David Bowie – A Life
By Dylan Jones
Preface Publishing – £14.99
He was very disappointed in his relationship with Lou Reed because Lou Reed was such a cunt.
(‘Jamming Good With Weird And Gilly’)
The trilogy – Low, Heroes, Lodger – changed my life forever. In adjusting myself to the methodologies that were used, and the new form of freethinking, and linear thinking that I was exposed to, it changed me. They taught me that every time I came back to David, I needed to change. He wanted R&B, rock and roll, electronic music, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, romantic music. Stir the pot and out comes the Thin White Duke. He was such a restless person. He didn’t like being comfortable. Comfortable is genre-driven, and be careful, because it will outlive you and it will surpass you. David had a lovely saying, ‘Let go, or be dragged.’ He was David 2.0, 3.0. If I wanted five amplifiers, he’d get them for me. If I wanted to mike something differently, we’d do it. It was change, change, change. Bryan Ferry would introduce something and stay there. David would introduce something and leave it.
(‘Sit In Back Rows Of City Limits’)
When he didn’t need you, he’d discard you.
(‘Jamming Good With Weird And Gilly’)
David Bowie – A Life, sheds an abundance of luminary light by simply sharing (the many varying) literary trajectories of those who passed through it. From friends and former girlfriends to besotted long-time fans; from countless collaborators and former teachers; through to a menagerie of peers in (constant) waiting and inspired producers.
It’s all here: from lock, stock and the complimentary, right through to the dispelling of idiosyncratic myths. All sex and drugs and warts’n’all.
As such, each of the book’s thirteen chapters, take both the reader and the fan on something of a kaleidoscopic, roller-coaster ride through the countless changes and seismic stages of the artists’ life.
And what a life it was.
If there is one thing one can say about David Bowie, it’s that he most certainly and undeniably lived life to the full. If not – during the seventies at least – the extreme.
Without any shadow of the most remotest of doubts, artistically.
Most certainly socially.
As for sexually: ”I was a nymphomaniac at the time, and I suppose Bowie was a sex addict. He just had a good time. He may have intellectualised it, but it was really just sex. Lots of sex. You have to remember we were living through a sexual revolution. It seemed natural to me to have as much sex as possible. You didn’t go to gyms so dancing and sex were our exercise. You could fuck your fat off. Sex was an act of rebellion at the time – fuck the Church, fuck the establishment. Let’s fuck.” Cherry Vanilla (‘So I Turned My Self To Face Me’).
As David Hepworth has since written with regards this book: ”Dylan Jones has assembled a brilliant cast of eyewitnesses to create a gripping, gossipy account of the world David Bowie came from, the world he helped shape and the way he managed his mystique to the end.”
It should therefore come as absolutely no surprise that throughout these 510 pages (excluding Preface, Acknowledgements, Chronology, Dramatis Personae and Index), one will invariably stumble upon an abundance of very readable, interesting material. Unlike the rather tedious, nigh unreadable piece of crap that was the self-penned, Rod Stewart biography, of a few years back. A story, that upon reflection, really ought to have been a gazillion times better than it was/is.
So far as this actual book is concerned, there are a number of great quotations from which to pick and choose – so many of which account for it’s prime validity.
Just the following alone from Rick Wakeman, places David Bowie – A Life, within the stately pantheon of must read books: ”’I want you to listen to these songs.’ And then he played ‘Life On Mars?’ and it was fantastic. It ticked every box. Great melody. Great chords, surprises, and then when you thought it was going to go to a certain place it went somewhere else. He was very good at that. When I asked him why he was playing his songs on a tatty old twelve-string guitar, he said ‘If it sounds good on this, think about what it will sound like with good musicians on good instruments.’ He said that too many people fool themselves by playing on great instruments, but it’s actually the great sound that they’re listening to” (‘So I Turned My Self To Face Me’).
Likewise, this rather melancholic, eye-opening quote from Bob Harris: ”Mick Ronson was fantastic in the studio, and while I know that David gets the production credit for Lou Reed’s Transformer, the hub of it was Mick. But because Mick was a modest sort of guy, really, despite the showmanship, he never really wanted to push anybody else out of the spotlight and claim it for himself. You can’t over estimate Mick’s contribution to the sound, the look, and the image of Ziggy Stardust. Much later I spent some time with him in Woodstock while he was hanging out at Bearsville Studios, and I got the sense that he felt very sad and disillusioned by the fact that David had moved on from him so comprehensively. I just felt he had this sadness about him, I think he found it very difficult” (‘Jamming Good With Weird And Gilly’).
Not to mention the following from fellow journalist, Charles Shaar Murray: ”David wanted to work with Lou again, but Lou was notoriously stingy about sharing credits, let alone royalties, and he didn’t want to write with him again. He had an auteur complex, and Bowie didn’t fit into that. Lou was a prime member of the awkward squad. He could lose a charm competition with Van Morrison” (‘Jamming Good With Weird And Gilly’).
I defy anyone to read this book and not be entertained, enlightened and enthralled.