Friday, April 19, 2013
Book Club: The Man Who Sold The World
I was a big Bowie fan in the 1970's. My first Bowie album was 1971's Hunky Dory released before Ziggy Stardust, when hardly anyone knew who he was. After 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars his earlier albums, Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World were re-released in the US and I snapped them up.
If you were a Bowie fan in the '70s, you know that he seemed to change musical styles and personalities with every album. This book tries to explain why. The first section deals with Bowie's childhood and early years as he tried to establish himself in the 1960's. As talented as he was, he was apparently not very confident in himself and at times not really interested in a career as a rock star.
The rest of the book tells the story of Bowie's career through each individual song he wrote. An interesting concept. The author writes about what was going on in Bowie's life as he constantly recreated himself, in his personal life and in his music. Bowie was such a big star in the '70s that, I think, we tend to forget that he was basically nobody before Ziggy. In Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was presented as a big star in the glitter rock mold. He toured extensively, although the tour was not a big a success has he wanted.
The book is also a familiar tale of fame. Disagreements with managers, drugs, overwork, sex, fall-outs with fellow musicians, and loss of direction. The author presents some of Bowie's lifestyle through this period as a fear of insanity. His adored older brother had a complete mental breakdown (something that was rampant in his mother's family) when Bowie was in his late teens. It's as if Bowie embraced the insanity of overwork and cocaine in an attempt to avoid going insane. Fighting fire with fire as it were.
I would not recommend this book if you're not pretty familiar with his body of work in the 1970's. It would be pretty had to follow if you don't really know the songs. I pretty much lost interest in Bowie after "Heroes", consequently the end of the book dealing with his later albums like Lodger and Scary Monsters which I really am not familiar, was hard to follow.
The last Bowie album I bought was 1983's Let's Dance. He's released 10 more albums since then (not much of an output for 30 plus years) which I know nothing about.