Tuesday, 8 March 2011

John, I'm Only Writing

What have I discovered over the last month? That it's impossible to maintain a blog about one artist (the Beatles) whilst spending seven days a week writing a book about another (David Bowie).

So my excuse is as follows: I'm in the final stages of writing what is, in effect, the Bowie equivalent of Ian MacDonald's highly acclaimed book about the Beatles' music, Revolution In The Head. At the time of his death, Ian was under contract to write a Bowie book, for the editor at Random House in London who commissioned You Never Give Me Your Money. The idea came up in conversation . . . and here I am, not writing MacDonald's book, because obviously his would have been very different from mine, but my own take on the same subject.

The title is The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s. It covers Bowie's music from 1969 to 1980, song-by-song in the MacDonald style, alongside a selection of biographical, historical and critical essays/notes that will, I hope, flesh out the relationship between Bowie and the culture of the 1970s. There will also be an appendix giving Bowie's 1960s catalogue the same treatment. Assuming I finish it in time, the book will be published this autumn in the UK by The Bodley Head, and next spring in the US by HarperCollins.

I realise this has no direct relevance to the Beatles, and promise to get back on track with the Fab Four shortly. But the Beatles' music was such an obvious influence on Bowie, from the mid-60s through to 1980 (where my account ends), that there are plenty of Beatles references along the way. In particular, I was amazed to realise how much inspiration Bowie drew from the John Lennon Plastic Ono Band album - not so much when it was released in 1970, but in 1977-1980, when (to judge from his music) he must have played the record incessantly.

One final thought to leave you with: has anyone made a better Beatles album since 1970 than Hunky Dory?