David Bowie: Living on the Brink

Overview

How has pop icon David Bowie kept creating new music and fascinating his fans? What does he believe and where did he come from? Are the mercurial changes in his public image an accurate reflection of the inner man, or is he cleverly concealing his real self? Veteran rock journalist George Tremlett knew David Bowie well in his early days and grew close to many of his contemporaries (including Mott the Hoople, Brian Eno, and Peter Frampton). Tremlett delves beneath the images of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The ...
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Overview

How has pop icon David Bowie kept creating new music and fascinating his fans? What does he believe and where did he come from? Are the mercurial changes in his public image an accurate reflection of the inner man, or is he cleverly concealing his real self? Veteran rock journalist George Tremlett knew David Bowie well in his early days and grew close to many of his contemporaries (including Mott the Hoople, Brian Eno, and Peter Frampton). Tremlett delves beneath the images of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Thin White Duke for the intriguing story of media manipulation and financial management, shrewd deals and groundbreaking music.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The effortlessly eccentric David Bowie has enjoyed a long and prosperous career as a singer, songwriter, actor and painter. Tremlett, formerly a journalist at the influential British pop music rag New Musical Express, knew Bowie in the late 1960s, when the Yorkshire native was embarking on a career as a "generalist," already expressing a preference for music hall to rock 'n' roll, boasting that "I shall be a millionaire by the time I'm 30 and I'll spend the rest of my life doing other things." Tremlett's book is about how prophetic Bowie's statement was. The journalist cites surprisingly precise financial figures, claiming Bowie's former manager, Kenneth Pitt, as the source, even for periods long after Bowie had sacked Pitt but when the kindhearted, old-fashioned Londoner remained in constant contact with Bowie's parents. If the figures are accurate, they paint a revelatory picture of recording industry fame and fortune, for Tremlett reports that during Bowie's Ziggy Stardust era (when the singer was arguably in his influential prime), Bowie was virtually penniless. According to Tremlett, the booming 1980s made Bowie the mega-millionaire he is today, as a result of Bowie's managing himself and going into tax exile in Switzerland. In this way, Tremlett's unique biography is somewhat of a how-to guide for aspiring rock stars. Tremlett is not adept at explicating Bowie's songs, tending to fawn in wonderment, but he only rarely attempts such discussions. Otherwise, he has crafted an intelligent look at one of pop music's most important figures. Illustrations. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Despite his long-term access to Bowie and others close to him, British rock journalist Tremlett (Dylan Thomas, 1992, etc.) is stronger in its portrayal of the finances of the rock biz than in profiling one of pop music's most enigmatic figures.

Born David Jones in 1947, David Bowie flitted about the mod and hippie fringes of 1960s London until he hit it big in the early '70s as Ziggy Stardust, one of the first of a series of adopted stage personas. By 1973, by dint of canny songwriting and even cannier self-promotion, Bowie was an international sensation who traveled with a huge entourage and embodied the decadent, high-living rock-'n'-roll lifestyle. While Bowie's concert tours and records were raking in huge amounts of money, he was seeing relatively little of it, and his musicians even less. This was perhaps as much the due to his enormous cash outlays for cocaine and limousines as to greedy management. Nevertheless, following the advice of John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and others, Bowie eventually wrested control of the company that ran his career (but as he belatedly learned, was not owned by him) and again reinvented himself, this time as a successful rock burgher, living in Swiss tax exile. Since then, Bowie's new albums have, by turns, been greeted by critics as crassly commercial or myopically self- indulgent. Fans and fellow musicians have been kinder, as evidenced by accolades at his recent 50th-birthday concert. Certainly, Bowie fans will learn a lot in this book: that despite his flamboyant gender-bending reputation, he was, for the most part, a voracious heterosexual; that he was a devoted and intensely private father; that his ability to get into and out of character might have stemmed from a family history of schizophrenia.

This sober look at one of pop's most mercurial icons will no doubt send fans scurrying to dust off their Bowie platters and listen to them anew.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786704651
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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