Pop Obituary: David Bowie

David Bowie was born David Jones on 8th January 1947 in Brixton, South London.  The son of a Kentish mother and a Yorkshireman father, he reportedly adopted his stage name in the mid-1960s to avoid confusion with Davy Jones, lead singer of the emerging Monkees.  He took the name Bowie from the iconic American frontiersman and his eponymous knife.

He formed his first band, The Konrads, aged just 15, playing at local weddings and youth events.  Upon leaving school he announced his intention to become a pop star and managed to find a manager, but his first single, “Liza Jane”, made no real impact.  After a few more unsuccessful releases with a variety of bands, his eponymous debut album in 1967 had a similar reception.

Later that year, however, he began to take an interest in developing alternative personae and ventured into the folk/psychedelic rock scene.  1969’s Space Oddity (originally also eponymous but re-released under the name of the lead single to reduce confusion).  The single itself reached the UK top 5 and Bowie’s first taste of success spurred him on to greater things.  The Man Who Sold the World, more heavily psychedelic, and Hunky Dory in 1970 and ’71 respectively met with increasing acclaim and triumph.  His breakthrough was established with Ziggy Stardust…the following year and the Bowie we know and love was to remain in the charts through the ‘70s and ‘80s with highlights including “Heroes” and Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.  After releasing a couple of albums with his new hard rock band Tin Machine (1989 & 1999) Bowie experimented with electronic music through the ‘90s before increasing health problems (including a 2004 heart attack) led to something of a withdrawal from public life.  In addition to his music, Bowie was also known for acting roles such as the lead in 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth and famously a creepy Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986).

David Bowie died of cancer on the 11th of January just two days after the release of Blackstar, his 25th studio album.  He had been diagnosed 18 months earlier.  He is survived by his second wife, Somali-American model Iman and his two children, film director Duncan “Zowie” Jones (born 1971 to his first wife Angie) and Alexandria Zahra Jones (2000).

I’m not going to claim super-fandom or anything of the like, nor do I believe that his passing leaves a huge hole in the industry today (Blackstar was just his second release since 2003).  Bowie’s legacy has been his greatest contribution to music for the last couple of decades at least and today’s sad news does nothing to change that.  He single-handedly brought about an industry-wide shift in the early-to-mid-‘70s with the likes of Ziggy Stardust… and Diamond Dogs and continued to alter his style, genre and even persona both ahead of and in response to the changing times.  On a personal level I will mostly remember the Bowie of the ‘70s – “Changes” and “Oh! You Pretty Things” from Hunky Dory and “Ziggy Stardust” are among my favourite tracks.  But David Bowie was many things to many, many people.  He was an extremely talented man and he will be missed.


RIP David Bowie 1947-2016


Literary Pop: Plan for the Year


So, looks like I’ve managed not to update my blog since October 2014.  Whoops.  Oh well, no point dwelling on that.  I’m sure I’m not the only one picking up again at the start of the year as a resolution kind of thing – let’s see if it lasts longer than the traditional month or so.

Anyway, here’s my plan:

  • Updates on Sundays.  I used to blog at work, but I don’t think I can get away with that at my current job.  Anyway, I want to be more productive at work this year (resolutions and all that).
  • For the most part, books only.  For now, at least, I really can’t be dealing with different media.  I hardly watch films at the moment and frankly I listen to too much music to really pick anything out to review.

In an effort to broaden my reading I have (since the last time I blogged) begun observing “themed” reading months.  Last year my months were as follows (with an example of a book I read that month in parentheses):

  • January: Irish (Roddy Doyle, The Commitments)
  • February: Biographies of women (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)
  • March: 21st Century (Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies)
  • April: Self-help (Dr Steve Peters, The Chimp Paradox)
  • May: Crime (Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl)
  • June: Kentucky (Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible)
  • July: C0mmonwealth (Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin)
  • August: Black/African (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun)
  • September: Sci-fi/Fantasy (Isaac Asimov, Foundation)
  • October: Spanish/Latin American (Isabel Allende, Portrait in Sepia)
  • November: Free choice non-fiction (Jeremy Paxman, The English)
  • December: Free choice fiction (Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex)

This year I’ll let you know what each month is as they happen, since they have a tendency to shift a little as the year goes on.  See the end of this post for January’s theme.

I’ve also set myself a couple of extra rules – first, I’m only allowed to buy one book a week (averaged across the year).  I work one day a week at a book shop, so this will be tough.  I bought six books today.  No more for a while!  Second, at least 50% of books I buy must be authored by a woman.  Less difficult, but totally necessary to begin to even up a male-heavy library built up over years of blind patriarchy-reinforcement.

I’m looking at taking part in a reading challenge or two.  I’m probably being ambitious but I hope I can fit them into my themes without much of a stretch.  Top of my list at the moment is #BustleReads.

Well, that’s all for today.  Thanks for reading.

January’s theme: Published in 2015
Justification: In the past I’ve often found myself out of touch with the current literary scene.  This seems a perfect opportunity to allow myself to keep on top of what’s going on.
Currently reading: Dinah Jefferies, The Tea Planter’s Wife.  Review to follow next week. Perhaps.