Thursday, August 25, 2016
"The Age of Bowie" by Paul Morley (Gallery Books)
I for one am very grateful to live in the 'Age of Bowie." I can't think of another artist who either took me to other places, or I felt I could have a discussion with this artist about those places. I never had an eye-to-eye chat with Bowie, except to recommend a Japanese bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles - still, such a remarkable music maker and cultural advisor. Paul Morley's book on Bowie is exactly what one would think, if you have read Morley's other books and articles on the subject matter of pop music. Morley is not a 'it has a nice beat, and I give it a five' type of commentator - he's more of a Walter Benjamin, but happily placed in the world of the pop music world.
There is nothing new to read in "The Age of Bowie," if you're a long-term fan of David's work - nor is there any really new insights into the Bowie world, if you read the many (and many) books that are out there on Bowie, and which to be honest, are pretty good. What you do get is the unique voice of Morley, and in a sense this book is more about Paul Morley than David Bowie. And this, is a very good thing. For one, this book was written quite quickly, in honor of Bowie's passing, but it is also a reflection on the pop eras that has passed for Morley as well. most of the chapters, he lists records that were released during Bowie's own releases - and it gives the book a really nice framework.
It also focuses on Bowie's obsessions and interests - and how that sneaked or became part of his music. Morley has a really good understanding of Bowie's work, and he's a fan, but he's not an emotional lunatic fan like me. He's like a detective going through the evidence and cooly remarking on each item that is on file. The book will not please all Bowie fans, but it's a must for Bowie fans to read. One of the many things I like about this book is that it's not a closed conversation, but a very open one - where readers can add their own thoughts and commentary. It is also not an album-by-album critique - but clearly an over-all approach to the Bowie magic. David Bowie was (and still is,) a superb adventure. This book is one of a few that take that adventure and go with it.