When David Bowie's performance of Starman was beamed into living rooms around Britain in 1972 it ignited something. That singular pop music moment not only launched Bowie into the new level of fame and socio-cultural influence, it also had a profound effect on so many people I know, myself included. It has produced at least a couple of really interesting books over the years including a recent one from UKGQ magazine editor Dylan Jones called, When Ziggy Played Guitar, and the latest book from philosopher Simon Critchley, simply called Bowie.
I read it from beginning to end in one sitting, it's less than 200 small pages--essentially short, one or two page encapsulations of Bowie's work, his impact, some philosophical engagement and canny insights from someone whose work I connect with. Critchley, gets Bowie completely, or at least he captures the Bowie I have connected with for years.
For me there were no Beatles or Rolling Stones, the only music I listened to before DB was from the blues/r+b/soul/reggae world of my musical youth-bowie shifted the ground beneath my feet, gave voice to my particular coming-from-nowhere-in-britain frustrations and desires and opened up just about everything to me, including the way I thought about and engaged with the world on many levels. Over the years Bowie has been a constant (even the Tin Machine years!!) and I waited for a decade like many of his fans for new work, convoinced that all the stories were false and that eventually post-reality, post-heart problems, the man would once again deliver music, and out of nowhere (where he seems to reside) came The Next Day and it's plaintive single, Where Are We Now? and we were off again.
Critchley takes snippets of Bowie's lyrics, personnae and reflects on them via his canny philosohical lens--he undoes our fascination with narratvie idea, what he calls the 'lie that stands behind the idea of the memoir,'--disconnects fact from truth and argues that falsity and inauthencticity are necessary to truth-telling-speaks of bowie's ability to 'deworld the world-and so much more.
It's a fan's book, but much more. If you are not a fan of Bowie, and they exist of course (how I fail to understand but there you go!!), you could still get a lot about life from this little book and i highly recommend it.
"For in truth, it's the beginning of nothing /And nothing has changed
Everything has changed/
For in truth, it's the beginning of an end
And nothing has changed/ Everything has changed"