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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s Paperback – 29 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd (29 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921451
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,294,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A forensic examination of his most prolific period... Doggett exhaustively chases Bowie's inspirations and intentions as he morphs from the gender-bending glam rock Ziggy Stardust to the plastic soul-spinning Thin White Duke." -- Bernard McNulty Telegraph "What he has delivered here is an astonishing and absorbing work that expertly unpicks this explosively creative time in Bowie's life... Ultimately, Doggett's insight and enthusiasm should send you back to the music. If you do so the book will ensure you experience something entirely new." -- Rob Fitzpatrick Sunday Times "His potted history of Bowie's early years is an exemplary introduction to a star in the making and he's excellent at placing the sexuality-stretching Bowie within the context of a decade struggling to find it identity at the fag end of the free-loving 1960's." -- Keith Watson Metro "Peter Doggett's insightful homage to Ziggy and Bowie's life." Monocle "A book of substance that compels you to listen to Bowie's best-known songs a fresh and his less obvious songs anew." -- Patrick McNamee Time Out

Book Description

Brilliant musical critique; biographical insight and acute cultural analysis, The Man Who Sold The World is a unique study of David Bowie and the 1970s. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of David Bowie - I have every album, and check on Bowienet everyday, just in case he announces something new. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to receiving this book, and I rather guess if you are considering buying it you probably feel the same.

So it's a pity to have to report that this book isn't quite what I hoped for. It is largely a song by song review of Bowie's output in the 70s, interspersed with some magazine style boxed articles covering his life at the time which liven things up a bit. There is no lyrical analysis to speak of, but quite a bit of technical stuff about the musical structure of songs. If that is your thing you will probably enjoy this more than I did - but for me it was too technical to capture the magic of the music which was, and to some extent remains, the soundrack of my life.

So reasonably enjoyable in parts - but as a song by song, and album by album, review of Bowie's work not even close to the The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Lloyd VINE VOICE on 1 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not a big Beatles fan but I do own `Revolution in the head' Ian Macdonald's track by track analysis of their 60s work. This book is Doggett's effort to emulate the structure used by Macdonald in his own scrutiny of Bowie's 70s output.

It's a structure that can clearly work well with artists of depth and merit worthy of such examination (Goddard used the same method for his exemplary and exhaustive exploration of the Smiths musical history in `Songs that saved your life') so Bowie clearly meets the criteria.

Anyway, I am a big Bowie fan and I have read much on the man, certainly the significant texts. To be honest I wasn't really expecting too much from this book. Nicolas Pegg's Bowie bible `complete' having set an impossibly high bench mark for minutia information and detail. There is, however, much to recommend this book.

Firstly, it's well written (always a plus!), secondly there is good focus on 70s cultural influence and impact on Bowie's work, thirdly, and most importantly for me, there are some new, interesting and plausible perspectives on the songs. Doggett proposing that `Queen Bitch' may have been about Marc Bolan for example (one of many such jewels!).

So yes, a book I can highly recommend to the Bowie reader which is sadly let down by the poor quality paper on which it is printed (you know the sort that turns yellow after 6 months). These things matter to me. If you are less pedantic about page quality then add the additional star!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Chuck E VINE VOICE on 25 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Presumably, Peter Doggett wasn't given permission to reproduce Bowie's lyrics, with the result that, rather bizarrely, a book promising an in-depth analysis of his songs doesn't reproduce a single line. Of course, those of a certain generation will have many of those lines seared into the cerebral cortex while wearing out the vinyl. Otherwise, you'll need to print out lyric sheets if you want to follow the references! What Doggett does do, however, is provide an Ian MacDonald-style run-through of chord sequences, which will please musicologists, but leave the rest of us rather nonplussed.

His research does, however, throw up some interesting nuggets - not least the influence of Bowie's half-brother, Terry, in opening up his cultural horizons, and the fear of hereditary madness that seemed to drive him to workaholism (along with other addictions). Of course, any real attempt to track down the references in Bowie's work is a bit like lepidoptery - as soon as you pin them down and stick them behind glass, they lose the very qualities you're searching for. Bowie has been accused by Nick Kent of being a plagiarist, but his genius (not using the term lightly) lay in his capacity to soak up myriad influences and re-package them into a unique vision that managed to engage the imaginations of millions while remaining inimitable. Certainly, others have taken facets of that vision and built careers on them, but they've invariably been 2-D efforts in comparison to Bowie's widescreen 3-D.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Harris on 28 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Oh dear, where to start?

Firstly, I freely admit that there are parts of this book that went right over my head. When the author writes about how a song uses F# to G flat and blah blah blah... well, I'm no musician and I'm lost. That I can put up with, as, although that kind of remark is used often, it doesn't dominate what the author is talking about.

Far, far worse for me was the dismissive tone of the whole book. Bowie's earliest songs are described in terms of how derivative they are - fair enough, anyone starting out in a creative field is likely to copy until the build the knowledge and skills to do something new. What is unbelievable though, is how Doggett then keeps this up for the whole of the book. Every song (according to Doggett) seems not to have roots in its inspiration from something else, but to be simply taken wholesale from it. Throughout he portrays Bowie as little more than an OK singer who had little to do with the music. Whoever his collaborators were at the time are given all the credit - Mick Ronson during the Spiders era, Eno for Berlin... He does at least admit that Bowie wrote the lyrics, but somewhat predictably is then either dismissive of the words or has a go at them for being incomprehensible.

Towards the end of the book (as it hits 1980), the author seems to let his left-wing prejudice creep in as well, interpreting lyrics as being about the 'evil' of the Thatcher years. He then immediately admits that this interpretation is ridiculous. Why put it in then? All it seems to do is promote a personal agenda that has nothing to do with the subject and make the author look foolish.

I finished this book through sheer persistence and left it with the feeling of "Why write it, considering you seem to think David Bowie is a talentless hack?", a sentiment I certainly don't agree with. Not a book I'd recommend to anyone.
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