Top critical review
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Should have been better
on 28 December 2012
This was an easy book to read, but I found it very repetitive and lacking a good structure (something which has been picked up on by other reviewers). You'd never guess that the author is a huge Bowie fan either and therein lies the problem.
Too often Dylan Jones is unable to step back and adopt a more balanced assessment allowing his adoration of Bowie to make some over-the-top claims. True, anyone watching that night when Bowie appeared on Top of the Pops performing Starman will never forget it, but there is a counter argument here : if this performance was so ground-breaking and inspired so many people that night as Dylan asserts, how come Starman and Ziggy Stardust, the album, didn't set the charts alight there and then - Starman only reached number 10 in the charts,for example, whilst Ziggy's Rise and Fall's highest position was number 5. And talking of The Rise and Fall......this is swept away casually by Jones in his review with a line or two on each track, very enlightening! There is hardly a word too about Aladdin Sane too, which in Bowie's words was Ziggy in America.
Instead, every so often we get a ponderous account of the author's upbringing - an attempt at setting some form of context as to why the Starman performance was so inspirational to him at the time. This works at the start of the book, but becomes rather tedious by the end.
On the one hand, this was a brave attempt to write a book about a stunning performance by Bowie, and incorporate some cultural and political analysis about what was also happening at the time. If this book had been condensed into a feature in a Sunday paper supplement, it would have been very interesting to read. Unfortunately, when the ideas are stretched to a book, the cracks appear very quickly, and whilst there is some good stuff here, II found that it rambled far too much. It's greatest strength is that it is comparatively easy to read - it can easily be read in a few sittings. The casual Bowie fan might just pick up on a few interesting facts too, if they are not irritated as I was by some contentious claims, from a starstruck author.. Bolan fans, for example, would surely disagree with Dylan's assessment that if Bolan was the fledging flower in the Glam movement, then Bowie was the full Garden Centre.
Overall, an interesting book to read in places and especially so if you saw that magical performance back in 1972. If you didn't and have only seen the Youtube clips, then this book will go some way in explaining how Bowie made good after years in the pop wilderness. In my view however, this book could have been so much better by incorporating a tighter framework, more informed analysis about the Ziggy LPs, especially The Rise and Fall, and more anecdotes from the people who were actually there at the time, there is nothing from Angie, for example.