This second part of a look back at the origins of “glam rock” focuses on David Bowie’s backing band “The Spiders From Mars“. Formed during Bowie’s period of his adopting the alter-ego of “Ziggy Stardust“, the Spiders were just what Bowie needed to bring the music to the masses.
Formed in the early 1970s, the SFM consisted of Mick Ronson on guitars, Trevor Bolder on bass, and Mick Woodmansey on drums.
An earlier Bowie backing band Hype, included Ronson and Woodmansey. After Bolder took over the bass duties, they produced the epochal 1972 Bowie concept album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and the name stuck for the Ziggy Stardust Tour.
In 1975 Bolder and Woodmansey reformed the band without Ronson. In 1976 they released a self-titled album before they disbanded.
Ronson passed away in 1993 and, sadly, Trevor Bolder, died a week ago (5/21/13). Mick “Woody” Woodmansey is the only surviving Spider.
(l-r) Ronson, Bolder, Woodmansey
Bowie, in creating a persona of the ultimate rock star, was actually being critical of the excesses that were taking their toll on so many of the people around him. These were hedonistic times and the excesses were huge and Bowie was well aware of the root causes. The theme that runs through the album ZS&TSFM was the inability to separate the life of a rock star from the real (very mortal) lives we actually lead.
“The A to X of Alterative Music” points out that while Bowie took the SFM toward the glam look (this is pure theater) audiences were not prepared for “space age cross-dressing and guitar blow jobs” but they soon realized this was good music being played by some very talented musicians. This is classic Bowie at his best.
- “Ziggy Stardust” – a biographical song about the Ziggy and the SFM. “Weird and Gilly” refers respectively to Bolder and Woodmansey”. Track was from the ZS&TSFM movie.
- “Suffragette City” – features piano riff heavily influenced by Little Richard, a lyrical reference to “A Clockwork Orange”.
- “Five Years” – the album’s opening track tells the tale an Earth doomed to destruction in five years and the aftermath of this knowledge. Reviewed by allmusic as one of the greatest opening tracks in rock album history.
- “Hang on to Yourself” – released as a single under the name Arnold Corns. The main riff is very typical glam rock and is a nod to Eddie Cochran. Listen for how it influenced punk songs like “Teenage Lobotomy” by The Ramones.