The Full Wiki

Aladdin Sane (song): Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

"Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)" is a song by David Bowie, the title track from his 1973 album Aladdin Sane. Described as the album's "pivotal" song, it saw Bowie moving into more experimental musical styles following the success of his breakthrough glam rock release The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972.


The name is a pun on "A Lad Insane". An early variation was "Love Aladdin Vein", which Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations. The dates in parentheses refer to the years preceding World War I and World War II, with the third unknown date reflecting Bowie’s belief in an impending World War III.

The title has been rendered a number of ways on different releases since 1973. The original vinyl issue of Aladdin Sane listed it as "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)", followed by "RHMS Ellinis", the name of the ship on which it was written, in keeping with Bowie's practice on the album of indicating the origin of each track. The coda includes a quote from the song "On Broadway", and on the compilation album ChangesTwoBowie (1981) it appeared in liner notes as "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)/On Broadway", co-credit going to Mann, Weil, Leiber and Stoller. On the 1990 Rykodisc CD reissue the track was referred to as simply "Aladdin Sane".

Music and lyrics

Bowie wrote "Aladdin Sane" in December 1972 as he sailed back to the UK following the first leg of his US Ziggy Stardust tour. The subject matter was inspired by a book he was reading, Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (later filmed as Bright Young Things, a phrase that also appears in the song's lyrics). Bowie saw in Waugh's story of "frivolous, decadent and silly" behaviour on the eve of "imminent catastrophe" a reflection of contemporary society, particularly in America.

The song features an acclaimed piano solo by Mike Garson, an American keyboardist who had recently joined Bowie's band. Bowie politely rejected Garson’s initial solo attempts, one in a blues style, the other Latin, asking the pianist for something akin to "the avant-garde jazz scene in the 60s". Garson obliged with the performance heard on the album, improvised and recorded in one take. In 1999, he remarked:

Rolling Stone's contemporary review described the music as "hothouse orientalism, jagged, dissonant and daring, yet also wistful and backward-looking". Writing in 1981, NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray considered the song "one of Bowie's early 'European' pieces", while comparing Garson’s piano playing to Cecil Taylor. Reviewing the 30th Anniversary Edition of Aladdin Sane in 2003, Sydney Morning Herald music critic Bernard Zuel also related the track to the composer's later work, finding the "to-and-fro between art and dramatic pop in the song provides a bridge between Bowie's pre-fame leanings and his mid-'70s decamp to Berlin". Biographer David Buckley has said that at the time of its release "Aladdin Sane" was "the clearest indicator of how Bowie was trying to free himself from the confines of rock".


A track now referred to as "Zion" has also appeared on bootlegs under the titles "Aladdin Vein", "Love Aladdin Vein", "A Lad in Vein", and "A Lad in Vain". Incorporating parts of "Aladdin Sane" and what would become "Sweet Thing (Reprise)" on Diamond Dogs, this instrumental piece was generally thought to have been recorded during the Aladdin Sane sessions at Trident Studiosmarker early in 1973. However a recent estimate places it alongside recordings for Pin Ups later that year, as a preview of Bowie's next original work, leading author Nicholas Pegg to suggest that it "perhaps ought to be regarded more as a Diamond Dogs demo than an Aladdin Sane out-take".

Live versions

"Aladdin Sane" was debuted live in February 1973, prior to the album’s release, and often played in concert during the later Ziggy Stardust tours and again on the Diamond Dogs tour in 1974. A performance from the 1974 tour was released on David Live (1974), the same track also appearing on Rock Concert. Another live version from the same tour was released on A Portrait in Flesh. Bowie revived it on stage in 1996, again with Garson on piano. He also recorded an acoustic version with vocals from bass player Gail Ann Dorsey for the BBC session ChangesNowBowie on 8 January 1997.

Other releases

The original song has appeared on several compilations:

Cover versions

  • Toni BasilLive at the Roxy
  • Emergency Broadcast Network – Sampled for "Homicidal Schizophrenic (A Lad Insane)" on Telecommunication Breakdown (1996)
  • Michael and Spider [iTunes link:]
  • WhorgasmSmothered


Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address