Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of one of Rock & Roll's greatest albums, David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The concept album based around the story of an alien rocker who's come to spread hope five years before the end of the world (but gets sucked in by the earthly treats being a Rock God brings) reached No. 5 on the U.K. charts, but only made it to No. 75 in the U.S. Rolling Stone called the album the 35th best album in the history of humankind on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
All 11 songs on the album are amazing and about half our bona fide classics, including "Ziggy Stardust," "Suffragette City," "Starman," "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang on to Yourself."
The concert film/documentary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars came out the following year, directed by the great D.A. Pennebaker. The film captured Bowie's surprise announcement that it was "Ziggy" and the band's last show. Just before playing "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," Bowie says, "Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do." Some thought Bowie himself was retiring (including several U.K. newspapers), but he was only retiring the character.
Here's the film — one of the best concert docs ever — in full.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 6 birthday include late baritone singer for Motown's Four Tops, Levi Stubbs (1936); Rock/R&B legend Gary U.S. Bonds (1939); German Electronic music pioneer and founder of Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese (1944); one of the best Rock bassists ever (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel), Tony Levin (1946); veteran Folk singer/songwriter Holly Near (1949); Pop/Rock singer/songwriter Dwight Twilley (1951); drummer and lead singer for Japanese Electronic group Yellow Magic Orchestra, Yukihiro Takahashi (1952); legendary New Jack Swing (and beyond) co-producer (with Terry Lewis), Jimmy Jam (1959); guitar wizard Steve Vai (1960); Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley (1964); former White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult (1966); guitarist for Nu Metal giants Korn, James "Munky" Shaffer (1970); singer for Goth Metal group Lacuna Coil, Cristina Scabbia (1972); Kid Rock DJ turned Soft Pop star Uncle Kracker (1974); co-frontman with The Libertines (U.K.) and frontman of Dirty Pretty Things, Carl Barat (1978); Odd Future posse member Mike G (1990); and singer/bassist for Slayer, Tom Araya (1961).
Slayer was formed by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King in 1981 in California. They soon recruited drummer Dave Lombardo and Araya (a native of Chile) and within five years would put out future Metal classic Reign in Blood. Slayer's next several albums helped cement them as one of "The Big 4" of Thrash Metal, placed alongside Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth as the giants of the genre (and celebrated in recent years with touring featuring all four acts). While the band has progressed musically over time, Slayer is perhaps the one group of the Big 4 who has stayed most true to its original sound, intent and mission.
Araya recently told Metalhead.ro that the band is in the early stages of a new album. If you're curious to what it sounds like, Araya offered this, with a laugh: "Sounds like Slayer to me." The band — which recently performed Reign in Blood in its entirety at the "I'll Be Your Mirror" ATP fest in London — will finish the album after its current slate of tour dates.
A big chunk of those tour dates are part of the Mayhem Festival, which comes to Riverbend July 24 and will also include contemporary Metal greats Slipknot and pioneers Motorhead.
Alas, one member of Slayer will not be on the tour; in an open letter to fans last month, the group reported that Hanneman is sitting this one out due to a wicked spider bite. The guitarist was bitten over a year ago (!) and went into a coma. He was close to having his arm amputated and, for a while, "things were touch-and-go" and doctors didn't know if he'd survive. Hanneman has been rehabbing ever since, relearning to walk and undergoing "painful skin grafts." He's also been playing guitar, but he didn't feel quite ready to get back on the road with Slayer. In his place, Exodus six-stringer Gary Holt will continue to fill in.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Jeff and happy 51st to Araya, a true Metal legend.