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Bowie: A Biographyby Marc Spitz
Synopses & Reviews
There's an alien in the window of the house next door to the one where David Bowie was born at 40 Stansfield Road in Brixton, a southern borough of London. It peers out, gray skinned, with black, oval-shaped eyes and a tennis-racket-sized skull, the same kind of inflatable spacemen for sale in the gas station gift shops that one stops at while driving through Roswell, New Mexico. X-Files/E.T.-faced aliens. It might not be there now, should you decide to make a new pilgrimage, but it was there when I traveled to Brixton, as if to say, "Welcome, biographer "
Whoever lives in the virtually identical home at 38 Stansfield Road, they certainly know who was born next door. If the alien had eyelids it'd be winking. Otherwise, this block, like every other block in the area, is as quiet as it must have been in the harsh winter of 1947. The house itself is three stories high, pale brick, with a double-arched doorway painted French white. A chest-high brick wall separates the house from the adjacent buildings. Another brick wall girds the property, sectioning off a very tiny lawn and a spindled tree that extends just past the chimney. It's a handsome if compact residence. Unlike the city of Brixton, which was predominantly a white, middle-class enclave in the years just after World War II, this home is static. In another fifty-two years, while jet packs and flying cars travel overhead, one can imagine it looking exactly the same. There's no brass plaque here marking David Bowie's birth, but it is, nonetheless, a landmark, one pristinely preserved whether by design, accident or simple lack of means or inclination. That he came into the world inside is hardly unique; many children in the late forties were born at home and not in a hospital. Midwives were summoned once the water broke, as one would call a plumber or policeman. The house's real significance has less to do with David Bowie's and more to do with his mother and father's story anyhow. This was a second-chance home, the place where they hoped to build a strong family unit after their dark and complicated childhoods and some false starting on either side with regard to romance and parenthood. Brixton was still in wreckage thanks to the Nazi buzz bombs and the depleted nation's inability to quickly rebuild when David's mother, Margaret Mary Burns, from Royal Tunbridge Wells in the county of Kent, met his father, Haywood Stenton Jones, from Doncaster, Yorkshire. She was known as Peggy and he as John. It was not a posh area but it was theirs, a place to create new memories and remain protected from the area pain they'd known.
Of the two, Peggy had the most to distance herself from. Several incidents occurred in her teens and early twenties that could cumulatively take on the characteristics of a Burns family curse. Mental illness seemed to be seared deeply into the genetic code (as has been well documented by other biographers and commented on by Bowie himself) David spent much of his adult life wondering when, not if, he was going to go legitimately mad. Schizophrenic behavior can lay dormant until triggered by a cataclysmic event. For Peggy, her three sisters and her brother, this event was of course the Second World War. However, Nora Burns, the second child, and Vivienne, the fifth, began exhibiting signs of mental illness early on. The constant explosions of the Luftwaffe's missiles and the nightmarish prospect of the Nazis occupying the
Documents the life and influence of the music icon, citing the role of trends from the 1960s through the 1980s in forming his development, in a portrait that draws on more than 100 original insider interviews that also considers his present-day status as a leading figure in alternative culture.
From noted author and journalist Spitz comes this work that chronicles David Bowie's life. Spitz presents a portrait not only of one of the most important rock musicians of the last century but also an examination of a truly fascinating man.
About the Author
MARC SPITZ’s writing on rock ’n’ roll and popular culture has appeared in Spin, the New York Times, Maxim, Nylon, Blender and Uncut (UK). He is the author of How Soon Is Never?; Too Much, Too Late; and Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, and Music of Green Day and coauthor with Brendan Mullen of We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk.
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