A tribute to Bowie by his artistic collaborators and contemporaries
Rolling Stone senior writer Brian Hiatt has come up with a clever combination of content in this book that will appeal to all kinds of Bowie fans:
- Those who love art will appreciate the forty fabulous portraits within its pages – by top photographers, wonderful illustrators and artists, reflecting each of Bowie’s personae.
- Those who want to get a glimpse into Bowie the man, from the perspective of those who knew and worked with him, will surely all find new insights, from schooldays and beyond.
After Hiatt’s intro, first we hear from George Underwood who was at school with Bowie – and we find out all about those eyes. Underwood went from being in Bowie’s early bands to become a painter – and his beautiful portrait of Bowie as The Man Who Fell to Earth (used on the film tie-in paperback of Walter Tevis’s novel, right) is one of the first portraits included.
We move on to hear from Dana Gillespie on Bowie getting established in London, (Bowie would produce her first album in 1973). Toni Basil talks about working with him choreographically. Some of the artists and painters he was later patron to discuss working with him. Other musicians who didn’t work with him directly like Debbie Harry and Cyndi Lauper also talk about his influence on them – these parts were less interesting to me.
The meat of this book, however are of course the chapters by many of the musicians he played with over the years including: Earl Slick, Mike Garson, Carlos Alomar, Nile Rodgers, and more. All of them pay tribute to Bowie’s talents, not least his sponge-like ability to soak up everyone else’s influences and re-mould them to his own ends.
But it’s not a total hagiography, we do get glimmers of the real Bowie – apparently he could be boring at times, and the partying of the Duke and the Earl (Slick).
The book aims to cover the whole of his life – but there are some gaps: just think what this book could have been if say Eno, Iggy, Tony Visconti, Lou Reed, Reeves Gabrels or even his son Duncan had contributed.
Despite the uninspired cover, between the boards is a nicely produced book with each of the major portraits getting the full page treatment. Additional photos of Bowie with the interviewees capture Bowie’s zeitgeist at the time they were taken. I did find the interiews absolutely fascinating and have even more respect for all the musicians and artists who worked with him.
An ideal Christmas present that’ll look impressive on a coffee table… (8/10)
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Source: Amazon Vine
Brian Hiatt, A Portrait of Bowie – Cassell, Oct 2016. Big hardback, 224 pages.