Marc Spitz, a long time Rock and Roll writer certainly had his plate full trying to do an in depth biography of superstar, always changing, British musician, David Bowie.
It’s obvious from the beginning of the book that the author is a serious Bowie fan. This leads to a very interesting, must read book if you’re a fan of music from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Mr. Spitz makes a serious effort to document everything he writes about and is always careful to present documented fact as fact and to present gossip as gossip. He sources gossip and in he said/she said situations he always tells you who told him what and you get a sense of what their motivation might have been to say what they did.
The author starts in the beginning explaining who Bowie’s parents were and what his early family life was like. He is very sensitive in dealing with Bowie’s family issues especially his brother’s long battle with mental illness.
His work on Bowie’s early years, pre success, is a welcome addition to the Bowie canon. He does a great job giving you a feeling for the music scene in London at the time and where Bowie fit in. He also helps you understand where Bowie’s influences, ever changing, come from.
He covers the 1970’s and Bowie’s relationship with Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. He does best in his coverage of the Bolan/Bowie relationship. He never really seems to get a handle on the Bowie, Pop, Reed triangle. Then again it’s unlikely anyone will ever really sort that situation out unless all three sit down for candid interviews.
One of the books strongest points his the author’s willingness not to just focus on the hits but to spend valuable page space explaining away some of the more obscure Bowie songs and giving them the respect they deserve. He handles the ever changing lineups of the Bowie band and covers the 1980s well, a decade where Bowie had some monster hits but was no longer the fresh, new, exciting, kid on the block.
The only two real weaknesses in the book are the coverage of Bowie’s career after 1995 or so. Granted Bowie no longer was turning out the volume of work that he had earlier in his career but even still the book seems to lack any direction in this era. It is possible that after Bowie settled down with super model Iman he surrounded himself with people who aren’t as chatty as his previous friends and band mates and this made it harder to acquire interesting information.
The other weakness in the book is that their is a thin line between writing about someone who’s work you enjoy and respect and giving your subject almost to much respect. Yes Bowie influenced and still influences numerous musicians world wide. Yes Bowie was an early experimenter in social media on the Internet. This doesn’t mean that these musicians wouldn’t have made great music and My Space and Facebook wouldn’t exist without Bowie.
All in all this book is a worthy addition to any rock library and even the non serious Bowie fan who has a passing familiarity with his work will find the book enjoyable. For the serious Bowie fan the book is invaluable.