Thursday, September 01, 2022

46. The David Bowie Story by George Tremlett

I am not interested at all in music journalism, nor particularly in David Bowie's story.  I took this book almost purely on aesthetics alone.  Look at that cover!  It's really not a good book, though I am glad I read it as it spurred me to go back and listen to Bowie's earlier music.  It's funny that this book was published in 1974 and honestly the text itself implies that his story is over more or less at the time of publication.  This book really should have been subtitled: "The Kenneth Pitt story, my good friend who is also very cultured unlike most music agents and how David Bowie made a terrible mistake in not listening to Kenneth which ended up delaying his success by two years!"

Seriously, the bulk of the first half of this book is a fawning apologia to Kenneth Pitt who was indeed Bowie's first agent and whom Bowie dismissed after a few years.  The tone has a slightly moralizing, superior air, chastising Bowie for not doing things the way Pitt and a traditional pop star should and elaborating on all the ways Kenneth Pitt (and his lovely house in the country) is a decent and cultured man, not at all like most music agents.  I almost suspect the author and Pitt were lovers.  We do get some actual facts about Bowie's upbringing, though even there it veers into how not only did Bowie not invite his own mother to his wedding, he didn't invite Kenneth!

The second half is a bit more informative, with a fairly detailed narrative of Bowie's tour in the United States, his growing relationships with other celebrities at the time and his own struggle with early fame.  When you peel away the inconsistent structure (he jumps around a lot in time and often repeats the same message in slightly different ways), though, there is a nice history here that gives some insight into Bowie's mercurial creativity and the scene he came out of.  I always respected Bowie's work, but it never grabbed me and I think a big part of that is because he is really an experimental artist who was constantly trying everything within the framework of popular music and culture.  I am guessing that some have accused him of simply being a chameleon, but reading this book did make me feel that he was genuine in his artistic exploration (unlike say the more cynical Madonna) and definitely a truly talented and charismatic performer.  

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