniversary of the album.
|United Kingdom (UK)||13 April 1973||RCA||LP||RS 1001|
|United States (U.S.)||13 April 1973||RCA||LP||AFL1 4852|
|U.S.||13 July 1990||Rykodisc||CD||RCD-10135|
|Worldwide (except U.S.)||July 1990||EMI||CD||EMC-3579/CDP 79 468 2|
|Worldwide||28 September 1999||EMI/Virgin||CD||7243 521902 0 1|
|Worldwide||26 May 2003
24 June 2003
|EMI/Virgin||2 CD 30th Anniversary Edition||72435 83012 2|
|Worldwide||15 April 2013||EMI/Universal||CD 40th Anniversary Edition||5099993447423|