The Age Of Bowie –
How David Bowie Made A World Of Difference
By Paul Morley
Simon & Schuster – £9.99
The most honest way of writing about David Bowie and all the David Bowies he became in the 1970s as he turned his entire existence and his musical technique into a collage of impressions, memories and experiences is to create a collage in response, to exaggerate the exaggerations and the excess.
Paul Morley has always been a writer to be reckoned with.
Whenever it’s brought to our attention that he’s written a new book, one instinctively knows it’ll be very well written, thought provoking, idiosyncratically incisive, and will probably venture into subjective areas not entirely expected.
Such was the case with the most outstanding The North: (And Almost Everything In It) which I reviewed on this site upon publication. And totally unsurprisingly, such is also the case The Age Of Bowie – How David Bowie Made A World Of Difference. For not only is Morley a huge Bowie fan, the prospect of him writing about him, was always going to be a wholly satisfying, literary undertaking.
To be sure, one can refer to almost anyone of these 471 pages (excluding Preface, My Thanks and Index) and become immediately enticed to want to delve further and continue reading. There again, we are talking about David Bowie, who, in his own right, was an overtly fascinating and beguiling artist of no real equal. Nor comparison.
As such, it was never-ever going to be a case of having to sell him or make/sex things up. The mere fact that David Bowie existed and released the extraordinary catalogue of work that he did, really is, more than ample enough.
The challenge in writing a book on Bowie, is surely deciphering just some of the tumultuous artistic dimension(s) to which he inexorably subscribed? That, and perhaps showing some restraint; two aspects of which Morley has handsomely succeeded in by readily acknowledging: ”All the books I have written mention Bowie. Everything I have written comes out of hearing Bowie meticulously deliver the words ‘solemn perverse serenity‘ when I was a teenager half-crazy for knowledge, a sucker for a cascade of mystification.”
Were that not enough of an emotive eye-opener, how about the following: ”He flooded ordinary everyday reality with exotic information, and made intellectual discovery seem incredibly glamorous and accessible. Those indifferent to his ways would probably have just seen grotesque sexualised pantomime, heard noisy, repetitive overheated nursery rhymes and a narcissistic, half-naked, fidgety, goofy, effeminate singer wearing hobgoblin hair trying far too hard to impress. To those who got it, he was at ease exhibiting his mind and body in the public glare so fantastically, and if you had cracked the code, he was dramatically splitting reality wide
open and penetrating time itself.”
I don’t think I’d be too far off the mark were I to write that The Age Of Bowie is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read on David Bowie. Other than trying to comprehend the enigma, Morley writes with an analytical and appreciative balance.
A quintessential quality, so sorely lacking amid many of today’s so-called (popular) contemporary writers of culture.