Today the #AtoZChallenge brings us to our final letter of the alphabet - Z. This is also the third and last of the letters that are not represented on Billboard Hot 100 Year-End charts. So, once again, I went digging…
1970 - Zero She Flies - Al Stewart
"Zero She Flies" is the title track of Al Stewart's third album. The liner notes give no clue as to its genesis, but a live version - running to some 7 minutes 49 seconds - appears on Volume One of the unofficial triple CD set Oceans Of Delphi. (Previously released as Meridian XVII, this collection includes recordings made between 1970 and 1996). Before performing the song, Al explained that it was inspired by his love of obscure writers of fantasy fiction in the fashion of Tolkien. Mervyn Peake was not as famous as the good professor, but said Al, in its own way, his body of work was just as good as The Lord Of The Rings and similar epics.
On the dust cover of Titus Groan - part of Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy, it was stated that he was a "Gothic surrealist writer", which impressed Al immensely, even though he wasn't sure exactly what that was, so he went away and "thought Gothic surrealist thoughts to myself", and the result was "Zero She Flies", his Gothic surrealist song. Peake (1911-68), published the first of these books, the aforementioned Titus Groan, in 1946.
1972 - Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
"Ziggy Stardust" is a song written and recorded by David Bowie for his 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The song features Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a rock star who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. In 2010 the song ranked at No. 282 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The song is one of four of Bowie's songs included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The character was inspired by British rock 'n' roll singer Vince Taylor, whom David Bowie met after Taylor had a breakdown and believed himself to be a cross between a god and an alien, though Taylor was only part of the blueprint for the character. Other influences included the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Kansai Yamamoto, who designed the costumes Bowie wore during the tour. The Ziggy Stardust name came partly from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and partly, as Bowie told Rolling Stone Magazine, because Ziggy was "one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter 'Z'". He later explained in a 1990 interview for Q magazine that the Ziggy part came from a tailor's shop called Ziggy's that he passed on a train, and he liked it because it had "that Iggy [Pop] connotation but it was a tailor's shop, and I thought, Well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy. So Ziggy Stardust was a real compilation of things."
The original demo version of the song, recorded in February 1971, was released as a bonus track on the Rykodisc CD release of Ziggy Stardust in 1990. The demo also appeared on the Ziggy Stardust - 30th Anniversary Reissue bonus disc in 2002. The album version of the song was recorded in November 1971.
While this song did not rank on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End charts, it ranks as number 17 on the Billboard US Hot Rock Songs and number 75 on Japan Hot 100.
1977 - Zoom - Commodores
"Zoom" is one of the Commodores' best known tunes, despite not being released as a single in the US. It reached #38 on the UK singles chart.
There isn't a whole lot of information available about the song, other than the fact that it was written about the time that Ronald LaPread's wife was diagnosed with cancer. He had the beginning and the ending for the song, but was missing the middle. He took the song to their producer, who said that Lionel Richie had a middle of a song, but not start or finish, and told them to get together to see if they could make a whole song.
The Lionel Richie and Ronald LaPread composition is a wish for world happiness and the hope for a better place to magically "zoom" away to.
Be sure to follow the 2017 AtoZ Challenge playlist for all of the songs featured in this years challenge.
Did you listen to any of these tunes in the 70's? Would you like to know more about these artists in future posts? Let me know in the comments.
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