The sixth studio album from David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, was released in the spring of 1973. The iconic lightning bolt album cover has been recreated countless times by fans and other artists, it also possibly more famous than a lot of the music contained within. Having to follow-up two classic albums, Bowie wrote much of this album, a pun of “a lad insane”, in the US and has been referenced as “Ziggy (Stardust) goes to America”. A bit more rushed with a glam rock stomp, the music of Aladdin Sane has a nostalgic yet futuristic feel, especially on second single and #3 UK single “Drive-In Saturday Night”.
The album can certainly rock – “Watch That Man” has horns and piano aplenty as Bowie recalls a night on the tiles in a stream of consciousness like lyrics. Mick Woodsmansey’s drums add jungle beat behind Mick Ronson’s opening guitar lick on “Panic In Detroit”. “Cracked Actor” is a violent, dangerous song of an actor meeting up with a prostitute as Bowie sings, “crack, baby, crack/show me you’re real”. Mike Garson’s piano adds a barroom feel to the cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together” before the most famous song here, “The Jean Genie”, adds another flash of glam rock with a blinder of a chorus.
The harder hits can steal some of the thunder but it’s the slower tracks that really settle in. The title track asks, “who will love Aladdin Sane?” on a song about bright young things being sent out to war. While the “The Jean Genie” is a belter, the closing track “Lady Grinning Soul” is a stunner. The atmospheric track may sound a bit like blur to 90s listeners. It’s an incredible song once again built around Mike Garson’s piano that sounds classy and mysterious at the same time. Aladdin Sane would continue to see Bowie’s star rise with a set of songs that make it essential listening for fans of 70s rock and roll.