by Ian Chapman
ALL THAT'S LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT ROCK'S FINEST ACTOR
(Guilford, CT: Backbeat Books, 2020)
Reviewed by Dr.
February 1, 2021
the early 1970s, when David Bowie came to prominence, he was so different
from everything around him-even the other glam rockers with whom he
was habitually lumped in-that he was impossible to ignore and was
subsequently both loved and loathed in equal measure." So observes
Ian Chapman, senior lecturer in music at the University of Otago in
New Zealand, in this perceptive, thought-provoking consideration of
Bowie, the ever-evolving artist who passed away in 2016 but left us
with such unforgettable anthems as "Changes," "Fame," "Sound and Vision,"
"Young Americans," "Modern Love," "Heroes," "Ashes to Ashes," "Rebel
Rebel," "Ziggy Stardust," "Life on Mars," "The Jean Genie," and "Moonage
The author divides his book into three parts: The Works, The Man,
and The Legacy. Among the numerous entertaining and enlightening topics
Chapman addresses are: "My Brother's Back at Home with His Beatles
and His Stones": David Bowie Destroys the 1960s; "The Monster Was
Me": David Bowie's Outcasts, Aliens, Freaks, and Misfits; "Space Oddity":
The Story Behind Bowie's First Taste of Success; "Hooked to the Silver
Screen": David Bowie the Movie and TV Actor; "The Prettiest Star":
How David Bowie Made Glam Rock His Own; "Fa Fa Fa Fa Fashion": David
Bowie's Influence on the World of Fashion; "Not Sure If You're a Boy
or a Girl": Gay, Bi, Straight-Who Cares?; and "The Stars Are Out Tonight":
Celebrity Tributes to David Bowie.
Professor Chapman also focuses on such albums as PINUPS, LOW, LET'S
DANCE, the unreleased TOY, and Bowie's final LP, BLACKSTAR. Moreover,
he examines the singer's collaborators (including Tony Visconti, Mick
Ronson, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, Carlos Alomar, Nile Rodgers, Reeves Gabrels,
and Dallas-born guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn), family life, and religious
views. According to Chapman, "In Bowie's career-launching 'Space Oddity'
single of 1969, the last words uttered by Ground Control to astronaut
Major Tom before the engines of his rocket ignited and blasted him
beyond the Earth's gravitational pull and into space were, 'And may
God's love be with you.' This raised an inevitable question in the
minds of the general public and Bowie fans alike: Did David Bowie
have a faith of some kind?" Chapman, furthermore, does not shy away
from discussing Bowie's drug use. "During the years 1974-1976, after
moving from London and taking up residency in the United States…cocaine
was Bowie's ever-present companion," he asserts.
One final and fascinating point, Texas history enthusiasts: actually,
David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in London in 1947. To avoid
confusion with another English entertainer, Davy Jones (later of the
Monkees), he adopted the last name Bowie in 1966. "One question remains,"
Chapman writes, "when he could have any stage name in the world, why
did he choose the surname Bowie? Always fascinated by America and
all things American, Bowie reportedly modeled his surname on Texan
Jim Bowie." Remember the Alamo, indeed!
Pop culture fans, especially those interested in rock music, will
enjoy this terrific volume. "Let's dance, put on your red shoes and
dance the blues, let's dance, to the song they're playing on the radio…"
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