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Aladdin Sane is an album by David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1973 (see 1973 in music). The follow-up to his breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it was the first album Bowie wrote and released as a bona fide pop star. While many critics agree that it contains some of his best material, opinion as to its overall quality has often been divided. NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray called the album "oddly unsatisfying, considerably less than the sum of the parts", while Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg describes it as "one of the most urgent, compelling and essential" of his releases. The Rolling Stone review by Ben Gerson pronounced it "less manic than The Man Who Sold The World, and less intimate than Hunky Dory, with none of its attacks of self-doubt." 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 Top 100 Albums of the 1970s.

"Ziggy goes to America"

The name of the album is a pun on "A Lad Insane". An early variation was "Love Aladdin Vein", which Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations. Although technically a new Bowie 'character', Aladdin Sane was essentially 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 Odeonmarker in July of that year. Moreover there was not the thematic flow on this album that was present on its predecessor.

Bowie himself described Aladdin Sane as simply "Ziggy goes to America", most of the tracks being observations he composed on the road during his 1972 U.S. 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".

Production and style

The bulk of Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studiosmarker in Londonmarker from December 1972 to January 1973, between legs of Bowie's U.S. Ziggy Stardust tour. A desire to rush release the record was blamed for mixes on the Rolling Stones influenced "Watch That Man" and "Cracked Actor" that buried vocals and harmonica, respectively. Bowie and producer Ken Scott have since refuted this suggestion regarding "Watch That Man", claiming that a remix they produced which brought the vocals forward was considered by Mainman management and RCA Records to be inferior to the original that was eventually released.

Aladdin Sane featured a tougher rock sound than its predecessor, particularly on tracks like "Panic in Detroit" (built around a Bo Diddley beat) and Bowie’s breakneck version of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together". The album was also notable for its exploration of unusual styles such as avant-garde jazz in the title track and Brechtian cabaret in "Time", the latter being famous for the line "Time ... falls wanking to the floor". Both numbers were dominated by Mike Garson’s acclaimed piano work, which also featured heavily in the James Bond flavoured ballad "Lady Grinning Soul", inspired by singer Claudia Linnear.


Two hit singles that would be included on the album preceded its release, "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday". The former (recorded at RCA's New Yorkmarker studios during the first leg of Bowie's American tour in late 1972) was a heavy R&B chug with lyrics loosely based on Iggy Pop, the latter a futuristic doo-wop number describing a time when the population has to relearn sex by watching old porn movies. "Time" was later issued as a single in the U.S. and Japan, and "Let's Spend the Night Together" in the U.S. and Europe. In 1974, Lulu released a version of "Watch That Man" as the B-side to her single "The Man Who Sold the World", produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson.

Release and aftermath

With a purported 100,000 copies ordered in advance, 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. Critical reaction was generally laudatory, if more enthusiastic in the U.S. than in the UK. Rolling Stone remarked on "Bowie's provocative melodies, audacious lyrics, masterful arrangements (with Mick Ronson) and production (with Ken Scott)", while Billboard called it a combination of "raw energy with explosive rock". In the British music press, however, letters columns accused Bowie of 'selling out' and Let it Rock magazine found the album to be more style than substance, considering that he had "nothing to say and everything to say it with".

Bowie performed all the tracks, except "Lady Grinning Soul", on his 1972-73 tours and many of them on the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour. Live versions of all but "The Prettiest Star" and "Lady Grinning Soul" have been released on various discs including Ziggy Stardust - The Motion Picture, David Live and Aladdin Sane - 30th Anniversary. "The Jean Genie" is the only song on the album that Bowie has played in concert throughout his career. However "Panic in Detroit" has also appeared regularly in recent years, a remake of which was cut in 1979 but not released until added as a bonus track to the Rykodisc CD of Scary Monsters .

Canadian rock group The Guess Who launched an ad campaign in the summer of 1973 to promote their album #10 and the single released from it, "Glamour Boy", a broadside against glam rockers like David Bowie. As part of promotion for the song, Guess Who manager Don Hunter posed for an ad done up à la Bowie circa Aladdin Sane, with the caption "Not just another pretty body." After initially circulating it in the musical trades, RCA, at that time the label for both Bowie and The Guess Who and fearing a lawsuit from the former, had the ad pulled.

Track listing

All songs written by David Bowie except where noted.
  1. "Watch That Man" New Yorkmarker – 4:25
  2. "Aladdin Sane " RHMS Ellinis – 5:06
  3. "Drive-In Saturday" SeattlemarkerPhoenixmarker – 4:29
  4. "Panic in Detroit" Detroitmarker – 4:25
  5. "Cracked Actor" Los Angelesmarker – 2:56
  6. "Time" New Orleansmarker – 5:09
  7. "The Prettiest Star" Gloucester Roadmarker – 3:26
  8. "Let's Spend the Night Together" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) – 3:03
  9. "The Jean Genie" Detroit and New York – 4:02
  10. "Lady Grinning Soul" Londonmarker – 3:46

Track listing note: On the original LP album release, side one comprised tracks 1-5; side two, tracks 6-10.


Additional personnel

Production personnel

  • David Bowie – producer, arrangements
  • Ken Scott – producer, engineer
  • Mick Moran – engineer
  • Mick Ronson – arrangements

Compact disc releases

Aladdin Sane was first released in 1984 on CD by RCA.

1990 Rykodisc/EMI

Dr. Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, Massachusettsmarker, remastered Aladdin Sane from the original master tapes for Rykodisc, who released it with no bonus tracks.

1999 EMI/Virgin

The album was remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studiosmarker without bonus material, with the same track listing as the 1984 CD release.

2003 EMI/Virgin

In 2003, a 2-disc version was released by EMI/Virgin. The second in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Editions, as with the Ziggy Stardust 2-disc set, this release includes a remastered version of the first disc. The second disc contains ten tracks, a few of which had been previously released on CD as bonus tracks of the 1990-92 reissues.

Bonus CD (2003 EMI/Virgin)

  1. "John, I'm Only Dancing" ('sax' version) – 2:45
  2. "The Jean Genie" (single mix for single A-side, 1972) – 4:07
  3. "Time" (edit for single A-Side, 1973) – 3:43
  4. "All the Young Dudes" (mono mix) – 4:12
  5. "Changes" (Live) Bostonmarker Music Hallmarker, – 3:20
  6. "The Supermen" (Live) Boston Music Hall, – 2:42
  7. "Life on Mars?" (Live) Boston Music Hall, – 3:25
  8. "John, I'm Only Dancing" (Live) Boston Music Hall, – 2:40
  9. "The Jean Genie" (Live) Santa Monicamarker Civic Auditoriummarker, – 4:10
  10. "Drive-In Saturday" (Live) Clevelandmarker Public Auditoriummarker, – 4:53

Release history (selected)

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdommarker (UK) RCA LP RS 1001
United Statesmarker (U.S.) RCA LP AFL1 4852
Worldwide 1985 RCA CD PD-83890/PCD1-4852
U.S. Rykodisc CD RCD-10135
Worldwide (except U.S.) EMI CD EMC-3579/CDP 79 468 2
Worldwide EMI/Virgin CD 7243 521902 0 1
Worldwide (UK)

EMI/Virgin 2 CD 30th Anniversary Edition 72435 83012 2



Year Chart Peak

1973 UK Albums Chart 1
1973 Billboard Pop Albums 17
1973 Norwaymarker's album chart 11
1973 Australian Kent Report Albums Chart 7
1973 French Albums Chart 89


Year Single Chart Peak

1972 "The Jean Genie" UK Singles Chart 2
1972 "The Jean Genie" Billboard Pop Singles 71
1973 "The Jean Genie" UK Singles Chart 2
1973 "Drive-In Saturday" UK Singles Chart 3


Organization Level Date
RIAAU.S.marker Gold



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