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on 1 February 2010
Whether or not you will go for this biography depends largely on whether you agree
with the author on the following three points:
(1) that Scary Monsters is a great album and not, to use a technical term from musicology, "a load of rubbish",
as I do;
(2) that TVC15 is one of Bowie's poorer tracks, reminiscent of Knees Up Mother Brown;
(3) that all of Bowie's career is of equal interest and so worthy of equal space in the book, rather than that,
after Heroes, Bowie jumped off a cliff, musically speaking, and has yet to hit the bottom.
All valid views, no doubt: it's your choice.
But it's certainly a fun read, at least until around half way through.
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on 10 November 2014
A great book, well written, easy to read and which I literally could not put down most of the time.

Like many other reviewers, reading the book made me go back to some tracks and even albums I hadn't played for a while.

Here are some random questions &/or comments about Bowie that I've never found an answer to and was maybe hoping to-- none of these are criticisms of the book though just things I've always wondered about:

1. What were Bowie's thoughts on the original (cartoon) cover to The Man Who Sold the World album?
2. What possessed RCA to release "Rock & Roll Suicide" as a follow-up single to "Rebel Rebel" and before the "Diamond Dogs" single?
3. Why didn't RCA ask Bowie for input when remixing "Velvet Goldmine" for the "Space Oddity" 1975 single re-release?
4. I think a bit more on the making of Lou Reed's Transformer and even the long deleted Dana Gillespie album would have been of interest. There was some coverage of Iggy Pop's The Idiot and Lust for Life but I was left hungry for more.
5. How is it possible that "Be My Wife" didn't even make the Top 75 particularly when the preceding single had been a Top 3 hit? Was there a physical record distribution problem at the time?
6. What was Bowie's experience of working with Giorgio Moroder (and Paul Schrader) on the original "Cat People" track like?
7. Why did EMI America release "Without You" as a follow-up single to "Modern Love" in the US without a promotional video at the height of MTV fever? Contemporary acts were achieving 4th and 5th Top 40 hit singles on the US Hot 100 from the same hit album but not without that all important video.
8. How did the Keith Haring cover of the above "Without You" single come about? Was Bowie involved or was this purely a record label and/or PR exercise?
9. How did the David Bowie and Tina Turner collaboration on "Tonight" come about and why was "Tonight" selected for the duet?
10. Tina Turner covered Bowie's "1984" track on her Private Dancer album. Private Dancer was one of the biggest selling albums in the US that year (as well as a sizeable hit in the UK). The remake is not referenced in the book but it would be interesting to know if this choice of track to cover had anything to do with them recording "Tonight" together-- or just selected because the album itself released the year of the song title; either way, both tracks would have been recorded no more than a few months apart by my estimation.
11. Iggy Pop's "Real Wild Child" gave him his first and biggest ever chart hit in the UK (Top 10), the track isn't mentioned by name in the book (although the Blah Blah Blah album is) despite being produced by Bowie; some insight on the track would have been really interesting.
12. The book strangely makes no mention of the live single version of "Tonight" (credited to "Tina Turner - duet with David Bowie"), lifted from her Tina Live in Europe album, which became a hit in Europe in 1988 (but not the UK), even reaching # 1 in the Netherlands (not the biggest sales territory, agreed, but still noteworthy as it would have been one of Bowie's last bigger European hit singles).
13. Bowie's liner notes on the original release aside, what input did Hanif Kureishi have, if any, into the making of the Buddha of Suburbia album?
14. What did Bowie think of the sound quality of EMI's 1999 remasters of his back catalogue?
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VINE VOICEon 3 February 2013
I've been an on-and-off fan of David Bowie since the release of Ziggy Stardust in 1972, and still believe that the run of fourteen albums he released between Space Oddity and Let's Dance is - with one or two exceptions - a rare example of extraordinary consistency over a long period of time in pop music. This account of Bowie's life and music provides some great insights into how those records were made, and how his well-known penchant for self-reinvention kept his work so interesting and appealing. The other thing it does is to strongly suggest that some of his later work (particularly 2002's Heathen) is equally valuable. Having - like many fans - lost interest in Bowie after 1983, I can't comment on that assertion, but it sounds like it'd be worth picking up some of those discs for a listen.

The author tells Bowie's story in an engaging fashion although, as others have pointed out, there's a good deal of repetition and fragmentation in the text, which suggests it'd've benefited from a final read-through by an editor. They might also have fixed up the sentence on p34 which says that Bowie wanted to "utilise each new innovation as it came along" (rather than, presumably, wasting time on all those old innovations). Similarly, whilst it was indeed a "deserved tribute to Bowie's huge contribution to music" when he received an honorary doctorate in 1999, it wasn't awarded him by [University of California] Berkeley (as stated on p482), but by the similar-sounding (and in the realm of contemporary music, far more prestigious) institution on the other side of the USA. Picking up such nits spoiled my enjoyment of the book somewhat, but it's still a nice piece of work.
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on 28 October 2010
As a Bowie fan since 1972 i was very interested in this book.
It kept me occupied on my plane journey to the US. I found myself at turns laughing out loud,mumbling under my breath and shaking my head. I didn't always agree with Mr Buckleys views. But overall i found it a fascinating and interesting read. It made me want to re-listen to all his Albums. Always a good sign i think. Overall i would recommend this book to anyone interested in David Bowie.
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on 15 February 2016
This book is really only for the absolute die-hard, obsessed Bowie fan who needs to know every little detail and every single name (even the far more insignificant ones) of those Bowie met or worked with.
Personally, the book was far too rambling for me. The author clearly loves Bowie and knows a lot of facts and has done a lot of research into his life. But the book itself is poorly written and jumps around far too much for me- as a reader, I lost a bit of interest and found it wasn't always clear which album the writer was talking about.

I was also hugely disappointed that Labyrinth was covered (quite negatively!) in under a page. Whilst the film was a box office flop at the time of release, and many older Bowie fans saw it as insignificant, it has since become a cult hit- and indeed, for many of us born between 1975 and 1990, this film was our first encounter with the legend and remains one of his most important moments. I presume the author is older, as they fail to appreciate the importance of this film to a younger generation of fans.

Generally, I am a bit disappointed by this book. I found it far too rambly and even rather boring in places, although if you want every tiny timy detail of Bowie's career, you might still find it interesting.
I am planning to buy a hardback coffee table book instead!
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on 29 May 2016
This is a very interesting journey into David Bowie's history,full of meaningful details,which also acts as a chronicle of the transition of pop music from the 70s to the first decade of the new century.Although the story is told objectively(and this prevents from deeper analysis of the impact of the songs beyond evaluation,and beyond the personal autobiographical meaning for Bowie himself),we still have a very fascinating view of the background of the songs,the world in which they came to be.I may disagree here and there about the estimation of songs or records,but overall I ended up with a better understanding and knowledge of the Bowie phenomenon.I was also tempted to fill the story with what happened next and what I thought was that although I recently discovered many of his records I hadn't bothered to listen to and found them all interesting(with the only possible exceptions of Tonight and the Tin machine period),the Bowie after Scary monsters(yes again) never had the impact,as a musician or a person,that he had before,up until Blackstar.I won't say it was his best record since S.M.(that would be just silly).But I do say that it is a record that has uniqueness as a quality,just like the past,and it isn't just one more good record(they all were),but takes the story that had been left behind to the end.This is the way that Bowie earns immortality(which the previous repetitions of the old songs were trying to take away from him).I would welcome,at some point ,some remark from David Buckley about the rest of the story.Thanks anyway!It was an essential reading on David Bowie.
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on 24 May 2016
David writes about the things I want to know about David Bowie in an intelligent, sensitive and thoughtful way making this book a pleasure to read. I have been a fan of David Bowie since I was a teenager, too many years to count now and he has fascinated, intrigued, entertained and thrilled me. Clearly he has done this to the author as well and it's a joy to share this artist's history with him. I, like so many other of David Bowie's fans, was deeply saddened and shocked by his death at the beginning of this year and I still can't believe he has gone forever. This book brings him alive again for me every time I look at it, and it in my opinion can be read straight through or dipped in and out of. I also love another of David Buckley's books which goes very well with this one - "David Bowie, The Music and the Changes" - which gives an album by album, track by track guide to the music of David Bowie and a timeline. A great companion to this book and again, a fascinating read. David Bowie will never die in my eyes and ears, we have these great books to keep him alive and a timely reminder of one of music's greatest artists ever. Actually, the greatest artist ever in my opinion!
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on 21 January 2011
Not bad, but far from great either. I bought this as way of getting an overview of Bowie's life and times plus a better insight into his musical methodology. Whilst there are many interesting nuggets contained within I found myself constantly annoyed at Buckley continues repetition of facts. On one page he talks about a Kansai Yamamoto designed Ziggy costume that contained an 'arse flap' and then several pages later reiterates the same fact as though he'd never mentioned it before. He does this continually throughout, check out how often he bangs on about Ziggy's hair style, and it gives the impression that a) the book was written in chunks without going back over the previous sections b) he thinks we won't notice and c) the editor was half-asleep.

His syntax can also be pretty annoying at times with a large number of very pseud-ish statements that really belong in a 6th form student's thesis.

To be fair it is the best that's out there at the moment and an interesting read but I'm expecting Paul Trynka's book to improve on this (if it doesn't there'll still be room for the definitive tale of the most enigmatic of all of Britain's musical legends.

Oh and for the record Dave Aleister Crowley wasn't a 18th and 19th century diabolist. He was a 19th and 20th century occultist. Small point maybe but is once again an example of poor editing and proof reading.
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on 22 July 2017
Incredibly in depth look at a truly intriguing man. I had asked my husband to buy me a Bowie biography for Christmas and after research he bought me this one, and I am so glad he did. For all Bowie, and indeed music fans it is a must, and the descriptions of songs, albums and other projects that David Bowie immersed himself in are described by both the people involved with them and the people influenced by them. Bowie did not give an interview to the author for the book but the book was of interest to Bowie, and to this end the author spoke to Tony Visconti at length, which makes me feel that the author would have arguably the best understanding of Bowie of all biographers. Going to continue to dip in and out of this book for some time to come in order to find a few more hidden gem songs to add to Spotify.
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on 27 February 2013
The books says a lot about Bowie the musician but little about the person. It is too long and heavy going
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