'Aladdin Sane': Ziggy Stardust Goes to America

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
Photo Credit
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

On April 13, 1973, record stores received Aladdin Sane, the sixth full-length effort from David Bowie. While it's been described as his first release as a true rock star - no surprise, arriving on the heels of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, it’s probably become better known over the years as the single most parodied album cover in Bowie’s discography, with everyone from Homer Simpson and Harry Potter to even Rainbow Dash and Walter White getting the red and blue lightning bolt treatment.

READ MORE: February 1972: England Greets Ziggy Stardust

Bowie described Aladdin Sane as “Ziggy goes to America,” at least in part because the majority of the material was inspired during his 1972 U.S. tour, with the album itself – or, again, the majority of it, anyway – recorded in January 1973 at London’s Trident Studios between the legs of that very tour. The album was decidedly tougher in sound, a switch attributed predominantly to Bowie’s producer, Ken Scott, but it also explored a variety of musical styles, most notably on the title track, “Time,” and “Lady Grinning Soul.”

READ MORE: November 1972: David Bowie Releases "The Jean Genie"

Beyond its cover, Aladdin Sane is most famous for its two biggest singles, “The Jean Genie” and “Drive-In Saturday,” both of which proved to be Top 5 singles in the U.K., hitting No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Album rock fans, however, will know the LP just as well for “Panic in Detroit,” which still gets significant airplay. If there’s a surprising song in the midst, it’s probably Bowie’s cover of The Rolling Stones' “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” for which he was praised in NME for having achieved “the unprecedented feat of beating the Stones on one of their own songs.” While some might argue with that declaration – Stones fans, mostly – there’s no question that Bowie certainly at least managed to make the song his own for the duration of its run time, a significant accomplishment in and of itself.

READ MORE: Turn and Face the Strange: David Bowie's Biggest Hits

Aladdin Sane was a No. 1 hit for Bowie on the U.K. albums chart, and found its way into the Top 20 of Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart as well, further cementing his success in the United States. More importantly, though, it holds up: it’s on Pitchfork’s top 100 albums of the 1970s, and it’s on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

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