Starman - David Bowie
the definitive biography.
By Paul Trynka.
For his millions of cross generational fans over the Globe, the story of David Bowie is now so familiar that it has taken on the shape of myth, folk lore and fable.
It's a tale that contains so many highs (many purely pharmaceutical) and lows (personally and professionally) that from a distance it seems less like a mere life story and more like the exquisite screenplay to an edgy Hollywood biopic.
There are the early post War Brixton/Bromley years; Bowie's influential yet suicidal and schizophrenic half -brother Terry. The pre - fame era of struggle as a mime artist and Tony Newly sound - alike ; A laughing Gnome here, a major Tom there and lift -off. There's the domination of earth via the spaced oddity of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, the move to America, the bacchanalian drug habit, alcoholism, Black magic, the batty look-alike wife, Angie and their offspring son Zowie. There's the recovery period in Berlin with chemical soul brother Iggy pop. There are stints in theatre, roles in Movies, million selling albums, the critically derided mid 80's period, artistic decline, fall and rise. Such peaks and troughs are shot through with bisexuality, an uncommon androgynous beauty and some of the greatest songs of the 20th centaury. The book ends halfway through Bowie's final act, with the actor seemingly retired and disappearing happily into the life of a contented family man in New York with his supermodel wife, beautiful child and his own private mountain.
Like all myths this makes for a compelling story that begs a reading again and again and Paul Trynka's telling of it is a ripping read. While his book is the latest in a long line of Bowie biographies stretching back to the early seventies, with over 200 sources newly tapped it is surely the most definitive so far. Authoratively written, with wit and verve and an obvious love of his subject matter there are enough new facts and anecdotes to excite even the most obsessive Bowie nerd. The narrative's style is at times a little dry and unmusical; the occasional flash of humour making you wish there was more of the same. 'The laughing Gnome is infectious - like a skin ailment' Observes Trynka. '…In the admittedly narrow niche of pseudo-psychedelic cockney music-hall children's songs, it reigns supreme'.
Considering the masses of material already available on Bowie's earlier career it's a shame that Trynka doesn't explore the latest albums in more depth, being as they are among the finest and overlooked among the Bowie canon.
This book doesn't reveal anything fundamentally new about the Bowie story but its wealth of fresh sources adds plenty of new detail. If you've read every previous Bowie biography Starman is still more than worth reading, and if you've never read anything it’s the perfect place to start. Amongst the 200 interviewed specifically for this work, Bowie is the one source most obviously missing. With recent (and excellent) Autobiographies by fellow musical legends Keith Richards and Bob Dylan one has to wonder at the future of such unauthorised works like Starman. Having made an indelible impression upon pop culture in music and film, literature is one medium Bowie has not explored. Perhaps Bowie 'the generalist' is himself waiting in the wings with his own autobiography. If so, this could be the definitive telling of one of the most fascinating personal voyages of our time. While we wait on this possibility Starman is a beguiling and diverting must-read of its own.