Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack

David Bowie

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Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture Soundtrack Review

by Dave Thompson

Ziggy played guitar -- and then he quit. On July 3, 1973, on-stage at London's Hammersmith Odeon, David Bowie took his leave of the last 18 months of stardom and insanity with one of the most legendary performances of his entire career. And documentarian D.A. Pennebaker was on hand to catch it, via what remains the most captivating Bowie live footage of all. As with the accompanying soundtrack album, Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture is not perfect. Ten years elapsed between shooting and release, during which period Bowie and co-producer Tony Visconti wholly remixed the audio track, often to the detriment of the performance itself -- anybody who caught the one-hour abbreviated version of this same show, aired on U.S. television in October 1974 (and the source for all the circulating bootlegs), will remember thrilling, for example, to the Mick Ronson guitar solo that cuts through "Moonage Daydream," but which here is lost behind the hitherto unheard backing vocals. The set-closing blaze through "Jean Genie," with guest guitarist Jeff Beck alongside Ronson, is similarly missing; Bowie's own retirement speech is absurdly truncated. And so on. But still, Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture wipes the floor with just about any other concert movie of the 1970s (and beyond), and, though some of Pennebaker's own trademark tricks (hand-held cameras, long shots and the like) can detract from the show, Bowie and the band have no problem wresting your attention back where it belongs.

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