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Tony Visconti: The Autobiography: Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy [Paperback]

Morrissey , Tony Visconti
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2007

A name synonymous with ground-breaking music, Tony Visconti has worked with the most dynamic and influential names in pop, from T.Rex and Iggy Pop to David Bowie and U2. This is the compelling life story of the man who helped shape music history, and gives a unique, first-hand insight into life in London during the late 1960s and '70s.

Soon after abandoning his native New York to pursue his musical career in the UK, Visconti was soon in the thick of the emerging glam rock movement, launching T.Rex to commercial success and working with the then-unknown David Bowie.

Since his fateful move to the land of tea and beer drunk straight from the can, Visconti has worked with such names as T.Rex, Thin Lizzy, Wings, The Boomtown Rats, Marsha Hunt, Procol Harum, and more recently Ziggy Marley, Mercury Rev, the Manic Street Preachers and Morrissey on his acclaimed new album 'Ringleader of the Tormentors'.

Even Visconti's personal life betrays an existence utterly immersed in music. Married to first to Siegrid Berman, then to Mary Hopkin and later to May Pang, he counts many of the musicians and producers he has worked with as close friends and is himself a celebrated musician.

This memoir takes you on a roller-coaster journey through the glory days of pop music, when men wore sequins and pop could truly rock. Visconti's unique access to the biggest names and hottest talent, both on stage and off, for over five decades is complemented by unseen photographs from his own personal archive, and offers a glimpse at music history that few have witnessed so intimately.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (3 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007229453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007229451
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 20.3 x 13.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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‘What makes this latest instalment of the baby-boomer’s tale so readable is his easy-going, unjudgemental familiarity with the professional foibles of his clients. Not many people can remark, as he does of Bob Geldof, that “singing is not his forte”, without the slightest trace of bitchiness or reproach.’
The Sunday Times Culture magazine

‘Without question, Visconti is one of the greatest and most innovative music producers of all time. His gritty history of two decades of British pop makes me want to brush the dust off my old Bowie and T.Rex albums and skip-jive around the kitchen’ Daily Mail

Four star review in MOJO: ' A life in music, rich in chemical romances, bickering stars and some wonderful work, is recounted with great dignity.’

‘Just as George Martin was the definitive '60s producer, so Tony Visconti's work with David Bowie and Marc Bolan shaped rock's landscape in the '70s.’

‘[Morrissey] is so spectacularly presented by producer Tony Visconti that we end up not just with a Morrissey masterpiece … but also a Visconti masterpiece … Ultimately, Visconti helps transform Morrissey's dogged oddness and phenomenal fussiness into pure magic.’
Observer, 2006

‘Visconti recently teamed up again with his old foil David Bowie to record Bowie's best album in 20 years; now he has helmed Morrissey's best in 15 years.’
Scotsman, 2006

‘Visconti’s sparky autobiography takes you stomping back to the frantic, glory days of glam rock and pop’
London Lite

'His outsider's view of London's tiny, tatty underground scene of the late 1960s is wonderfully vivid.' '…worth seeking out.' Sunday Times

From the Back Cover

Tony Visconti is synonymous with ground-breaking music. He has worked with the most dynamic and influential names in pop, from T-Rex and Thin Lizzy to David Bowie, Morrissey and U2, and is hailed as one of the greatest music producers of all time.

However it is for his work with Marc Bolan and David Bowie that Visconti is most revered. His relationships with these artists has been hailed as two of the greatest artist/producer partnerships in pop history; Visconti has worked with Bowie on eleven albums to date.

With a back catalogue that reads like a who's who of the movers and shakers in popular culture, this memoir takes you on a roller-coaster journey through the glory days of pop music, when men wore sequins and pop really rocked.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life is Strange 25 Jun 2007
I enjoyed reading this, however, it does tail off after the first couple of hundred pages. As a previous reviewer notes, the 80s until now is almost presented in list form.

I would have liked to have read Visconti's views on some of the technical aspects of the records he produced, and some of the details of the recordings of the Bowie and Bolan material is limited to material which has been covered before. Indeed he has disclosed more information in interviews for publicising the book than sometimes appears in it! (And material such as Bowie's displeasure with Visconti due to an 80s interview is not mentioned at all.)

It is an enjoyable and easy read, but it seems like an overview. I gained little insight into his production techniques and what he brings to records he produces. It is no fluke that he has worked on some seminal works, so what are his philosophies and techniques?

There are occasional insights which are interesting and it is nice to hear some of his views, and he comes across as a flawed but likeable character, it is a shame that not all of the many stories he must have make it onto the page.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those were the days, my friend 23 Feb 2007
Tony Visconti is one of the handful of producers for whom the epithet' legendary' can be applied without the slightest hint of irony. This book is as effortless and multilayered and rich as his extraordinary arrangements. College discos in the 70s and loon pants could not have happened without Visconti. Tony's vibrant strings, plush resonance and musically witty touch was the fairy dust which elevated Bolan's three chord kidrock into mantras to exhuberance. Bowie's diamond dogs, extraterrestrial hubris and all time lows were gifted with chairascuro by his longtime admirer and collaborator. This much we know from the sleeve notes, but Visconti takes us intoi a world we didn't know in this wonderful account of what it was like to sit in studios, squat in flats and grapple with monstrous egos in the rococco decade of excess that was overshadowed by the sixties, reviled in the 80s but which was arguably the most poignant and experimental time for pop music.

This book takes you into the world of valve amps, velvet-lined guitar cases, Mellotrons, bongos and tubular bells, an analogue time where vibe preceded technique and where acts were discovered as opposed to manufactured. Its a vastly readable account, by an icon, of his work with iconic people who, despite their multifarious failings, made a difference. Tony doesn't namedrop or rank his acts - he takes you into the room and lets you soak up the atmosphere in a way which allows the reader to genuinely understand the circumstances of the song and of the time. The book- like a Viscont arrangement- has surprises - I didn't know he write the strings for the Band on the Run Album, for example. Neither did anyone else until Paul McCartney gave him a credit on the 25th anniversary reissue.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars High hopes... 25 Aug 2007
Being such a fan of the major records produced by Tony Viconti, I was really looking forward to this book, to get an insight into his production and hear his many interesting tales of the artists he has worked with. Unfortunately, what I got from this book was a rather dull rant about how brilliant Bowie was, how awful Bolan was, and how he was the angel caught in amongst all of this.

I am quite sure Bolan could be a pain in the backside, especially when drugs were added to the equation, but the whole thing smacked of 'he's not here to defend himself so let's let rip'.If he was that bad, why was tony such a friend to him? It bugged me. And David Bowie was a saint in comparison according to tony- funny that, because the two fell out massively in the 80s which is not mentioned at all here, and his glowing praise for David seemed to be mr. visconti sucking up.

Tony visconti unfortunately, to me, came across as, although very talented, rather 'bitchy' and boring. The story of his life has intereseting moments, but it is not written in a fluent or easily followed style. I would reccommend listening to the amazing work he has produced, and not read his biased, rather dull, and frankly egotistical autobiography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wizard (behind the glass) 16 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first time I came across the name Tony Visconti was when I was teenager, recently hooked on the Thin White Duke. It was my older sister who was responsible. She'd just bought `Stage,' and I took to it like a young duckling to water. Over the decades I've watched the Visconti name come up time and time again and not just through Bowie's work. Perhaps my favourite `quasi-punk' record of my teenage years was Hazel O Connor's Breaking Glass, another Visconti masterpiece. I saw Hazel O Connor in concert earlier this year and she still has the ability to bring tears to my eyes with that hauntingly beautiful piece Will You.

Anyway, let's get to the book.

The first part is a fast paced and exhilarating read, taking you through Mr. V's early years as a musician who took his art very seriously. Even as a youngster he wanted to learn properly, and mastered various instruments as well as learning music theory (which would be come invaluable in his studio days). He takes us around mid20th C Italian Brooklyn, with it's Mob elements and colourful characters. This part of the book is almost novel-ish. You can tell, from the first few pages that you're in for a real adventure.

I'll need to skip a little now (or we'll be here for ages) suffice to say that Mr. V eventually discovered that while playing musical instruments would always be part of his life, is was producing music and making records that was his real passion.

The next part of the book tells the tense and humourous tale of his move to the UK in an attempt to discover the British sound and the British method of record making.
Of course, we eventually meet the man who was to change Mr.V's life - a certain Marc Bolan.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars At last! A music autobiography that IS worth reading!
Well it soon became apparent, when reading this book, that Tony Visconti is much more than a producer. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. David Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars great service
Visconti wins you over with his honesty and his sheer will to make great music through many genres of music. through bad times and good tony comes up trumps. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. Anthony J. Hume
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
As a teenager of the early 70s I found this to be a very interesting and highly entertaining read. Excellent!
Published 7 months ago by Mr. Kevin Hearty
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
I am not a regular book reader but I am a musician and have a great interest in the glam rock era of the 1970's. Read more
Published 8 months ago by BA Walton
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent condition, great read.
Excellent service from supplier. Book immaculate upon delivery. I am enjoying the book, it is well written, seems honest and not just a trashy celeb dig- the-dirt. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Michelle
3.0 out of 5 stars Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy. Not quite there yet.
A fairly good read. Not enough detail though. You'd think that there would be a lot more insight into the people tony has worked with. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ziggy Starstruck
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
If you are interested in music, David Bowie and T Rex, the seventies, you will love this and also Tony VIsconti the record producer.
Published 10 months ago by MRS. K. R. COWAN
5.0 out of 5 stars More than Bowie
Visconti's wide and varied career is fascinating. An excellent insight into the making of music that has influenced generations. Read and enjoy.
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius producer
Really entertaining read. Some great stories. Tony Visconti has helped produce the soundtrack of my life working with some of the greatest songwriters and musicians of the 20th... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. John Harold
4.0 out of 5 stars Needed more on The Move
Tony Visconti's book was a better than average read and he certainly hit some musical high points on his arrival in London. Read more
Published 12 months ago by MACASSO
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