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More Bowie books January 2, 2017

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Music.
Tags: , ,

Thanks to Netgalley, I read a couple of books about David Bowie as free advance e-reading copies in exchange for reviews. I think both were reprints with a bit of new material added. Some comments:

Spider from Mars: My Life with Bowie by Woody Woodmansey. This one’s due out right about now. As the title suggests, it’s a memoir by one of the Spiders From Mars.

There have been many books written about David Bowie, and this is one of them. It’s an inside story of the band who played with Bowie from The Man Who Sold The World through Aladdin Sane. Woody Woodmansey begins with his days as a youth discovering the joys of rock and roll, playing in small local bands and gradually moving up, playing with Mick Ronson and then being called to work with Ronson and Bowie.

It’s a time of many changes, in society and music, and Woodmansey presents it from the perspective of a northern small town lad who manages to stay away from most of the craziness. Either he kept an unmentioned diary or he has a phenomenal memory — there are details about clothes and instruments and things that I’d never remember, but I never lived through that kind of experience.

So you get a lot of the day to day life of being a rising rock drummer, playing in a popular band, being dropped just as things get huge, and keeping a life going as a professional musician, with occasional encounters with interesting people along the way. What you don’t get is much insight into David Bowie. Why did things change between Bowie and the Spiders? Must have been the drugs. There’s not much insight into anything, really; it’s not a deep book, or a gem of well-crafted prose, it’s a conversation with a geezer telling you stories of what happened. Enjoyable enough but unless you’re a Bowie obsessive who reads every book about him (not me — I don’t think I’ve read more than seven or eight) or someone really interested in the glam period of Bowie’s career, you may not need this. Though I suppose it could serve as a counterpoint of sorts to the recent Simon Reynolds book on glam, showing how all that looked to those who lived it.

And then there’s Bowie Album By Album by rock critic Paolo Hewitt, out for a couple of months now. Also what it says on the tin.

This is an excellent choice for the casual fan who wants something that puts Bowie’s albums into context, that has some good discography and chronology info, and that has a lot of photos, making it something you can browse or read through. Hewitt goes through Bowie’s life album by album, providing some context on the making and reception of each one, along with the occasional critique.

Bowie fans who already have several books in their collections may not learn a lot that’s new here, but even so it’s worth browsing for the photos.

Not much to add, really… highly recommended for anyone who wants a solid introduction to David Bowie’s career, from the early albums through Blackstar.



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