The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s

Peter Doggett. Harper, $26.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-06-202465-7
Taking for his unabashed model Revolution in the Head, the late Ian MacDonald’s seminal work on the Beatles, Doggett’s meticulous song-by-song analysis of David Bowie’s “long decade” (1969–1980) is a captivating look at an artist who defined an era. Best read while listening to the Bowie songs in question—for appropriate ambience and because Doggett’s analysis gets technical when dissecting the chord structure of favorites such as “Changes”—Doggett’s nontraditional rock biography traces Bowie’s early life and career through the 1980 release of his Scary Monsters LP. Throughout, he emphasizes the singer’s infatuation with shifting personae, from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke, with Bowie constantly fragmenting himself and incorporating bits and pieces from other media: for example, his Spiders from Mars band is an homage to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Each song Bowie released during this period is given careful attention—from the tonal structure to Bowie’s fellow musicians and his (often cocaine-addled) state of mind—not just the “greatest hits,” though it’s especially illuminating that the “decade” is loosely bookended by “Space Oddity” and “Ashes to Ashes.” The songs’ Major Tom, adrift above Earth, Doggett convincingly argues, is not unlike the Bowie of today: an observer rather than a performer in the modern-day artistic world upon which he certainly left his indelible imprint. Agent: Dan Conaway. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
Hardcover - 424 pages - 978-1-84792-144-4
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-84792-145-1
Ebook - 512 pages - 978-0-06-209714-9
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4090-4139-9
Paperback - 424 pages - 978-0-09-954887-4
Paperback - 499 pages - 978-0-06-202466-4
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