on 6 November 2016
I bought the last edition of this which ran to 660 pages. At the time I thought it was definitive.
Now with the sad passing of David last January comes the complete, final updated edition running to a massive 800 pages and covering The Next Day, BlackStar and Lazarus.
Comprehensive, Meticulously Detailed, Informative and Complete, this is probably the best source in a single volume of information on David Bowie's Media output that will ever be released.
Stunning and Essential.
An unreserved five star purchase at a phenomenal price.
on 1 November 2000
Nicholas Pegg is clearly a great fan of David Bowie, but he also displays a calm intelligence, gently chiding his hero for Tim Machine and other follies. The book examines every track Bowie ever recorded in alphabetical order, a cut-up technique similar to Bowie's own, before launching on more in-depth (and chronological) examinations of the albums. The pitch is exactly right: it's not too musicianly, not too fannish, and entertains the wild speculations of biographers as possibilites rather than history. Also, Pegg seems to have paid attention to every Bowie resource and taken the best from all of them, leading to an overview that carefully wanders round its subject to see it from all angles. If the character of Bowie himself can be pinned down in print, it's here, where he comes across as a decent, concerned, sharing sort of chap with a corny sense of humour, who, realising that he was rather horribly normal, hid for a long time behind images and drugs. Whilst, of course, being an astonishing songwriter and performer. This book reminds you of the length of the career, the size of the contribution, and is a work of similar art itself. 'The Complete' title has never been more apt.
on 12 September 2006
This book triumphantly illuminates the extraordinary career & catalogue of David Bowie.
It works on several levels. It is bursting with detail, but there is a consistent discipline which prevents it falling into random trivia. With Bowie, this distinction is vital. His cronic referencing of many artists, not least himself, creates a maze. Mr Pegg is our surefooted guide through the sometimes obscure labyrinth. My appreciation of Bowie's work, particularly from Buddha Of Suburbia onwards, has been hugely enhanced by understanding his influences & context at the time of writing.
The most satisfying sections are the narratives on albums & tours. These are not biography, in the sense of the bonkfest pageturner genre of rock writing. Mr Pegg clearly has no appetite for these redtop areas. Rather, he studiously, absorbingly & lovingly charts the evolution of the Bowie canon.
Bowie emerges as down to earth, somewhat vulnerable & touched by an extraordinary intuitive genius. We see that his work excels the more he trusts this intuition.
Most broadly, 'The complete DB' begins to place Bowie in cultural history. Legacy is not,I suspect, a priority of Bowie, but it is an inevitable issue & the almost scholarly perspective & rigour of Mr Pegg sets a well considered marker.
The final pleasure of this book is the style. Generous, whilst balanced in sharing past journalistic criticisms of Bowie; witty; understated, yet sharp. I would have enjoyed the read if Bowie had not been a hero. For those for whom he is, you will find yourself continually pouring through the pages, preferably with the stereo at full volume.
on 12 September 2003
This is not a book for those looking for a biography of the great man. What this is is a book for the true Bowie fanatic. If you’re not interested in the fact that the version of Ziggy Stardust recorded on 1st June 1973 is two words different from the version recorded on 14th July 1973 then don’t buy this book. If you find such titbits fascinating then this book is for you. Packed with trivia on virtually every song, film, video, play, art exhibition, and just about everythng else that Bowie has produced, contributed to, or just inspired, this is simply the definitive record of the man’s works. Read it from cover to cover , or just keep it for reference. Either way, this book is a must.
on 23 January 2016
This is the definitive book for Bowie obsessives who want as much detail as possible on the musical career of the most outstanding and innovative british artist of the modern music era who is sadly no longer with us, but is such an important part of so many people's lives.
For books full of colour photos of Bowie go elsewhere.
My only hesitation to new buyers is as it is over five years old and in at least its fourth edition, (which says something about how good it is) it is time now for Nicholas to carry out one final update. This could include his detailed take on the last two studio albums and include all the documentaries etc which have come out since this edition, and last but not least, some narrative of the recent archive finds such as the rediscovery of the great performance of Jean Genie with the Spiders on TOTP from 1973 and details on the Young American sessions and the Mick Ronson soundboard tape recording of the Hammersmith 73 farewell concert that have surfaced in the last year or so if you know where to look. Knowing Mr Pegg he will give us lots of other great new facts we were unaware of.
The book is amazing. 800 pages of smallish print (two column layout so that each column contains what could almost be a full page in a standard layout) form an encyclopaedia of David Bowie's artistic output.
The book is in several sections. The first covers the songs from a-z (just over 300 pages); the second the albums (nearly 200 pages). Then you get over 100 pages on the live appearances, then shorter sections on BBC sessions, videos, stage and screen, art exhibitions, interactive (eg internet and video games) and then miscellany for anything else.
The final section is a dateline with all the key events, so for example I can look up the performance on 5th August 1997 when I was fortunate to see Bowie at Rock City in Nottingham.
Pegg began work on the book "some time in the 1990s," initially just jotting down notes between his own performances as an actor. The first edition came out in 2000; this is the seventh. It is special though for the saddest of reasons, the death of David Bowie in January 2016.
Pegg is a fan but a discriminating one, though he is kinder about Bowie's lesser moments, such as Never Let Me Down and the Glass Spider tour, than many other commentators. His opinions are always worth reading, but I realised when composing this review that I value the book more for its wonderful compilation of facts than for its artistic insights. I don't agree with him about every detail; for example he says of the 2010 release of Live Nassau Colisseum '76 that "the clean-up job is excellent and the concert has never sounded better", whereas I find this release horribly over-compressed and much prefer the live tracks from the same concert appended to Ryko's Station to Station.
The previous edition came out in 2011. Is it worth replacing? Five years is a long time, and you get excellent, lengthy essays on The Next Day and Blackstar, both released after the previous edition. Pegg has also made changes throughout, noting for example in the entry for Life on Mars the excellence of Lorde's performance of the song at the 2016 Brit Awards.
At the same time, the years 2011-2016 were not the most active in Bowie's career, aside from the remarkable burst of activity towards the end of his life, and in terms of presentation I actually prefer the typeface in the 2011 edition. So it is not, perhaps, an automatic purchase if you have the old one.
Nevertheless, this is one of a few Bowie books that are must-have for the dedicated fan; it is a labour of love as well as the result of a huge research effort and worth every penny of its price. Previous editions have even won the approval of Bowie himself, though he did remark (in the best possible humour), "Nick - an amazing job, but of course it's all wrong!"
An essential companion as you revisit Bowie's work.
on 27 December 2012
There must be more books about David Bowie than of any other individual in the field of music/entertainment; some good, some not so good.
For an indepth understanding of ALL his work look no further than this eridite, yet highly readable book- without all the salacious gossip.
This, and Paul Trynka's "Starman" are all you need to understand one of the most important people in the field of popular music of the 20th centuary.
on 21 February 2014
The world needs Nick Pegg! Pur and simple!
Whilst Bowie doesn't have the volume of fans that Springsteen, Dylan, The Stones and Beatles may have one thing is for sure, Bowie fans are a desperate bunch!
We love to know everything about his music, films, art, his passion for writing and like myself many of us have been inspired by Bowie to discover Dali, Kraftwerk and French art house cinema.
Nick Pegg picks apart every aspect of Bowie's career in great detail. You will find out so many wonderful bits of information and continue to come back to this wonderful publication time and again.
I own all bar one of the volumes released so far and none have left me disappointed.
on 29 June 2012
I am impressed with Pegg's depth, research and knowledge, though at times I think there is an overstating of some comparisons in the A to Z index of songs. Whilst this at times can be distracting, I suppose it is inevitable given Bowie's own vagueness down the years. There is a famous quote at the beginning of Alan Yentob's BBC documentary from 1975 when an American reporter asks who he really is... the response is "er er er er I'm David Bowie!" I do wonder however, whether Pegg has allowed himself too much personal license to comment on the psychology of the songs?
Bowie fans have their favourite periods - mine happens to be Diamond Dogs through to Station To Station via Young Americans. I have a great appreciation of Hunky Dory and the instrumental side of Heroes is quite simply outstanding. Pegg is careful in his analysis of these works and I must commend him for his research.
In the book's finale, the chronology, I would have liked more specific dates on actual release dates of the work. For instance, I remember distinctly buying 'Space Oddity' maxi-single in 1975 which featured 'Changes' and 'Velvet Goldmine.' In a matter of 3 weeks or so, I was buying 'Golden Years.' Both were certainly in the UK charts at the same time and this is pointed out in the A to Z text. But I would have liked to have known the dates - I believe it was around mid-October for 'Space Oddity' and early to mid November for 'Golden Years.'
Interestingly the b-side of 'Golden Years' was 'Can You Hear Me?' It is quite well known among Bowie officionardos that 'Can You Hear Me?' was destined to be an A-side single in the UK and indeed was scheduled by RCA as the possible follow-up to 'Fame' (which had done reasonably well in the UK singles chart and made No.1 in the US)... Bowie was already working on the 'Golden Years' LP that was retitled 'Station To Station' so RCA went for the strong soul-disco vibe of 'Golden Years' for the single to capitalise on Bowie's US success that was now transferring to the UK. Sales of 'Young Americans' in the UK were going extremely well, so 'Can You Hear Me?' was relegated to the b-side of the next single - a new song called 'Golden Years.' Pegg may wish to add this anecdote - the reason I know this is that I knew someone who worked at RCA London Offices and he kindly looked up 'Can You Hear Me?' knowing it was one of my favourite Bowie songs - there was a scribbled note saying "third single"
I wonder what Bowie himself thinks of this book - I suspect it has been received well.
All in all, a very useful guide to Bowie's work and well worth the investment. Well done Nicholas Pegg - excellent effort in what is a very difficult agenda.
Reference books are struggling to survive, edged out by the accessibility, flexibility and, let's not deny it, freeness of the web. So why is it worth your while to splash out hard cash on this vast chunk of dead tree? Because it's rather more than a reference work. Yes, all the facts are there; or rather, Pegg's facts are utterly plausible, as his grasp of the minutiae of Bowie's life and career, from album serial numbers to Dave Lee Travis sessions is at times overwhelming to this humble reader.
But Pegg offers something extra, that you don't get with Wikipedia or the All Music Guide. He has a fine critical intelligence, expressed with a dry wit, while never descending into crass journalese of PR-style puffery. He is a Bowie fan, but this is never expressed as blind, gushing praise. He does not try to claim that Tin Machine II is as good as Hunky Dory - he is not deaf, or a certifiable nincompoop - but he does dare to suggest that the more recent album may have its less horrible moments, and be worthy of contemplation in the overall arc of Bowie's career. Indeed, one of the book's strengths (and a reason to pick up a new edition, if you have an earlier one) is that the author does not follow the hack orthodoxy that DB ceased to be relevant at some point between Scary Monsters and Let's Dance. Bowie is still out there, and should be grateful to have Pegg as his most scrupulous, even-handed and articulate chronicler.