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on 8 April 2012
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 "Complete David Bowie" and, criminally, relies largely on spouting musical terms with no feel or knowledge of the true effect of Bowie's music
A lot of the theories/ attempted intellectual references are plain silly, laughable
There is a great book to be written on Bowie's songs but this collection of speculative imaginings and Fourth Form music class term-dropping isn't it
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on 1 November 2011
Hearing David Bowie in a new way
Like one of the other reviewers, I was dubious about how much I could possibly learn from this book after reading the various editions of
Nicholas Pegg's encyclopaedia cover to cover numerous times. So I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Not only was there lots of new
information about David Bowie's sources for his songs (everything from Kevin Ayers to Meat Loaf, according to the author), but I also came
away with a really strong sense of exactly what Bowie went through to make that incredible music in the 70s.
Despite the fact that most of the book is a song-by-song guide, there's a really strong narrative running through it, as David finds new ways of making sense of the world, facing up to his demons, and keeping true to himself no matter how many changes he was going through.
Since I finished the book, I've been going back to Bowie's records over and over, and finding things that I'd never noticed before. You can't ask for more from a Bowie book
than that. Five stars.
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on 20 August 2013
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. Doggett admits he is not a trained musicologist and this is apparent. I would have liked more information on the contributions of Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey for instance but it is churlish to be too critical because this is still a wonderful dissection of the songs of a true musical genius.
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on 27 October 2014
Really disappointing Kindle book, it doesn't seem to be working correctly constantly jumping forward and back, not the narrative, but the kindle mechanism, What of the book I have managed to read is ok, a bit plodding, and doesn't capture the excitment of the music
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on 21 March 2012
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 years' rock writing. What lets this one down is the subject. Bowie fan though I am, and particularly of the 70s work, I'm not sure it really stands up to the weight of analysis applied here. The Beatles' mighty oeuvre could take 'Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties' - the breadth of the catalogue, the musical innovation, the social stuff going on around the Beatles - but Bowie? Not so much, and I found myself skipping quite a bit here. But that might just be me - if you like good writing and are really into that period of the Dame's music, you'll most likely love it...
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on 12 January 2012
This book is custom made for people like me. I'm a decade too young to have copped David Bowie first time round (still in nappies when Ziggy played his farewell gig at Hammersmith) but discovered the whole back catalog, in one fell swoop, in about 1984 courtesy of K-Tel's The Best Of Bowie cassette, which I still maintain is the best Bowie compilation there is.

Thereafter, painstakingly, I acquired every Long Player that Bowie ever released. I learned every word and every chord. Convention wisdom, and I, will tell you the most fertile period in David Bowie's career was the "RCA" period from Space Oddity in 1969 to Scary Monsters in 1980. And that period is what this new book is mostly about.

Peter Doggett has done us aficionados the service of biographing that period through the lens of every song Bowie wrote and recorded in it. Lyrics and song composition are analysed and contextualised. It's a smart way to ensure Doggett's subject's history is integrated with its creative output: an important job many biographies fail manifestly to do.

That said, it's a fraught one: we all have our own Bowies, and it isn't edifying to encounter a radically different interpretation. Nor is lyrical over-analysis in vogue these days and nor, specifically in Bowie's case, did it ever pay dividends anyway (Not The Nine o'Clock News once lampooned his approach with its "Sing along with David Bowie" feature, whose method was: "rearrange the following words in any order and sing them to any tune in a silly voice and you'll have your very own Bowie classic").

And, lastly, the job was comprehensively done anyway in 1986 in the form of Peter and Leni Gillman's masterly "Alias David Bowie", which gently deconstructed and then rethreaded Bowie's material through the lens of a family history of insanity and alienation.

Doggett's book is less gentle in its deconstruction and (whether he intends it or not) markedly less flattering: the Bowie that emerges from close analysis is a superficial, opportunist whose great talent is that of reinvention. On Doggett's reading there's no great personal insight to be derived from Bowie's material, his value as a social commentator is limited (much is made of a couple of ill-judged remarks hinting at pseudo fascism dating from the Station to Station era) and much of his material is ill-judged or hastily conceived. Young Americans is given a bath, as is conventional, but so too are Hunky Dory,Diamond Dogs,Station to Station, and poor old Lodger gets an absolute pasting.

I was mostly persuaded that Bowie's persona had more substance than form, and I suppose that is really the point: in the final analysis Bowie's legacy hasn't been the material itself so much as the doors it opened: the medium - the form, if you like - being the message - and I imagine this book will appeal to diehard fans and even those relative new-comers fancying immersion therapy as a way to get into the World of David Bowie - which is a world like few others out there.

Still, for me Alias David Bowie remains the definitive biography.

Olly Buxton
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on 9 March 2016
Interesting to read, but not essential. There are loads of better books on Bowie written out there.
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on 27 February 2013
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. Thought I would want to play loads of Bowie when I got home! Alas this was not the case!

The book is clearly assembled from a considerable collection of interviews with DB, not by the author but from the music press or indeed anywhere! This to me is the books major failing. I think the way Bowie has added to his own myth by telling interviewers either exactly what they want to hear or simply changing the stories makes an examination of his work all but impossible except in a few cases. After reading the book I am little wiser as to what the songs are about or what inspired DB to pen a particular number.

Indeed the author is very good at setting the scene in the 1960 - 1970's and the detail is sound here but less good on the late 1980's but the 1990's does not even get a mention! Sure Bowie has hardly set the world alight with his 90's music but there have been some good songs and some great live performances, eg the last live album. Plus I have seen him perform a couple of times and he was on breathtaking form, other concerts/tours are covered in the book so why not his final live shows?

Furthermore there is little mention of the infamous 'Tin Machine' would love to know what that was really about?? Or perhaps the author like me cannot stand the albums?

What this book did for me was completely unexpected, although I love Bowie's music I find that I now have little need to find out what led him to write a song. Later in the book it is suggested that Bowie composes using lines/words which he fits into a melody and that is how he now writes, I think this could have been the case for sometime and thats fine with me it produces some great music which I love. The author is far better writing about DB and his selection of band members, in particular Mick Ronson's role in the Spiders for example. I would have prefered more on the studio process in particular as Bowie himself is not the most reliable on his songs. I finished the book little wiser about the songs or indeed the man!
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on 23 June 2016
Superb book - excellent deal!!!
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on 27 April 2013
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 for me the most important of his albums is Pin Ups.
Starting at the beginning in the early 60s this is a lead in to the main of the book -Bowie in the 70s.
Thus its more interesting to learn about the vast amount of songs which went to other mostly unknown artists like Paul Nicholas who at the time was known as Oscar.
Doggett keeps his own opinions out and reports it as it was and this is a plus factor.I'm not especially bothered about rock critics who spout their raving opinions about The Laughing Gnome-a song I always liked especially the Ronnie Hilton cover
For those who want to know more about the music this is definitely preferable to the books which plough into Bowie's private life
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