Teenage Wildlife

BowieStyle

by Mark Paytress and Steve Pafford

Synopsis

A 160-page chronicle of Bowie's impact on twentieth century fashion and culture. From his early days as a follower of the mods through his defining rockstar style years, this book is an illustrated historical look at Bowie's inspirations, his influences and his impact on the world of style.

Details

Paperback - 160 pages. Published by Omnibus Press, July 2000. ISBN: 0711977224

Review

Which album cover was originally intended to grace the cover of Vogue? What film inspired the costumes for Ziggy Stardust? Which famous guitarist inspired the "Berlinesque" clothing for Bowie's Thin White Duke? All these and more tidbits can be picked up in Mark Paytress and Steve Pafford's BowieStyle, a book which does much more than just provide a photographic record of Bowie's costumed career.

Of course there are the mandatory classic full page shots of Bowie in Kansai Yamamoto creations, Mick Rock's saxophone photographs, the famous all red suit from the Glass Spider tour. And snuggled in with the text are smaller images - some from official photo sessions, some from fan snapshots. The promotional material claims over 40% of the close to 500 photos are never before seen and there's no reason to doubt that. Have you seen Bowie with Coco Schwab while a Parisian topless dancer cavorts on stage? How about a 1973 picture of Bowie with photographer Mick Rock? Or a recent picture of Bowie's first manager Leslie Conn?

But it's not all just about photographs. Paytress and Pafford take us through Bowie's defining style influences of the 60s, the fashion and alter-ego creations of the 70s, the unhappy rock god of the 80s and finally the metamorphosis into a contented family man of the 90s. They do this by splitting the book into three sections. Shaping Up follows his early childhood years as a Mod through his famous Man Who Sold The World dress-sense. Classic Creations looks at what many would call Bowie's glory years, Ziggy Stardust through Scary Monsters and the famous costumes which accompanied those characters. Finally Erase and Rewind covers everything from 1981 to the present.

The main text primarily concentrates on documenting the influences and progress of Bowie's style sense, but sometimes veers into a biographical presentation. For example, there's a significant section on Bowie's mid-70's fascism statements which is interesting, but is explored more fully in most of the existing Bowie biographies. Luckily, the emphasis on style quickly gets back on track in this case by relating Bowie's public pronouncements about facism with the subsequent rise of punk and its swastika symbolism.

In true cut-up style, the strict chronological progression is interrupted by two page "sidebar" layouts. Topics range from the women in Bowie's life (You Will Be Queen) to what brands of cigarettes Bowie has puffed over the years (Ciggy Pop). Here, more commentary on Bowie's personality and his life outside of "style" is offered. A section on the "Ziggy Enigma" explores the various characters who may have inspired Bowie's 1972 alter-ego, ranging from Vince Taylor to Marc Bolan to Jimi Hendrix. A "Mind Your Own Business" facing page layout looks at Bowie's managers and financial dealings over the years. All are illustrated with photos of the protagonists. For hardcore fans, these sidebars will be more interesting than the primary text itself.

If there's one section of the book which is a little sparse, it's the 1987 to present section. It occupies just thirteen pages, and only briefly mentions the Outside, Earthling or hours... albums and (mini)tours. Perhaps this is tied in with another weak spot - a concentration on Bowie as seen from the European side of the Atlantic. Bowie's ensconcement in the USA through most of the 90s is glossed over and while Brit bands like Suede and Placebo are quoted and referenced in the primary text as Bowie-devotees, his influence on more US-centric bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins is seldom touched.

The book shines uniquely with its collection of comments from costume designer Natasha Kornilof, Manish Boy Bob Solly and the two page interview with Mick Rock. As an added bonus, we get some exclusive quotes from Bowie in regard to some of the rarer photos. For a picture of a kanji-imprinted 1973 cloak, the caption writer asks Bowie what the writing actually says. "It may well have said, 'Get your potatoes here'" is the reply.

And while there are indeed a bounty of photos in this coffee-table size book which you can leave out for your casual Bowie friends to marvel over, it's the insightful commentary, pithy captions and humorous quotes which are likely to make this book a must-buy for the hardcore Bowie fan.

by Evan Torrie

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This document last updated Monday, 18-Sep-2000 04:27:04 EDT
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