Photo by Jimmy King
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”
At the end of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Bowie gave the titular character the spectacular death he deserved. Yet the song is more than just the climax of the Ziggy Stardust story; it’s Bowie’s empathetic plea to all of his fans who felt as alien and lost as his fictional creation. A litany of maddeningly mundane events attempt to take the spirit away from the person he’s addressing, but he desperately tries to reach out. “If I could only make you care,” he sings, before desperately screaming, “You’re not alone!” It might be the most moving moment in his entire catalog.
John Lennon contributed the title and some typically cheeky one-liners, and Carlos Alomar came up with the shivery guitar riff that drives this funkified song from1975’s Young Americans. But Bowie’s frustration with his management was the main impetus for this track that featured some of his pointed, sarcastic lyrics about the trappings of success. “Fame” is “where things are hollow” and where “what you like is in the limo.” “Bully for you, chilly for me,” Bowie sings, as sound effects stretch the titular word beyond all recognition and render it a grotesque creation. How tellingly ironic that this vocal tirade against celebrity became his first #1 hit in the United States.