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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s Paperback – August 13, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

No artist offered a more compelling portrayal of the landscape of the 1970s than David Bowie. From his first hit, "Space Oddity," in 1969 to the release of the LP Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) in 1980, Bowie cultivated an innovative and shocking brand of performance, a mesmerizing blend of high-concept science fiction and old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, delivered in skintight spandex and operatic alien makeup. Through songs at once prescient and esoteric, beautiful and haunting, Bowie cut hard against the grain of '60s and '70s pop music, replacing it with something far more intriguing: a dark, fantastical vision that heralded the dawn of a new decade.

In The Man Who Sold the World, acclaimed journalist Peter Doggett explores the rich heritage of Bowie's most productive and inspired decade. Viewing the artist through the lens of his music and his many guises, 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062024663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062024664
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #826,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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Format: Hardcover
As avid a Bowie fan as I am, I found this book to be a fairly atrocious read. It was nice to see some of the little scenarios that went into the writings of the songs, but the author portrays Bowie at every turn as an opportunistic hack, second rate artist, and as ersatz as powdered eggs. Its a blow by blow of his day to day life and relations....book reads like a blue ray manual. If you buy it, buy it as a reference guide to what went into the mans songs, not a flowing biography of the mans life.
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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Doggett seems determined to minimize Bowie's artistic creativity and originality. Time and again, as I read this book, I felt as if the author actively disliked or resented Bowie. Doggett makes him sound like a huckster pulling one over on his fans and critics. I wondered if he had an axe to grind. If this was about Bowie's '80's output, Doggett's negative criticism would make sense, but it doesn't fit Bowie in his prime.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s by Peter Doggett is a delicious concoction of hushed tones of awed reverence mixed with the sour grapes of snarky dismissal that describes, song by song, the music of David Bowie during the 1970s, a decade of fragmentation and decadence that Bowie virtually defined. The era of the 70s, as reckoned by Doggett, runs from 1969 to 1980, and is book-ended by Bowie's Space Oddity from 1969, and Ashes to Ashes in 1980, where Major Tom makes a reappearance. Then there is an appendix that explores the songs written prior to 1969, but after the epic decade where Bowie reigned supreme it is somewhat anticlimactic, and it gives Doggett an excuse to indulge in his more snarky side, shooting his barbs at the easy targets of the fledgling rock star's early efforts.

When he is on target, there is much to admire in this book, especially if you have followed Bowie's career closely and are already strangely fascinated. Most of his observations are spot on, told Doggett style, and supported by a wealth of well researched and provocative information. The Man Who Sold The World is an apt title because Bowie was practically the inventor of self promotion, of branding and selling yourself as a product, and when sales began to sag, of reinventing yourself. Madonna and Lady Gaga took note. This book chronicles several phases that Bowie's music went through, from his early rock bands to his Anthony Newley inspired show tunes, his creation of the doomed rock star, the leper messiah, Ziggy Stardust, through his experimental and ambient music with Eno and Fripp, his "disco phase" and beyond. It makes short shrift of his 80s music though, his greatest success being the Let's Dance album produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers.
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