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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s Hardcover – July 31, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780062024657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062024657
  • ASIN: 0062024655
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Meticulously researched….A wonderful opportunity to reconsider rock’s greatest chameleon.” (Associated Press)

“Packed with insight, a go-to text for anyone who wants to understanding what Doggett calls ‘the uncanny strangeness of the seventies Bowie,’ and the creative process that led to his artistic breakthroughs.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Explores themes in Bowie’s most inventive period - from sexual identity to the nature of fame. Doggett’s song-by-song analysis will make obsessive fans of the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ days want to pull out their old vinyl.” (USA Today)

“Details a decade of styles and influences of one of rock’s most enigmatic personalities….A complete treat.” (Library Journal)

“Meticulous….A captivating look at an artist who defined an era.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A thoughtful combination of critical observation and biographical digging….Doggett’s sparkling work of biocriticism is full of entertaining anecdotes and flashes of insight.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Astonishing and absorbing…Expertly unpicks this explosively creative time in Bowie’s life…. [Doggett intercuts] the individually tailored song biographies with essays on everything from glam rock, minimalism and punk, to radical left-wing politics, music video and a mass of other subjects that helped shape the ideas behind Bowie’s songs.” (Rob Fitzpatrick, Sunday Times (London))

“Doggett’s previous book, You Never Give Me Your Money: the Battle for the Soul of the Beatles, was the perfect preparation for writing about both the Seventies and Bowie.” (Toby Litt, New Statesman)

“There aren’t many writers who have the combination of classic-rock knowledge, reverence for an artist and sheer patience to successfully pull off this sort of project.” (Kirkus)

From the Back Cover

The Man Who Sold the World is a critical study of David Bowie's most inventive and influential decade, from his first hit, "Space Oddity," in 1969, to the release of the LP Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) in 1980. Viewing the artist through the lens of his music and his many guises, the acclaimed journalist Peter Doggett offers a detailed analysis—musical, lyrical, conceptual, social—of every song Bowie wrote and recorded during that period, as well as a brilliant exploration of the development of a performer who profoundly affected popular music and the idea of stardom itself.

Dissecting close to 250 songs, Doggett traces the major themes that inspired and shaped Bowie's career, from his flirtations with fascist imagery and infatuation with the occult to his pioneering creation of his alter-ego self in the character of Ziggy Stardust. What emerges is an illuminating account of how Bowie escaped his working-class London background to become a global phenomenon. The Man Who Sold the World lays bare the evolution of Bowie's various personas and unrivaled career of innovation as a musician, singer, composer, lyricist, actor, and conceptual artist. It is a fan's ultimate resource—the most rigorous and insightful assessment to date of Bowie's artistic achievement during this crucial period.

More About the Author

Peter Doggett has been writing about popular music, the entertainment industry and social and cultural history since 1980.

A regular contributor to Mojo, Q and GQ, his books include The Art and Music of John Lennon, a volume detailing the creation of the Beatles' Let It Be and Abbey Road albums; the pioneering study of the collision between rock and country music, Are You Ready for the Country?, There's a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and the Rise and Fall of 60s Counter-culture, and, most recently,You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, out in June of 2010.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 48 customer reviews
Explains every song and it's meaning pretty well.
Amy Lynn
There is more than likely some POV in the interpretation of the lyrics in some of the songs, but the overall feel of the book is that of a striking a fair balance.
Assoc For Natural Psych
There is a vast amount of details in this book, it is well researched and full of truly interesting facts.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on January 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is custom made for people like me. I'm a decade too young to have copped David Bowie first time round (still in nappies when Ziggy played his farewell gig at Hammersmith) but discovered the whole back catalog, in one fell swoop, in about 1984 courtesy of K-Tel's The Best Of Bowie cassette, which I still maintain is the best Bowie compilation there is.

Thereafter, painstakingly, I acquired every Long Player that Bowie ever released. I learned every word and every chord. Convention wisdom, and I, will tell you the most fertile period in David Bowie's career was the "RCA" period from Space Oddity in 1969 to Scary Monsters in 1980. And that period is what this new book is mostly about.

Peter Doggett has done us aficionados the service of biographing that period through the lens of every song Bowie wrote and recorded in it. Lyrics and song composition are analysed and contextualised. It's a smart way to ensure Doggett's subject's history is integrated with its creative output: an important job many biographies fail manifestly to do.

That said, it's a fraught one: we all have our own Bowies, and it isn't edifying to encounter a radically different interpretation. Nor is lyrical over-analysis in vogue these days and nor, specifically in Bowie's case, did it ever pay dividends anyway (Not The Nine o'Clock News once lampooned his approach with its "Sing along with David Bowie" feature, whose method was: "rearrange the following words in any order and sing them to any tune in a silly voice and you'll have your very own Bowie classic").
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Scarillo VINE VOICE on September 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'll dispense with giving much background on Bowie fundamentals and assume if you searched for this book/got it in your results, you're at least familiar with David Bowie's catalog, though you may or may not be in this book's target audience. "The Man Who Sold the World" is a somewhat in-depth track by track analysis of Bowie's body of work from (more or less) his early career into Space Oddity (1969) and up thru Scary Monsters (1980) - basically , a decade plus. What this book shoots for (in my opinion) is to flesh out the context of what ended up on (and maybe, not on) the albums. I don't think any serious rock fan would dispute that Bowie's output during this period was one of the more interesting, varied and stylistically groundbreaking as just about anyone in rock history. He ranged from glam rock, explored R&B, anticipated electronic music, threw back to British Invasion, etc. All over the map, some material very successful, some not, but all pretty interesting. I say this book's approach to analysis of Bowie's catalog is somewhat in-depth because while the author covers his output (released and unreleased, as well as songs written for others) track-by-track, chronologically, he sometimes doesn't have much substantial to add in discussing some songs. He does provide some good context to what might've been going on in Bowie's creative process and other things that might've been impacting how songs came together (management issues, happenings in Bowie's life, influences, etc). There are quite a few interesting tidbits here but they will be most of interest to hard-core Bowie fans, who may already be aware of the backstories. The best I can say about this book is that it will have you probably reaching for your albums/cd's/ipod to revisit/reassess albums and tracks for a fresh listening perspective if you read something that piques your interest, which is admirable - I know I gave everything a fresh listen after finishing the albums' chapters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve VINE VOICE on June 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Peter Doggett's chronicling of David Bowie and the 1970s showed up in the vine catalog just as Bowie was in heavy rotation in my musical world. That it covered my favorite era is an extra bonus. Bowie completists and fans will enjoy it to be sure although I'm not sure it gives much to a casual listener.

The Man Who Sold the World is like many other books which explore an artist's output on a literal song-by-song basis, providing back stories, musical analysis, and other bits of context to a song. I've found such offerings to be less than appealing to me (a recent such take on the Rolling Stones songs was abysmal) but this one works. Perhaps it's the paucity of information I had about Bowie (opposed to the fact that I could actually say with some accuracy that I know more about the band than the author of the Stones' book) or perhaps it's the fascinating stories behind the songs. While many performers write about fairly obvious subjects, Bowie has a very literate sensibility and is a keen observer; giving his compositions depth that Doggett's research fills with intriguing tidbits. Moreover, Bowie's mid-70s Station to Station through Lodger recordings are full of heart wrenching numbers that chronicle his mental state; a schizophrenic tightrope between depression and desperation or hope and love.

If one has an interest in the music of this amazing and diverse performer, or if one cares to read one writer's comparative thesis on Bowie and the 1970s, this book is a great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Assoc For Natural Psych VINE VOICE on June 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found this to be a most interesting and insightful book of much interest to anyone whose music Bowie touched. His dark, sometimes etherworldly sounds have a much deeper root than I had imagined, and although we heard whispers or rumors of Bowie's profligate lifestyle in the 1970s and 80s, the book provides a real look at the lifestyle behind the music and what inspired many of the lyrics that are an unerasable part of the psyche of anyone from, what the book refers to as the "rock generation".

Bowie pushed the limits of rock music in new directions, leading to, or influencing the late-70s punk rock movement, and having a continuing influence on various music icons from Madonna and Prince, to Lady Gaga today.

For a good portion of the biography of the book, it was gripping reading, a lively style of writing that captures your attention. The biographical section leads to the discography, where biography is interspersed with details on most of the individual songs and albums of Bowie from the late 60s, 1969, when Bowie recorded his first hit, Space Oddity, to most songs that we are familiar with in the 1970s.

Bowie's intellectual and literary influences are given due attention, as well as his families propensity towards mental difficulties, including an older half-brother who was institutionalized for schizophrenia, and what that meant in the early 1970s, how it affected David Bowie. Bowie's own struggles to keep grips on reality as a cocaine addict for the 1970s is of interest, as well as his deep interest in the occult, including association with other like-minded rockers such as Jimmy Page.
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