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Alias David Bowie [Paperback]

Peter Gillman , Leni Gillman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 511 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (1 Jun 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340402903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340402900
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.6 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,258,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is a dense book. I was first given it as a kid in love with Our Dave, but it was not accessible to my 15 year old mind. 21 years later I found it in the attic and have really enjoyed the read. Very detailed account of Bowie up to 1978. Less detailed on the 1978-85 period where it ends. The first few chapters are all about his family. According to the book Bowie was brought up by a mother who was very emotionally cut off, to the extent that she gave up her second child for adoption. His older brother was not treated well and sadly later developed psychosis. This gives insight into Bowie's avoidant personailty. He escapes into the fantasy world of his stage characters and very nearly does not come back to reality. He appears to lack an identity of his own and clings on to aspects of those around him. After reaching an all time low he eventually withdraws to Berlin to begin his reemergence.

The book is extensively researched. Lots of scrutiny of Bowie's record contracts. Tony Defries and Angie Bowie appear to be the driving force that push Bowie to be the success he becomes. Defries makes sure he personally is well remunerated. The book has a rather sad ending with the death of Bowie's brother in 1985.

The Bowie that is portrayed is based upon analysis of his family history, his lyrics, media interviews and the thoughts of those around him at the time. There is of course one highly significant absence- Bowie himself does not get to give his version of events. The book was not endorsed by Bowie and in some ways may be too close to the bone for him to read and accept. He may however wish to dispute or correct assumptions and interpretaions made and so therefore I guess this account is as close as one can get without the reflections of Bowie himself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
That a book which is always quoted in other books on Bowie bibliographies does not have any rating yet is rather curious.

This is a biography, a well, very well researched, one. If you were reading about Napoleon, or Elisabeth I, you will ask for facts. So should also readers of biographies of artists.

This book has not been endorsed by David Bowie, but it stands on its legs in an excellent way.

Writing style is spotless too.

I will say one of five books to own on DB, other than those devoted to pictures.

If you really wish to find a minor drawback in it, this is that it has never been updated, but then some may question if there is the need for such.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book covers Bowie's family history and early life in great (sometimes exhaustive) detail and follows his career up until his appearance at Live Aid in 1985. It has been used as a source by other writers on Bowie, including Nicholas Pegg in his excellent 'The Complete David Bowie' and, whilst Bowie himself didn't participate in or approve of the book, the Gillmans interviewed approximately 150 people in preparation.

Peter & Leni Gillman's research is also extremely thorough and they provide factual (and counterfactual) information ranging from the details of Bowie's schooling and where he was brought up, through to specific details of the financial extravagance of the MainMan years and of the settlement reached between Bowie and his erstwhile manager Tony Defries.

The most questionable aspect, which also happens to be the book's central theme, is the insistance on the significance on Bowie of his half-brother Terry's mental illness. In support of this theory the Gillmans seek, sometimes in a rather contrived way, to link Bowie's lyrics (which they don't always transcribe correctly) and artistic decisions to Terry, which might be a good literary device but, overall, is less than convincing.

The Gillman's are also, to some extent, the victims of contemporary views on mental illness, and frequently fall into the traps waiting for any amateur psychologist, finding significance where they wish to in order to support their theory and expressing fuzzy or fashionable views about pschology as if they are facts.

The high incidence of mental illness in Bowie's family, it's implied, is likely to be hereditary, afflicting Bowie who is presented as being largely in denial.
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