Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture

by Adam Sweeting / Melody Maker

5th November 1983

ZIGGY STARDUST: THE MOTION PICTURE (EMI) DAVID BOWIE!!! Arentcha just sick ta death of him???? “Ziggy Stardust – The Motion Picture”. What kind of name is that for a live LP anyway? This is a recording of Dave’s farwell Ziggy Stardust cencert at Hammersmith Odeon on July 3, 1973, with the Spiders From Mars, augumented by horns, backing vocals and Mike Garson’s Bibaroof garden piano.

…..Though it sounds like Bowie was on a good vocal form that night, this recording seems to prove that the Spiders were bearly adequate as a backing band.
…..A lot of this may be down to the atrocious recording quality, which lacks all definition at the bass end of the sound spectrum, and though there are bits of muted crowd noise it has the flat top-heavy feel of a monitor mix.
…..You get monsoons of Mick Ronson’s lead guitar and plenty of voice, snare and cymbals, but bass guitar and bass drum merge into an ugly, muffled, grunting noise undereath, completely lacking resonance or clarity.
…..Horns and piano, when you can hear them, are blurred and very distant.
…..Thus the Jaques Brel song “My Death” comes over better than anything else because it’s just voice, acoustic guitar and keyboard decorations.
…..Generally, though, the Spiders sound like a half-baked heavy metal band on a bad night, inefficiently bootlegged.
…..Perhaps you’ve heard the single lifted from this already – a version of Lou Reed’s “White Light, White Heat”.
…..It has all the trademarks of this regrettable collection – Mick Ronson’s howling and tuneless lead guitar, bawling backing voices probably piped in from nearby pub (maybe that one across the road under the subway) and the kind of trundling dim-witted “boogie” that used to be tumble out of garages everywhere.
…..“Not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show we’ll ever do,” Dave announces breathily after this abomination, before delivering an over-wrought coup de grace with, inevitably, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide”. It does at least offer a glint of pathos.
…..The erratic quality of these performances is little short of baffling.
…..There are a couple of moments where clout overcomes clumsiness – “Cracked Actor” and “Time” – but at the end of the same side is a thoroughly squalid rendition of “Width Of A Circle.”
…..It’s clumsy, abrupt, out of tune (but, of course) and completely lacking the spacious power of the version on “The Man Who Sold The World”.
…..The Spiders are consitently at their worst when trying to “rock out”, as they do almost everywhere. “Suffragette City”, “Hang On To Yourslef” and “Ziggy Stardust” blunder along like a team of sumo wrestlers on bad acid trying to escape from a broom cupboard. Woody Woodmansey’s drum sound like a man falling down a flight of stairs.
…..“Moonage Daydream” is a caterwauling travesty of backing voices, random echo, and Woolworth’s guitar.
…..The atmospheric potential of “Space Oddity” is gleefully wrecked by Ronson’s effort at guitar soloing, boxing-glove style, and “Let’s Spend The Night Together” is on a par with some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, such as Eater or Flintlock.
…..I expect many of you will run out in droves to buy this, for historical value if nothing else, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
…..It’s taken somebody 10 years to pluck up the courage to release it, after all.
…..I can hardly wait for the movie, the book, the tee-shirt and the matching set of autographed “Knights Of Bushido” ceremonial swords.

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