Book review: The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference byÂ Paul Morley
Another week, another book about David Bowie?
Well yes, although if this latest hardback to hit the shelves was merely a summing up of the late star’s life and times, it could easily have been written in less than half of the 488 pages it fills.
The reader, however, would have been the real loser here because this recent BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week not only informs – as you would expect it to – but also entertains while challenging you to keep up with author Paul Morley’s zigzagging style, a sometimes exhausting technique of throwing together thoughts, theories, recollections and interpretations.
He sets out his stall from the start, confessing just four paragraphs in, ‘I’ve definitely not written this book like a textbook.’
He adds: ‘This is my Bowie. It is not true, it is not false. It is not right, it is not wrong. Some things he did are more interesting to me than others. Everyone has their own Bowie, this will be mine.’
Even so, the book captures what many fans will agree were some of the greatest moments of Bowie’s career, from recording studio magic with fellow musical traveller Brian Eno and long-time producer Tony Visconti to acclaimed live performances worldwide and forays into both stage and silver screen.
Space is also devoted to the collaborations with rock luminaries such as John Lennon, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen and Mick Jagger, as well as, ahem, veteran crooner Bing Crosby.
And just as Bowie himself was a shape-shifter throughout his career, Morley records and acknowledges these various transformations by using a different writing style for a different decade or a different stage in his hero’s celebrity journey.
These days lauded as ‘a respected arts commentator, broadcaster and cultural critic,’ many will remember Morley as a cub writer on New Musical Express in the late Seventies. Or perhaps the chap whose clever sloganeering and promotion made chart rebels Frankie Goes to Hollywood household names for a few short years in the mid-Eighties.
He was also a key part of the team that curated ‘David Bowie is,’ one of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s most successful exhibitions which, following its London debut in 2013, is still on global travels. Now in Italy until November, it will open in Japan on January 8, 2017 on what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday.
But it was Bowie’s death, rather than birth, which became the catalyst for Morley penning The Age of Bowie to a self-imposed ten-week deadline.
He explores how the entertainer worked, played and, as he ultimately aged and withdrew from the spotlight, how the output slowed down but still lost none of its creativity – even when Bowie was writing what he obviously knew were his final songs, released on the Blackstar album just a couple of days before he passed away.
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)