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David Bowie: Living on the Brink Paperback – June 24, 1997

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (June 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786704659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786704651
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,944,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Despite his long-term access to Bowie and others close to him, British rock journalist Tremlett (Dylan Thomas, 1992, etc.) is stronger in its portrayal of the finances of the rock biz than in profiling one of pop music's most enigmatic figures. Born David Jones in 1947, David Bowie flitted about the mod and hippie fringes of 1960s London until he hit it big in the early '70s as Ziggy Stardust, one of the first of a series of adopted stage personas. By 1973, by dint of canny songwriting and even cannier self-promotion, Bowie was an international sensation who traveled with a huge entourage and embodied the decadent, high-living rock-'n'-roll lifestyle. While Bowie's concert tours and records were raking in huge amounts of money, he was seeing relatively little of it, and his musicians even less. This was perhaps as much the due to his enormous cash outlays for cocaine and limousines as to greedy management. Nevertheless, following the advice of John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and others, Bowie eventually wrested control of the company that ran his career (but as he belatedly learned, was not owned by him) and again reinvented himself, this time as a successful rock burgher, living in Swiss tax exile. Since then, Bowie's new albums have, by turns, been greeted by critics as crassly commercial or myopically self- indulgent. Fans and fellow musicians have been kinder, as evidenced by accolades at his recent 50th-birthday concert. Certainly, Bowie fans will learn a lot in this book: that despite his flamboyant gender-bending reputation, he was, for the most part, a voracious heterosexual; that he was a devoted and intensely private father; that his ability to get into and out of character might have stemmed from a family history of schizophrenia. This sober look at one of pop's most mercurial icons will no doubt send fans scurrying to dust off their Bowie platters and listen to them anew. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mackinnon on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are a number of Bowie bios, or "me-and-David-Bowie" volumes around, but few really good. The Brixton-born star has always been careful not to expose his past, and not to turn down rumours; many books about him get stuck in the sensational. Tremlett's book is one of the best, perhaps *the* best Bowie biography I've read, and for a number of reasons.

The writer knew Bowie long before he became a star and did hours of interviews with him around 1970. Years later, at the point when Bowie broke with MainMan, Tremlett became an insider again in a crucial phase. He makes good use of this material to interpret Bowie's winding road from half-esoteric post-hippie and "artist without a niche" to a million-selling teen idol (some of the best pages are about Bowie and his friend/rival Marc Bolan, who in some sense cleared the way for Bowie to become Ziggy Stardust).

While he's clearly an admirer of Bowie's artistic genius and sometimes good sense, he doesn't lose sight of his occcasional ruthlessness and manipulation of the media. He's also enough of a literary man to do some useful interpretation of Bowie's lyrics.

The book is very good on the business side of rock'n'roll. Tremlett goes through the phases of Bowie's career, explains settlements, discusses the incomes, royalties, credits and the sometime lack of a steering hand on the budget. He's also got an excellent sense of the absurdity of rock life, as when Bowie makes the first Ziggy tour of the USA, playing to half-filled venues but living it up like a star - at the command of his manager Tony DeFries, of course. The financial straps were all with the record company, so Bowie and the band had almost no money in their own pockets. By the time they reached L.A.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By London on March 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book appears to ramble, lacking organization. I found myself questioning the reliability of Tremlett's accounts, and I came away with a sense of not knowing what is true or imagined, authentic or hype. In Tremlett's defense, Bowie's life is quite disjointed and probably difficult to nail down in many respects, but I think that that is the job of a biographer. The writing, at times, is not clear and lacks sophistication and style. I did finish the book, however; the subject matter transcends the narrative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
He's a rock chameleon, a musical star who has acquired and shed all sorts of onstage personas -- Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke among them. George Tremlett's biography "David Bowie: Living on the Brink" doesn't reveal much that's new, but he does manage to give a new spin to Bowie's story.
Author George Tremlett first encountered David Bowie (born David Jones) in the 1970s, as the talented young musician was blossoming into what would be a long and fruitful career. He chronicles Bowie's troubled family (including a family history of schizophrenia), Bowie being taken under the wing of Kenneth Pitt, his marriage to wild child Angela Bowie, and a colorful career that never failed to fascinate.
Most biographers either trash or glorify the people they are writing about. George Tremlett really does neither. Not for long, anyway. On one hand, he analyzes song lyrics, quibbles on Bowie's sexuality and sometimes makes excuses for dumb stunts. On the other, he is quite willing to chronicle Bowie's flaws -- his sometime insensitivity, coldness and weirdness. Bowie's complexity seems to fascinate Tremlett.
His writing is a hodgepodge of the conversational, the distant and professional, and his own experiences. It's a bit uneven, but it works. Most of the information is gleaned from other books; Tremlett gives it a slightly new outlook, refuting some rumors and questioning others. Thankfully, he does not try to spin up his conversations with Bowie into a friendship, as many rock journalists do.
Those looking for a trashy read will be sated by anecdotes like Bowie's two lovers (one male, one female) arguing over him, and the glitz, seediness and glamour of 1970s London. But Tremlett also covers a side of Bowie that you don't see often: the businessman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hannah on February 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Bowie: Living on The Brink was a fascinating insight into the man, David Bowie. It openned with how the author knew David, and how they got along. That was a little boring because you want to know about David, not the writter, but once you get passed this the book levels out. You get to understand David's history, who he was, and how his parents and relitives shapped his life. The book writes of his relationship with his father and the ever faithful Kenneth Pit. It highlights Bowie's unpredictable and always charismatic character. The book fervently discusses finance managment as well. It also writes of David's other talents in art and how music was not his first choice. From David's early years- through scattered lovers, sexual, religious, and personality explorations we get to know David Bowie. This is a really good book, and if you are a David Bowie fan, as I have just recently found myself thrown head first into then you will enjoy it. I mean it's Bowie, where could you go wrong!
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