There are probably few tales in the pantheon of rock & roll history that seem as mythical as the rise of David Bowie. As the self-created Ziggy Stardust, Bowie ascended to a level of stardom befitting of the alien character while creating an enigmatic aura that would continue to mystify fans, critics and his peers throughout his career. It is this aura that countless authors have attempted to penetrate again and again.
Bowie (a.k.a. Ziggy a.k.a. Aladdin Sane a.k.a. the Thin White Duke) did not emerge out of thin air or come down from the heavens. He toiled with a number of moddish bands in London’s clubs during the ’60s, had a minor hit with ”Space Oddity” in 1969, and had actually already released several albums before reinventing himself and putting together a band to be his Spiders from Mars.
In his new book, Bowie: A Biography, this is a fact that Marc Spitz makes painfully clear. Of the bio’s 429 pages, the first 201 are spent just getting to the release of The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. While interviews with ex-wife Angie Bowie and former manager Kenneth Pitt provide insight to Bowie’s pre-Ziggy years and childhood, Spitz spends an inordinate amount of time recounting nearly each and every event of even the slightest significance.
In the book’s introduction, Spitz describes his own mixed feelings about whether or not to add another tome to the overfilled shelves of Bowie bios. Ultimately he decided to take on the task after a chance spotting of Bowie on the street in New York. However, his decision is never justified. The book tediously recounts Bowie’s career development and achievements, providing little insight along the way. Moreover, Spitz’s italicized personal interjections come clumsily and without warning, interrupting the narrative with trivial tidbits that add little value.
It is no doubt a daunting task to take on a iconic subject like David Bowie, and Spitz’s attempt is not completely without merit as he knows the ins and outs of the man’s career. But with too many pages devoted to the first 25 years of Bowie’s life and not enough to the last 38, Bowie: A Biography is largely a tale that’s been told before. There has yet to be a biography to which Bowie has consented and contributed—and there may never be a book that isn’t flawed until his blessing is given—but this one bears little distinction anyway.