Remembering David Bowie’s 1971 psych pop masterpiece as it was played on this day nearly fifty years ago.
This week, we’re continuing our trend of looking back over the years at songs that made an impact in their time, and continue to do so. Our songs of the day this week all come from the archives of music history, tethered in time to the day it was performed or released.
While David Bowie’s passing in 2016 came as a shock to the world, the music he left behind will never be forgotten.
On this day in 1972, David Bowie performed at the Rainbow Theatre in England to kick off his Ziggy Stardust world tour. While the set list contained many songs from his previous albums, the bulk of performed material came from “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”. The set ended with our song of the day, “Moonage Daydream”.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Often shortened to just “Ziggy Stardust”, this was David Bowie’s fifth album, which released in 1972. It was a loose concept album, about the life of an androgynous, bisexual alien rock star Ziggy Stardust (Bowie’s alter ego), who acts as a messenger to earth. While Bowie took on the role of Ziggy, his backing band took the name “the Spiders From Mars”. The characters were maintained throughout the Ziggy Stardust world tour.
The album was inspired by glam and psychedelic rock, and deals with themes of sexuality and social taboos. On its release, “Ziggy Stardust” debuted at No. 5 on the UK Album Charts, and has since received critical acclaim.
Moonage Daydream (1971)
While the “Moonage Daydream” known to most of us is the one found on “Ziggy Stardust”, there was an earlier recording of it that came out the year before. In 1971, “Moonage Daydream” debuted as part of the work of Arnold Corns, a David Bowie side project inspired by the Pink Floyd song, “Arnold Layne”.
The early record of “Moonage Daydream” released with it on one side, and “Hang Onto Yourself” on the other. While the recording was ultimately unsuccessful, Bowie didn’t give up on it, and instead fed it into “Ziggy Stardust”, where it found its home.
Moonage Daydream (1972)
In “Moonage Daydream”, the character of Ziggy Stardust is created and introduced. As far as the plot of “Ziggy Stardust” is concerned, it’s one of the more important songs, and leads right into “Starman” on the album.
The very first chords hit in “Moonage Daydream” like a punch in the gut. Immediately following them, we get the weird lyrics, “I’m an alligator / I’m a mama-papa comin’ for you”. Even though a lot of the lyrics might not make much sense at first glance, on closer inspection, they reveal some of the underlying themes running through “Ziggy Stardust”.
There are two main stanzas in “Moonage Daydream” that speak to the themes more than the others. The first one of those is the chorus.
“Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream oh yeah”
Because some of the lyrics are pretty vague, it’s hard to nail these down to one definitive interpretation. Throughout the first half of the song, Ziggy is describing himself to someone who it seems he wants to be in a relationship with. The chorus definitely supports that, as does the following two lines.
“Don’t fake it baby, lay the real thing on me
The church of man, love, is such a holy place to be”
Here, we see two big themes being expressed. Those of religion and sexuality. The phrase, “the church of man” expresses a dual meaning. First, it has an obvious link to sexuality. And second, it also suggests the idea that focusing on people over any deity yields the greatest return.
“Moonage Daydream” is definitely in my top three David Bowie songs. While I do enjoy the lyrics, the music and vocals pull a lot more weight in my opinion. Most especially, Bowie’s guitar. The solo at the end is the very definition of “far out”.
That about does it for our song of the day today. I hope you enjoyed listening to David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” from “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”. We’ll be back tomorrow with another song from the archives of rock to keep you going throughout the week.