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

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Overview

The Man Who Sold the World is a critical study of David Bowie's most inventive and influential decade, from his first hit, "Space Oddity," in 1969, to the release of the LP Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) in 1980. Viewing the artist through the lens of his music and his many guises, the acclaimed journalist Peter Doggett offers a detailed analysis?musical, lyrical, conceptual, social?of every song Bowie wrote and recorded during that period, as well as a brilliant exploration of the development of a performer ...

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

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Overview

The Man Who Sold the World is a critical study of David Bowie's most inventive and influential decade, from his first hit, "Space Oddity," in 1969, to the release of the LP Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) in 1980. Viewing the artist through the lens of his music and his many guises, the acclaimed journalist Peter Doggett offers a detailed analysis—musical, lyrical, conceptual, social—of every song Bowie wrote and recorded during that period, as well as a brilliant exploration of the development of a performer who profoundly affected popular music and the idea of stardom itself.

Dissecting close to 250 songs, Doggett traces the major themes that inspired and shaped Bowie's career, from his flirtations with fascist imagery and infatuation with the occult to his pioneering creation of his alter-ego self in the character of Ziggy Stardust. What emerges is an illuminating account of how Bowie escaped his working-class London background to become a global phenomenon. The Man Who Sold the World lays bare the evolution of Bowie's various personas and unrivaled career of innovation as a musician, singer, composer, lyricist, actor, and conceptual artist. It is a fan's ultimate resource—the most rigorous and insightful assessment to date of Bowie's artistic achievement during this crucial period.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
Booklist
"A thoughtful combination of critical observation and biographical digging….Doggett’s sparkling work of biocriticism is full of entertaining anecdotes and flashes of insight."
Booklist (starred review)
“A thoughtful combination of critical observation and biographical digging….Doggett’s sparkling work of biocriticism is full of entertaining anecdotes and flashes of insight.”
Library Journal
We have recently been blessed with a banquet of enlightening and entertaining books about David Bowie, several of which have been well endorsed in these pages (Paul Trynka's David Bowie: Starman and Marc Spitz's Bowie, in particular). With 1969's Space Oddity as a launching point, Doggett (You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup) details a decade of styles and influences of one of rock's most enigmatic personalities. The author examines close to 250 songs and provides a critical view regarding content, an expert analysis of recording techniques, a comprehensive account of the musicians involved, and firm social, political, and cultural context in which to view the work of the former David Jones. VERDICT There is much to enjoy here, and fans will find a complete treat in this song-by-song examination, in the decade of his greatest work, of this musical and cultural icon.—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
Kirkus Reviews
Exhaustive survey of David Bowie and his music. Recent years have seen the publication of a variety of Bowie books, most notably the lengthy, impressive biographies by Marc Spitz (Bowie: A Biography, 2009) and Paul Trynka (David Bowie: Starman, 2011). Bowie is an unquestionably influential artist. However, considering all the detailed Bowie-centric material available, what else do we need to know about him? According to Doggett (You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, 2010, etc.), too much Bowie information isn't enough. The author so reveres his subject that he decided to dissect each lyric and every note played by the Thin White Duke. The result is as comprehensive, and exhausting, as one might expect from a 450-page examination of a prolific artist's entire recorded output. This isn't to say that Doggett isn't a competent analyst. In fact, there aren't many writers who have the combination of classic-rock knowledge, reverence for an artist and sheer patience to successfully pull off this sort of project. Doggett clearly conducted massive amounts of research on his subject, offering both historical context for Bowie's albums and the genesis of nearly every tune, and he's undyingly passionate about his subject, proudly trumpeting the hits and coolly dissing the misses. For those Bowie-heads who didn't get what they needed from Spitz and Trynka, there are plenty of biographical tidbits sprinkled throughout the book. However, Doggett's book will have a limited audience. Well-executed, but for hardcore Bowie fans only.
Associated Press Staff
“Meticulously researched….A wonderful opportunity to reconsider rock’s greatest chameleon.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Packed with insight, a go-to text for anyone who wants to understanding what Doggett calls ‘the uncanny strangeness of the seventies Bowie,’ and the creative process that led to his artistic breakthroughs.”
USA Today
“Explores themes in Bowie’s most inventive period - from sexual identity to the nature of fame. Doggett’s song-by-song analysis will make obsessive fans of the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ days want to pull out their old vinyl.”
Booklist (starred review)
“A thoughtful combination of critical observation and biographical digging….Doggett’s sparkling work of biocriticism is full of entertaining anecdotes and flashes of insight.”
Rob Fitzpatrick
“Astonishing and absorbing…Expertly unpicks this explosively creative time in Bowie’s life…. [Doggett intercuts] the individually tailored song biographies with essays on everything from glam rock, minimalism and punk, to radical left-wing politics, music video and a mass of other subjects that helped shape the ideas behind Bowie’s songs.”
Toby Litt
“Doggett’s previous book, You Never Give Me Your Money: the Battle for the Soul of the Beatles, was the perfect preparation for writing about both the Seventies and Bowie.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062024657
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/31/2012
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Doggett is a regular contributor to Mojo, Q, and GQ. His books include The Art and Music of John Lennon, Are You Ready for the Country?, and There’s a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the ’60s.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction 1

The Making of David Bowie: 1947-1968 17

The Songs of David Bowie: 1969-1980 55

Essays

Sound and Vision #1: Love you till Tuesday 63

David Bowie LP 80

The Lure of the Occult 92

The Man who sold the world LP 105

Bowie and the Homo Superior 110

The making of a star #1: Arnold Corns 124

Andy Warhol: Pop to Pork and Back Again 136

Hunky Dory LP 151

Glad to be Gay 154

The making of a star #2: The birth of Ziggy Stardust 164

The making of a star #3: The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars LP 172

Glam, Glitter, and Fag Rock 177

Transformer: Bowie and Lou Reed 182

Fashion: Turn to the Left 195

Aladdin Sane LP 203

The Unmaking of a Star #1: Rock 'N' Roll Suicide 205

Sixties Nostalgia and Myth: Pin Ups LP 217

The Art of Fragmentation 233

Diamond Dogs LP 247

The Heart of Plastic Soul 250

The Unmaking of a star #2: David Live LP 254

Young Americans LP 278

Sound and Vision #2: The man who fell to earth 279

The unmaking of a star #3: Cocaine and the Kabbalah 282

Station to Station LP 296

Fascism: Turn to the Right 299

The Actor and the Idiot: Bowie and Iggy 302

The Art of Minimalism 314

Berlin 320

Low LP 324

Rock on the Titanic: Punk 326

"Heroes" LP 340

The Art of Expressionism 341

Sound and Vision #3: Just a Gigolo 347

Exit the Actor: Stage LP 349

Lodger LP 361

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) LP 384

Sound and Vision #4: A New Career in a New Medium 385

Afterword 389

Appendix: The Songs of David Bowie: 1963-1968 399

Acknowledgments 453

Notes 455

Bibliography 471

Index 479

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    Posted January 2, 2013

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