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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s [Paperback]

Peter Doggett
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 29 Sep 2011 --  

Book Description

29 Sep 2011
No artist offered a more incisive and accurate portrait of the troubled landscape of the 1970s than David Bowie. Through his multi-faceted and inventive work, he encapsulated many of the social, political and cultural themes that ran through this most fascinating of decades, from the elusive promise of scientific progress to the persistent fear of apocalypse that stalked the globe. In "The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s", cultural historian Peter Doggett explores the rich heritage of the artist's most productive and inspired decade, and traces the way in which his music reflected and influenced the world around him. The book follows his career from 'Space Oddity', his dark vision of mankind's voyage into the unknown terrain of space, to the Scary Monsters album. It examines in detail his audacious creation of an 'alien' rock star, Ziggy Stardust, and his own increasingly perilous explorations of the nature of identity and the meaning of fame, against the backdrop of his family heritage of mental instability. Among the book's wider themes are the West's growing sense of insecurity in the age of oil shortages and terrorism; the changing nature of sexual roles, as represented by Bowie's pioneering adoption of a bisexual persona; the emergence of a new experimental form of rock music that would leave an indelible mark on the decades to come; and, the changing nature of many of the world's great cities, including London, New York, Los Angeles and Berlin, each of which played host to Bowie during particularly creative periods of his career. Mixing brilliant musical critique with biographical insight and acute cultural analysis, "The Man Who Sold The World" is a unique study of a major artist and his times.

Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd (29 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921451
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,060,774 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars quite a technical review of songs 4 Jan 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, It's good !! 1 Oct 2011
By Stephen Lloyd VINE VOICE
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough revelation 27 Dec 2011
Peter Doggett is a good writer, as 'You Never Give Me Your Money' shows and tackling the songs of David Bowie is a worthy task, so I was looking forward to this. However, he manages to be boring about some of the best songs (the Hunky Dory album in particular). A key problem is he slavishly copies the style of Ian MacDonald's 'Revolution In The Head' with clever-clever, superfluous musical references to chords and notes - news that `Oh You Pretty Things' has a diatonic chord sequence does nothing for me. There is also too much use of speculation and not enough detail e.g. exact recording dates, who played what instruments. On the upside, there has clearly been a lot of work put in and Doggett comes up with some interesting ideas on the broad sweep of Bowie's career, if not so often on the individual songs.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Golden Years 25 Oct 2011
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Divine symmetry
Perhaps the definitive Bowie text - covers his golden years and a few scraps either side. Incredibly thorough and well researched with just enough opinion to keep it impartial yet... Read more
Published 9 months ago by F
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and unlikeable
Oh dear, where to start?

Firstly, I freely admit that there are parts of this book that went right over my head. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Paul Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted
Inferior to the peerless 'Revolution On The Head' which the book is unashamedly based on, this is nevertheless an extremely well crafted and enjoyable book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Guy Haviland
4.0 out of 5 stars Across The Universe
My interest in David Bowie in only minimal as I'm more for his covers and who covered him.Thus my favorite cover of Life On Mars-possibly his greatest song-is by Marti Webb with... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Product
This book was purchased for one of our staff who needed it for his research on David Bowie, he was very pleased swith it.
Published 16 months ago by Mary-Jane Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Bowie History
For my money Peter Doggett is the best rock writer out there (check out his Beatles break up book, You Never Give Me Your Money) and if you're new to Bowie or a veteran fan who... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Gareth Parnell
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I took this book away with me on holiday expecting it to do exactly what a similar piece on 'The Beatles' did a few years back. Read more
Published 18 months ago by D. J. Pickett
3.0 out of 5 stars Another Revolution In Your Head
Pete Doggett is quite open about the fact that this book is inspired by Revolution In The Head. Firstly, as always, this is a pretty good read, I read it, cover to cover and... Read more
Published 18 months ago by L. D. Sheldon
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing New
Having read Pete Doggett's Beatles book and heard the build-up and trumpeting in advance I had high hopes for this book
But the tome adds nothing to Nicholas Pegg's lauded... Read more
Published on 8 April 2012 by Jim Wilkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Hardcore fans will love it...
It's a really good book, and Pete Doggett is a fine writer - his 'You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle For The Soul Of The Beatles' on the Beatles is my pick of the last few... Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2012 by Robert Machin
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