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Bowie: A Biography Hardcover – October 27, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the plethora of existing books about the British glam rocker (e.g., David Buckley's Strange Fascination), Spitz, formerly of Spin magazine and the author of a look at the punk band Green Day (Nobody Likes You), concentrates on the complex evolution of Bowie's music to deliver an evenhanded, critically thorough, while still reverential life of the Thin White Duke. Born David Jones in the Brixton suburbs of London in 1947, Bowie treaded the musical edges from blues to mod to rock-and-roll, moving from band to band in his teens and trying out different personas. Assuming the name of an American frontiersman who died at the Alamo, Bowie took his cues from influences as diverse as Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, and Marcel Marceau, playing with mime, theater, fashion and sheer showmanship. In the beginning, record companies didn't know how to classify him, with albums like Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory; it was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars, depicting Bowie's red-haired rooster haircut and bisexual persona, that sparked the public's fancy. Phenomenal success ensued, and even in his most cocaine-fueled paranoid period during the mid-1970s, Bowie never stopped changing himself, constantly experimenting with new forms, be they Kabuki, disco, New Wave, punk or Brit pop. Spitz concentrates on the heady years culminating in Scary Monsters and underscores the deafening void that Bowie's recent silence has left in the music world. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; 1 edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307393968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307393968
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,069,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marc Spitz is the author of the novels, How Soon Is Never and Too Much, Too Late and the biographies We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of LA Punk (with Brendan Mullen), Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times and Music of Green Day, Bowie: A Biography and Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue, as well as Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown Manhattan in the 90s and Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film . His writing has appeared in Spin, The New York Times, Uncut Magazine in the U.K, New York, Maxim, Nylon, and Vanity Fair.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frascombe Bank on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. Svetova on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Texzen on March 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Huebner on December 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. J. Simpson on February 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm what Marc Spitz would call a `Bowie-ist'. As such, I read a Bowie biography once every couple of years or so. I did some research and read sufficiently intriguing reviews of this book to decide this was going to be the Bowie book that was different. And yes, it is. But I say that with some reservation. It is both compelling and frustrating, for reasons that might be the author's purpose.
The book succeeds at providing a context and a sense of what it might actually have been like to be Bowie, especially in the 70s. I enjoyed the feeling that the author was contemporary to me and was therefore able to relate Bowie to the wider context of popular and independent music through the last 40 years and more. This means not just referring to T Rex or Gary Numan, but later icons such as Radiohead and The Smiths. The author also supplies a socio-cultural context when appropriate. And he has done his fair share of interviewing and sourcing, as he provides new and insightful inputs from key players in Bowie's life. But what is particularly apparent to me is the sense that I am reading a factual narrative rather than a methodical biography. I don't know if that makes sense - I'm certainly not suggesting it reads like an historical novel, but it seems that the important things here is to get a sense of a life rather than be bogged down by exhaustive detail.
This doesn't mean that it lacks information - there is a whole lot of it. But anyone who has read extensively about Bowie will notice omissions and neglects. Some live LPs get overlooked as does the release of the Ziggy Stardust movie in any great detail. Angie Bowie basically vanishes from thought after a couple of years with no reference to this absence, only to re-appear briefly in reference to child custody.
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