Illustrated db Discography

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, probably Bowie's best known album, has a long history on CD. The first CD release appeared in 1983 on RCA. As the RCA CDs ran out of stock around the mid 80s, the remastered reissue by Rykodisc/EMI from 1990 was very welcome. The bonus tracks (particularly the previously unheard 'Sweet Head') completed the most anticipated David Bowie CD release.

In 1999 EMI again reissued the album, this time remastered by Peter Mew with Nigel Reeve. Although the packaging of this re-release was excellent, it attracted far less attention than the Rykodisc reissue, probably because the 1999 EMI release dropped the bonus tracks while the Rykodisc edition still was quite easily obtainable.

In 2002, a 30th Anniversary 2CD Edition of the album appeared as another remastering attempt, again by Mew and Reeve. The bonus disc included tracks from the Rykodisc reissue program, plus one "new" song—a remix of 'Moonage Daydream' which had previously been made for a 1998 Dunlop Tyre commercial. The track 'Sweet Head' also contained half a minute of studio banter before the band launched into the song, but in all other respects this 'Take 4' is the same as it appeared on the Ryko CD.

For the 30th anniversary edition of Ziggy, one might assume that it would stay very close to original. This appears not be the case.

  • Firstly, when compared to all previous releases, the new edition has the stereo image reversed; the left and right channels have been swapped.

  • Some tracks on the 2CD edition have a rather muffled sound. For instance 'Suffragette City' is noticeably lacking in upper-end range. Generally, there's more low-end (bass) on the new disc, and perhaps this is an intentional change in emphasis. But for long time admirers of Ziggy it sounds odd with much of the snarl and bite gone from Mick Ronson's guitar riff work.

  • The very first piano note in 'Lady Stardust' is missing its initial attack; it sounds as if the track was faded up from silence, and a little bit of the initial "thunk" was lost.

  • The "one-two" count-in at the start of 'Hang On To Yourself' is gone. The song just starts off with the two-chord hook.

  • The little tiny three-note guitar lick at the very end of 'Ziggy Stardust' (right before 'Suffragette City' crashes in) has been faded out so that the two songs no longer flow continuously one into the other.

  • Less important but still worth noting is the mix/take of 'Round And Round' used for the bonus CD (and for the Rykodisc releases). The sound quality is highly inferior to the one that originally appeared as a B-side to the 1973 'Drive-In Saturday' single (RCA 2352) and later on the Rare compilation.

When an album appears twice within three years, remastered by the same persons, one might be forgiven for expecting the mastering to be comparable if not improved. However, it's hard to comprehend how two attempts at remastering the same material could come out so differently and in some respects inferior to the Ryko release.

Apparently EMI realized the mistakes and replaced the Japanese and EC releases with revised editions. On these, the reversed channels corrected, the opening piano note of 'Lady Stardust' is stronger, and the 1-2 count preceeding 'Hang On To Yourself' and the guitar lick at the end of 'Ziggy Stardust' have been restored.

Finally, the 2CD includes a lengthy essay by David Buckley and a timeline by Kevin Cann. But on other hand it is the only CD release not to include the lyrics. Instead, the listener is advised to visit BowieNet "for lyrics and all things related to David Bowie".

This note is partly based on two postings by Douglas Bailey in