The Age of Bowie
Simon & Schuster UK
The enormous grief and sadness that outpoured at the unexpected death of singer David Bowie by fans and supporters worldwide were immediate and sincere. As soon as the shocking news broke on the 11th of January 2016, fans paid their homage to this artist who not only pushed boundaries but who also shaped and embodied the times we live in. What started with discussions, excitement, and puzzlement about Blackstar
soon turned into eulogies. It felt personal. His death, unfortunately, set the tone of what was to come for the rest of the year.
Brilliant, ever-evolving, forward thinking and innovative, Bowie was a fascinating artist who for decades kept the world spellbound with his music, appearance and mystique. These days, these words such as "creative," "genius," "brilliant" or "forward-thinking" get tossed around without any measure, but these words are only a starting point for defining or describing a man who embraced so many changes of style, characters, musical directions, blazed trails and gave to generations of fans the soundtrack to their lives.
When an artist's achievement is as complex as Bowie's the trying to understand, assess, and analyze his legacy and achievements is a Herculean task. Many books have been written about Bowie throughout the years and most of them have failed at the task of writing a decent biography of this enigma of a character because they never questioned his motives, never tried to grasp the things he was inspired by, have rarely described the times and the different contexts his music was happening or the characters he was inhabiting. By a rule, most music biographies are shallow sketches full of salacious rumors, sex, drugs and rock and roll, and scandalous behavior in enormous quantities. Those are celebrity biographies. Most of the books on the subject of Bowie rarely glimpse behind the scenes of what has made his music so attractive, so intriguing, so modern and so appealing.
In his book The Age of Bowie
music journalist, writer, and producer, Paul Morley not only provides a portrait of a musician who refused to stay the same but also provides a cultural history of the times when his music and art were created. The Age of Bowie is many things at once and often they would overlap or collide into contrast or would flow nice and easy. Probably these are the words and ironies that would be used to describe Bowie himself. Morley is a master painter with words. Some writers are architects and they carefully strategize how they will use the words. They use their word sparingly. Others like Morley are master painters and his writing is an absolute outpouring of words and he uses them to splash colors and vivid descriptions of different stations in Bowie's life. His high-octane writing is at the same time intimate, revelatory, mournful, explosive as he immerses himself in the life and work of this ever changing artist.
Bowie's life is given a vivid color and depth as Morley deftly interweaves his illustrious career with things that interest and excite him. Morley is firstly a fan and he writes like a fan. That is why he tries to describe many complex things that are contradictory by nature and even tries to reconcile opposing views. For a start, his plethora of colorful descriptions and opinions leave him at the very start i.e. that the myth of Bowie and the real character and his overwhelming influence are impenetrable and unfathomable. The narrative is abundant in detail. But that doesn't leave him lost for words when he travels from a chapter to a chapter in Bowie's life starting from his family background, early childhood, through a young Mod vainly trying to break into the '60s pop scene.
What other writers failed to see was this restless and sensitive spirit who needed to seek all life's opportunities and attractions in order to find fulfillment. His need to move on has been paramount despite the fact those changes were abrupt and hurtful. Having been brought in suburbia, with its fixed values and fixed stillness, Bowie desperately needed to escape from there in order to allow his imagination to flow freely. Change has been his lifeblood and he had to explore many things, from friends and various strands of music to gurus and mentors. He had to experiment and explore from mime to music and acting. He explored each one passion fervently with a boundless energy and enthusiasm.