Reading list

Books to read if you love David Bowie

January 10th marks the anniversary of David Bowie’s death. To commemorate one of the world’s most enduring icons, discover more about the world he lived in and the world he created 

David Bowie: A Life

Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones’s engrossing, magisterial biography of David Bowie is unlike any Bowie story ever written. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, this is as intimate a portrait as may ever be drawn. It sparks with admiration and grievances, lust and envy, as the speakers bring you into studios and bedrooms they shared with Bowie, and onto stages and film sets, opening corners of his mind and experience that transform our understanding of both artist and art. Including illuminating, never-before-seen material from Bowie himself, drawn from a series of Jones’s interviews with him across two decades, David Bowie: A Life is an epic, unforgettable cocktail-party conversation about a man whose enigmatic shapeshifting and irrepressible creativity produced one of the most sprawling, fascinating lives of our time.
 

Ziggyology

Simon Goddard

It was the greatest invention in the history of pop music – the rock god who came from the stars. When Ziggy the glam alien messiah fell to Earth, he transformed Bowie from a prodigy to a superstar who changed the face of music forever. 

But who was Ziggy Stardust? And where did he really come from?

In a work of supreme pop archaeology, Simon Goddard unearths every influence that brought Ziggy to life – from HG Wells to Holst, Kabuki to Kubrick, and Elvis to Iggy. Ziggyology documents the epic drama of the Starman’s short but eventful time on Planet Earth… and why Bowie eventually had to kill him.
 

When Ziggy Played Guitar

Dylan Jones

And then there was David Bowie, the uber-freak with the mismatched pupils, the low-tech space face from the planet Sparkle. This was Bowie's third appearance on TOTP but this was the one that properly resonated with its audience, the one that would go on to cause a seismic shift in the Zeitgeist. This is the performance that turned Bowie into a star, embedding his Ziggy Stardust persona into the nation's consciousness. 

With a tall, flame-orange cockade quiff (stolen from a Kansai Yamamoto model on the cover of Honey), lavishly applied make-up, white nail polish, and wearing a multi-coloured jump-suit that looked as though it were made from fluorescent fish skin (chosen by Ziggy co-shaper, the designer Freddie Buretti), and carrying a brand spanking new, blue acoustic guitar, a bone-thin Bowie appeared not so much as a pop singer, but rather as some sort of benevolent alien.

Suddenly Bowie - a man called alias - had the world at his nail-varnished fingertips, and in no time at all he would be the biggest star in the world.
 

The Man Who Sold the World

Peter Doggett

No artist offered a more incisive and accurate portrait of the troubled landscape of the 1970s than David Bowie. Cultural historian Peter Doggett explores the rich heritage of Bowie's most productive and inspired decade, and traces the way in which his music reflected and influenced the world around him. From 'Space Oddity', his dark vision of mankind's voyage into the unknown terrain of space, to the Scary Monsters album, Doggett examines in detail Bowie's audacious creation of an 'alien' rock star, Ziggy Stardust, and his increasingly perilous explorations of the nature of identity and the meaning of fame.

Mixing brilliant musical critique with biographical insight and acute cultural analysis, The Man Who Sold The World is a unique study of a major artist and his times.
 

Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars 1955-1994

David Hepworth

The age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. Like the cowboy, the idea of the rock star lives on in our imaginations.

What did we see in them? Swagger. Recklessness. Sexual charisma. Damn-the-torpedoes self-belief. A certain way of carrying themselves. Good hair. Interesting shoes. Talent we wished we had.

What did we want of them? To be larger than life but also like us. To live out their songs. To stay young forever. No wonder many didn’t stay the course.

In Uncommon People, David Hepworth zeroes in on defining moments and turning points in the lives of forty rock stars (including Bowie) from 1955 to 1995, taking us on a journey to burst a hundred myths and create a hundred more. 
 

The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records

Stuart Maconie

These are the songs that we have listened to, laughed to, loved to and laboured to, as well as downed tools and danced to. 

Covering the last seven decades, Stuart Maconie looks at the songs that have sound tracked our changing times, and – just sometimes – changed the way we feel. 

This is not a rock critique about the 50 greatest tracks ever recorded. Rather, it is a celebration of songs that tell us something about a changing Britain during the dramatic and kaleidoscopic period from the Second World War to the present day. Here are songs about work, war, class, leisure, race, family, drugs, sex, patriotism and more, recorded in times of prosperity or poverty. This is the music that inspired haircuts and dance crazes, but also protest and social change.
 

1971 - Never a Dull Moment

David Hepworth

The Sixties ended a year late – on New Year's Eve 1970, when Paul McCartney initiated proceedings to wind up The Beatles. Music would never be the same again.

The next day would see the dawning of a new era. 1971 saw the release of more monumental albums than any year before or since and the establishment of a pantheon of stars to dominate the next forty years – Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart, the solo Beatles and more.

January that year fired the gun on an unrepeatable surge of creativity, technological innovation, blissful ignorance, naked ambition and outrageous good fortune. By December rock had exploded into the mainstream. 

How did it happen? This book tells you how. It's the story of 1971, rock’s golden year.

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