February 18, 2014

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 42: David Bowie 3 ~ Aladdin Sane

album back detail
detail photo by Styrous®

I have hundreds of reel-to-reel, pre-recorded tapes in addition to my 20,000 Vinyl LP collection I'm selling. This is an entry about one of them. I will have Aladdin Sane, the third in the series of my David Bowie tapes, up for sale on eBay on May 15, 2014. (link below). I currently have other David Bowie reel-to-reel tapes on eBay for sale right now. Interested? Contact me by email, please, not by a comment.

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Aladdin Sane is a pun on "A Lad Insane". An early variation was "Love Aladdin Vein", which David Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations. Although technically a new Bowie 'character', Aladdin Sane was a development of Ziggy Stardust in his appearance and persona, as evidenced on the cover by Brian Duffy and in Bowie's live performances throughout 1973 that culminated in Ziggy's 'retirement' at the Hammersmith Odeon in July of that year.

Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour, 1973
Design by Kansai Yamamoto
Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive 2012

Aladdin Sane was his sixth album and the follow up to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It had a tougher rock sound than its predecessor Ziggy Stardust, especially on tracks like Panic in Detroit (built around a Bo Diddley beat) and Bowie's breakneck version of the Rolling Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together. It is basically a prog rock album; although, there are some good songs on it, it is a lot of dissonance but not much interesting experimenting going on with one exception.

The exception, and my favorite song on the album, is, Lady Grinning Soul, a beautiful ballad that has a spectacular, dramatic piano intro. The piano (played by Mike Garson) is an integral element in the song. Garson described his own performance as "about as romantic as it gets … French with a little Franz Liszt thrown in there". It also has a wonderful Spanish guitar accompaniment. Author, Nicholas Pegg considers the track "one of Bowie's most underrated recordings … quite unlike anything else he has ever done."  Bowie's first meeting with American soul singer Claudia Lennear in 1972 has been cited as the inspiration for the song.

The major hits from the album were, The Jean Genie and Drive-In Saturday. Genie is a heavy R&B chug with lyrics loosely based on Iggy Pop. It is the only song on the album that Bowie has played in concert throughout his career. Drive-In is a futuristic doo-wop number describing a time when the population has to relearn sex by watching old porn movies (umm . . interesting).

The 'Genie' look of Aladdin Sane was the team effort of Celia Philo, who did the album cover design, Pierre Laroche, who did the make-up, and the photography of Duffy Philo.

reel-to-reel box front cover
album cover design by Celia Philo
make-up by Pierre Laroche
photo by Duffy Philo
detail photo by Styrous®

It was one of six Bowie entries in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (at #277) and ranked #77 on Pitchfork Media's list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s.

back cover of reel-to-reel tape box
photo of box cover back by Styrous®

Bowie described Aladdin Sane as simply "Ziggy goes to America"; most of the tracks observations he composed on the road during his 1972 US tour—the reason for the place names following each song title on the original record sleeve. Biographer Christopher Sandford believed the album showed that Bowie "was simultaneously appalled and fixated by America".

Bowie's mixed feelings about the journey stemmed, in his words, from "wanting to be up on the stage performing my songs, but on the other hand not really wanting to be on those buses with all those strange people... So Aladdin Sane was split down the middle." This kind of "schizophrenia", as Bowie describes it, was conveyed on the cover by his makeup, where a lightning bolt represents the duality of mind, although he would later tell friends that the "lad insane" of the album's title track was inspired by his brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Bowie himself came up with the idea of the lightning bolt over his face, but said the teardrop was Brian Duffy's idea: "He [Brian] put on that afterward, just popped it in there. I thought it was rather sweet."

make-up by Pierre Laroche photo by Duffy Philo

Aladdin Sane debuted at the top of the UK charts and reached #17 in America, making it Bowie's most successful album commercially in both countries to that date. The album is estimated to have sold 4.6 million copies worldwide, making it one of Bowie's highest-selling LP's.

back cover detail of reel-to-reel tape box
detail photo by Styrous®

back cover detail of reel-to-reel tape box
detail photo by Styrous®

back cover detail of reel-to-reel tape box
detail photo by Styrous®

reel-to-reel tape label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Track listing:

Side one: 
No.     Title     Length   
1.     "Watch That Man" - 4:30
2.     "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)" - 5:06
3.     "Drive-In Saturday" - 4:33
4.     "Panic in Detroit" - 4:25
5.     "Cracked Actor" - 3:01

Side two:    
No.     Title     Length    
1.     "Time" - 5:15
2.     "The Prettiest Star" - 3:31
3.     "Let's Spend the Night Together" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:10
4.     "The Jean Genie" - 4:07
5.     "Lady Grinning Soul" - 3:54


Additional personnel:

Production personnel:

Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studios in London from December 1972 to January 1973, 

Music links:  

Aladdin Sane (complete album) on YouTube
Aladdin Sane on YouTube
Lady Grinning Soul on YouTube
The Jean Genie on YouTube
The Prettiest Star on YouTube
Time on YouTube
Drive-In Saturday on YouTube
Panic in Detroit on YouTube
Cracked Actor on YouTube

David Bowie - Aladdin Sane reel-to-reel tape on eBay

reel-to-reel listings on eBay

more reel-to-reel tapes on the Styrous® Viewfinder:
                                             reel-to-reel tape archive

Styrous® ~ February 18, 2014


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