This book was provided to me by Repeater Books via NetGalley for review consideration.
Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016 by Chris O’Leary
From the ultimate David Bowie expert comes this exploration of the final four decades of the popstar’s musical career, covering every song he wrote, performed or produced from 1976 to 2016.
Starting with Low, the first of Bowie’s Berlin albums, and finishing with Blackstar, his final masterpiece released just days before his death in 2016, each song is annotated in depth and explored in essays that touch upon the song’s creation, production, influences and impact. (via Goodreads)
Why was I interested in this book?
Like many people of a certain age, I was ensorceled by David Bowie as the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1987). My parents listened to the local rock/classic rock radio station, so I was familiar with Bowie’s hits, songs like “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and “Changes.” But after Labyrinth, I became a fan. Never Let Me Down (1987) was one of the first albums I bought on my own. I lucked out; starting in the 90s Rykodisc started releasing his back catalog.
Ashes to Ashes is an incredibly comprehensive look at David Bowie’s works from 1976 (the album Low, one of my favorites) to the end of his career (2016’s Blackstar, an album I still haven’t listened to very much). Every song that Bowie wrote, sang, covered, co-wrote, co-produced, or hummed a few bars on a television show is given an entry. I might be overstating, but only a little. By going through each of the songs in the order of their creation (or performance), O’Leary provides a very through biography of Bowie.
Each song has an entry that contains information on the song’s writing, production, and the musicians involved in its recording. There are also stories attached and, in the case of the first songs recorded for a new album, information about the album. The 700 page work (the second of two volumes) contains an amazing number of crunchy tidbits.
What Didn’t Work…For Me
I don’t know much about music and music theory, so some discussions about the musical makeup of songs went over my head. O’Leary is also not an entirely objective reporter. He definitely has opinions about certain songs and certain albums. And occasionally these views differed from my own not-objective opinions.
I read Ashes to Ashes over a series of months, listening to each album, each song as I read about it. I learned a great deal about David Bowie’s solo work and many collaborations and I gained new appreciation for albums both familiar and relatively new to me. As a fan, I consider Ashes to Ashes worth the time I spent on it.
Publishing info: Repeater Books, released 2/12/19
My Copy: ePub, acquired through NetGalley