I am a huge David Bowie fan and David Bowie: The Music & The Changes is the definitive guide to his music. What could go wrong? A few things, as it turns out, proving that love of a subject matter does not necessarily mean a sense of reading satisfaction.
The layout is bothersome. There are two timelines at the beginning; a condensed, picture influenced one and a more detailed one. It only needed the latter. I find myself re-reading facts and I find the process slightly irritating.
I love the introduction, pointing out that this is a revised edition of the book that was originally commissioned in 1995. It puts the original book into a historical context and gives a brief description of how the music climate has changed over the two decades; especially via music format.
We learn that Bowie himself actually asked for the book to be reprinted to promote his albums Earthling and Hours. It must be worthy of publication if the artist himself recognises the merit of its existence.
This edition brings the fan completely up to date with Bowie’s discography including the critically acclaimed The Next Day album. It even has a chapter on the ‘Bowie Is’ exhibition that took place at the Victoria and Albert museum.
There is also a section on ‘The Essential Bowie To Download’, completely embracing the modern way of accessing his work. It is a far cry from the first album mentioned in this book, David Bowie, released on the Deram label in June 1967. It did not chart. How far Bowie has come since that summer of 1967 is evident here.
There are some interesting snippets of information blended in with the discography. Bowie being victimised by skinheads on his Space Oddity tour in 1969 was one of the factors that contributed to him taking to the stage in disguise. Bowie performing in character meant that he could protect himself from such episodes again.
There is a wonderful mention of when Bowie’s band ‘The Hype’ played the Roundhouse in February 1970 with Marc Bolan in attendance, making a mental note of what he was witnessing. It suggests that Glam Rock was born on that night.
It also comments on how Bowie approaches the recording process. He seems to be quite organic in his approach to his work, writing crucial parts to songs at the very last minute.
There is a great chapter on selective collaborations with the likes of David Gilmour and Placebo (Bowie was an early champion of the band).
The author, David Buckley, has a PhD in David Bowie so I could never criticise the book for not being informative or lacking dedication to the subject matter. It is just not as engaging as I thought it would be. This could be because it appears to contain almost too much information or that the layout of the book does not flow for me. Still, these are minor criticisms. It cannot be denied that it is essential reading for any Bowie fan, if not quite hunky-dory.
David Bowie: The Music And The Changes is out now on Omnibus Press