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Tuesday, November 22, 2005


David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder, Woody Woodmansey, Mick Garson
Directed by D.A. Pennebaker

Dopey from red meat, red wine, sugar and other assorted chemicals, Cindy and I and friends Julia and Chris sat down last Saturday night for an evening of rock and roll history. Through the magic of DVD (we should never lose sight of the fact that it IS magic), we consider ourselves lucky, lucky, lucky to have taken in the final concert of a genuinely legendary band in D.A. Pennebaker's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture.

Filmed July 3, 1973, this is David Bowie at his most creative, most outrageous, and most, well, most most. How can someone so slight be so enormous?

Two words for this concert movie. It rocks. And not in the "Thanks for writing up that proposal, Bob. You rock!" way. But in the hardcore-rock-and-roll-Les-Paul-through-a-Marshall-stack way. As Ziggy, Bowie is the stage general, strutting and posturing in multiple costumes, spiked orange hair and makeup that depending on the lighting makes him look alternately cadaverous, beautiful, and like a little alien friend sent from outer space to spread the word of his existence. The costumes are glamtacular. Onesies, capes, boas, togas, tunics – Chris observed that it was more outrageous than anything you see nowadays. He's right. Now where's my Geritol?

But Bowie is only half responsible for the aerospacial level of rocking taking place here. For 89 minutes, the massive bravado of Ziggy runs head on into the granite boulder of Spider guitarist Mick Ronson, or should I say Mick Fucking Ronson. Coloring every tale of oddity told by Ziggy, Ronson paints a backdrop of distortion, power and melody. These guitar riffs are Classic with a capital "C." "The Width of a Circle," "Moonage DayDream," "Suffragette City," "Ziggy Stardust." Watching Ronson and Bowie is like watching two tectonic plates scraping against each other during an earthquake, neither willing to yield to the other. Ronson constructs a glossary of rock and roll poses and licks to which countless successors have liberally referred.

Also appearing are Trevor Bolder (bass), Woody Woodmansey (drums), and Mick Garson (keyboards), I believe for a combined screen time of ten seconds, eight of which consist of a rock battle between Bolder and Ronson which ends with Bolder scurrying back into the darkness on his side of the stage.

Obviously, I liked this movie and now consider it a "must-see" not only for music fans but also for fans of Pennebaker ("Don't Look Back," "Monterey Pop") who here has created yet another classic nugget of rock history that should be preserved forever.


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