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Bowie: A Biography [Paperback]

Marc Spitz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 5 2010
Finally an expansive biography of one of the twentieth century’s greatest music and cultural icons

From noted author and rock ’n’ roll journalist Marc Spitz comes a major David Bowie biography to rival any other. Following Bowie’s life from his start as David Jones, an R & B—loving kid from Bromley, England, to his rise to rock ’n’ roll aristocracy as David Bowie, Bowie recounts his career but also reveals how much his music has influenced other musicians and forever changed the landscape of the modern era. Along the way, Spitz reflects on how growing up with Bowie as his soundtrack and how writing this definitive book on Bowie influenced him in ways he never expected, adding a personal dimension that Bowie fans and those passionate about art and culture will connect with and that no other bio on the artist offers.

Bowie takes an in-depth look at the culture of postwar England in which Bowie grew up, the mod and hippie scenes of swinging London in the sixties, the sex and drug-fueled glitter scene of the early seventies when Bowie’s alter-ego Ziggy Stardust was born, his rise to global stardom in the eighties and his subsequent status as an elder statesman of alternative culture. Spitz puts each incarnation of Bowie into the context of its era, creating a cultural time line that is intriguing both for its historical significance as well as for its delineation of this rock ’n’ roll legend, the first musician to evolve a coherent vision after the death of the sixties dream.

Amid the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll mayhem, a deeper portrait of the artist emerges. Bowie’s early struggles to go from follower to leader, his tricky relationship with art and commerce and Buddhism and the occult, his complicated family life, his open romantic relationship and, finally, his perceived disavowal of all that made him a touchstone for outcasts are all thoughtfully explored. A fresh evaluation of his recorded work, as well as his film, stage and video performances, is included as well.

Based on a hundred original interviews with those who knew him best and those familiar with his work, including ex-wife Angie Bowie, former Bowie manager Kenneth Pitt, Siouxsie Sioux, Camille Paglia, Dick Cavett, Todd Haynes, Ricky Gervais and Peter Frampton, Bowie gives us not only a portrait of one of the most important artists in the last century, but also an honest examination of a truly revolutionary artist and the unique impact he’s had across generations.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description


BOWIE is inspired, edge-worn, loud, quiet, observant, humble, gorgeous, and humane. If the record business loved music as much as Marc Spitz does, there would still be a record business.” —Dan Kennedy, author of Rock On: An Office Power Ballad

“A breezy, well-lit portrait of the ever-enigmatic rocker . . . Spitz’s encyclopedic knowledge and obvious appreciation for Bowie’s work separate this book from countless cookie-cutter rock stories.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Spitz concentrates on the complex evolution of Bowie’s music to deliver an evenhanded, critically thorough, while still reverential, life of the Thin White Duke.” —Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

MARC SPITZ’s writing on rock ’n’ roll and popular culture has appeared in Spin, the New York Times, Maxim, Nylon, Blender and Uncut (UK). He is the author of How Soon Is Never?; Too Much, Too Late; and Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, and Music of Green Day and coauthor with Brendan Mullen of We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Index
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read this Dec 21 2010
In my quest to know all things about David Bowie I added this book to a long list of others on the subject. I wasn't disappointed. Marc Spitz really brought David to life for me. The end is so depressing though you may have to buy another book to persuade yourself that David Bowie will never die. You may want to try "Hallo Spaceboy". Definitely not disappointed in either book. Keep on reading!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read Feb. 15 2012
For a music fan, and a long time Bowie fan...this is a terrific read. I love all the in-depth details about influences, culture, environment.
I haven't quite got to the end yet (savouring it) but am thoroughly enjoying the content. Very well written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning archival info. April 21 2014
Where did he dig up this stuff?
The book was gifted to me. Everyone knows I'm a huge Bowie fan. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed as I slogged through the first couple of chapters. It was hard to read. I had to keep leafing through the Oxford English Dictionary. I also kept running to the internet to cross reference some of the material. Maybe this is why it took me 18 months to finish reading it. Having said all that, it was a fantastic read full of unknown treasures. Each page was like opening up a surprise birthday gift. "Ooooooh!"
Aside from providing an accurate chronology, Marc Spitz includes his own savvy insights as to some of Bowie's motives and obvious strange behaviors. He is also compassionate in his coverage of Bowie's nearest and dearest. It's not easy being that close to "Stardust".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non-traditional but expansive and illuminating bio Nov. 17 2009
By Frascombe Bank - Published on
I think there is more than enough heretofore uncovered biographical material in BOWIE to call it one of the best modern rock books of the decade. It's not your standard linear bio and for good reason. One of the strongest sections covers the silence of Bowie over the last few years. It's an unusual way for an author to approach his subject, but I think Spitz has some very intelligent things to say about this silence and the most serious of Bowie fans will find a lot of new ideas here.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable Nov. 24 2009
By E. Svetova - Published on
This is a very good book. It may not be the best as your First Bowie Book, but it is a wonderful piece of musical literary journalism in its own right. It is written with tact, respect, and sincere love for the subject, which is David Bowie's music, first and foremost. As far as the curious anecdotes about Mr. Jones himself, as well as sexy gossip and other juicy bits - this is probably not the venue, although it's hard to avoid (to this reader's great delight). I believe it was the author's choice to write a philosophical piece concerning the nature of creativity, using the beloved icon as a shining example. Personally, I would appreciate more photos, but, again, I didn't buy this book for illustrations.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! A Biographer Without an Axe to Grind... Dec 18 2009
By J. Huebner - Published on
An thoroughly researched and refreshingly even-handed treatment of the subject matter. Most other Bowie biographies resort to sensationalism or come across as half-baked indictment's from begrudged hangers-on or jilted ex-collaborators (see Edwards' and Zenetta's "Startdust" or the absolutely horrid "Backstage Passes" by Angela Bowie). While this book quotes from these two dubious sources (amongst many others), it does so only in good taste and with objectivity rarely found in the source material. This is the only fault I could find in this otherwise outstanding book. Importantly, full historical vignettes accompany the introduction of each important collaborator (Pitt, Ronson, Alomar, Garson, Visconti, Eno, Pop, Kemp, Bolan - the list goes on.) Buy this along with Thomas Seabrook's "Bowie in Berlin: A New Career In A New Town" and you can't go wrong. Very highly recommended.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Marc Takes Us Outside March 27 2010
By Texzen - Published on
The author's effort here is uneven, at best. The book moves at a logical pace but becomes more chaotic and loses focus as it develops. Too much time spent on Bowie's sexuality (who cares?) and his place in history, though gargantuan, comes off portrayed in increments and glimpses - no real framing of his place in total. It becomes a tiresome listing (Bowie did an album, then Bowie did a movie, then Bowie made another band successful... ) lacking in framing, summary or the historical perspective required when looking at such an accomplished person. The occasional injection of the author's self-perspective is inappropriate, egoistic and boring (who care's). When it comes to the music of David Bowie, Spitz is shockingly light on insight, as if he were describing each album and a few of it's songs from eight blocks away after looking at them through a telescope. Finally, the overall presentation feels like he started the project and then, at a point, determined he neither had the time to complete it right or lacked the research to provide a close-up picture of the remote one. Either way, the metaphor of someone who has nibbled at his sandwich for 90% of his lunch hour and then, to complete it on time, slams the balance into his mouth resulting in a painful and ugly completion process describes my feeling reading the book. I have read biographies of Roman emperors that were more intimate than this read on David Bowie. If you really want to know Bowie, you better hang on to your scratch until someone with better sources and sense of project structure steps up.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the true "Bowie-ist" Feb. 4 2010
By d2mo - Published on
Given all the David Bowie biographies out there, this one presents little new information, but it does manage to present much of it in a way that feels fresh. The author, who is clearly an über-fan and refers to Bowie fans, including himself, as "Bowie-ists" interjects his voice and experience into the story, and this is exactly what sets it apart. The experience of Bowie via the die-hard fan's perspective is to truly experience Bowie. His creative talent for writing music and creating personae is legendary and well-documented, but this bio provides the additional perspective of how Bowie affects PEOPLE, with a glimpse into just how profoundly Bowie does affect many of us. I found Spitz's writing to be respectful and sincere, clearly reverent but also providing criticism when appropriate (the "Tonight" album and the Glass Spider tour). True Bowie-ists will of course want to read more than one Bowie biography, and this one should be on the short list. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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