This is an interesting monograph about the late, greatly lamented David Bowie – with a kick ass cover image of Bowie on stage during the Outside tour – which quickly has the reader considering their own favourite Bowie music as well as, perhaps, considering which musicians provide the soundtrack to their own lives. I found it a fruitful line of enquiry. As well as a rundown of Bowie’s music it also encompasses the way we enjoyed music back in the Nineties – searching for music in town centre stores; the weekly music press we relied on for information. Then moves us into the internet age – the way CDs gave over to mp3 downloads; the whole world of music which became available online; magazines that are now only a distant memory; also those that survived, some on paper, some online.
If you are a Bowie fan then this account will jog your memory about lesser known albums and singles, videos and tours which you may have forgotten about. Bowie’s musical production did, after all span five decades, as Storer points out. It will remind you of your favourites and motivate the sort of conversations which start ‘yes, but also …,’ which could keep you up late into the night and require considerable consumption of alcoholic beverages.
I got slightly confused about when we were from time to time. But I understand that the story doesn’t unfold to best advantage in an entirely chronological way, and if that sometimes led to a certain confusion with when in Storer’s life we were, I could still see demonstrated the impact the music had on the author’s life.
I found it interesting that Storer contrasted the wait for albums and, occasionally, the hunt for them, with the ease we experience buying music now. I remember, in the Seventies, driving from Aberystwyth to North Wales on a pilgrimage to the only record store in the principality that stocked American imported blues music. Bliss! How little of the glorious music in stock I could afford. Woe! Being one whose favourite music was always on the other side of The Pond I don’t regret the passing of the physical purchase of music in the way that Storer does. But I can certainly understand it. The way we enjoy music now brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘easy listening’. Storer has done more than follow a major artiste through nearly 40 years of his recording career (with a nod to the decade before that), he has also reminded us how music was produced and how we consumed it. Also how Bowie was always in tune with the zeitgeist in the design of covers and new instrumentation, new methods of production and dissemination of his music.
If you are a Bowie fan you should certainly read this short treatise on the man’s music. If you are interested in how the production of music for mass consumption has changed in the past 30 years you will find much here to interest you. If you are interested in being prompted to think about who your own musical heroes are and what impact they have had on your own life, this is a good place to start.
One thought on “Sound, Vision, Inspiration: How the music of David Bowie became a soundtrack to life by Alex Storer”
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