New Personalised David Bowie ‘Life Book’ is a fantastic voyage through the legend’s life.

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Although a year has passed since his death, for many the loss of David Bowie is a wound yet to heal. Indeed, it may never heal. Since he left us I, along with many other fans, have taken solace in his back catalogue, in the numerous books celebrating his life and in productions like Lazarus – the thought-provoking musical he completed just before his passing.

Adding to the ways in which fans can celebrate his life and work this month is Historic Newspapers’ Personalised David Bowie: A Newspaper History (or a ‘Life Book’ as they’ve dubbed it). A 130-page, leather-bound, large format (31cm x 38cm) collection of news articles dating back to 1971, it’s an absolute treasure trove of rare stories, pictures, interviews and (occasionally totally bonkers) tabloid gossip.

bowie-vintageCulled from the world’s largest Original Newspaper archive, Historic-Newspapers.co.uk, the stories and pictures here come from the Daily Mirror and cover everything from Bowie’s addictions and fashion choices (“Back in stiletto heels!” screams one headline from ’73) to his thoughts on films and fatherhood. Beautifully produced on quality, off-white paper to give everything a suitably vintage feel, it brings together a superb selection of stories and images, from early ones about alter-ego Ziggy Stardust to those surrounding his untimely death last year, while the Mirror‘s original  pull-out tributes, published after he died, are included in full.

bowie-2As a teenager I used to keep scrapbooks on my favourite artists (I still did as an adult to be truthful) and sourcing everything was a laborious, painstaking and, in later life, an expensive business but thankfully Historic Newspapers have done all the hard work for fans like me with this artfully edited anthology. What actually makes this collection of newspaper clippings even more interesting reading is the fact that many of the Bowie pieces are presented with the news and ads that surrounded them. You could be forgiven for thinking that this robs the book of valuable Bowie-centric space but, if anything, it actually enhances them – helping frame the stories, both literally and contextually. In truth, discovering that a chicken cost 23p per lb back in 1975 is almost as fascinating as reading that Young Americans was tentatively called Somebody Up There Likes Me.

img_4573I have to be admit, I was worried that this collection would be some poorly produced, first anniversary cash-in but it’s not: it’s lovingly complied with superb attention to detail and the fact that you can have it personalised with your name embossed on the front cover and have a bespoke dedication added inside makes it a covetable gift for any Bowie fan. It’s a fantastic read but a sad one in places too. Perhaps the most poignant piece comes from July 1982 when he was promoting The Hunger. “The Immortal David Bowie” says the headline. If only.

Historic Newspapers’ Personalised David Bowie Newspaper Book is available from historic-newspapers.co.uk, priced £69.99.

 

Historic Newspapers kindly provided a review copy of the book but did not sponsor this post in any way and all opinions are my own.

Goodbye Mick Karn – so much more than a pair of absent eyebrows

Last night I heard the sad new that one of my teenage heroes, Mick Karn, had succumbed to cancer at the age of 52. As a 15 year old from a small, small-minded town in North Wales Mick and the rest of his bandmates in Japan provided me with a much-needed refuge from the dull drudgery of life in (how can I put this?) provincial hell.

Day after day I’d listen to Quiet Life, Tin Drum and Gentlemen Take Polaroids (my favourite album) dreaming of being achingly hip, wearing polkadots, dabbling in the art world (as both Mick and David did to show off their art-rock credentials) and – most importantly at the time – of wearing shitloads of slap.

The early eighties, was of course, the last time men wore make-up with any real sense of conviction (you really can’t include Robbie Williams and Michael Stipe’s flirtations with eyeliner). Bands like Japan were a true inspiration for me as I messed around with eyeshadow, blusher and hair dye. I even got reprimanded by a teacher at school who mistook my inventive use of red lipliner as an eyeliner (yes, heroin chic years before its time) as a burgeoning drug habit. One night I actually spent two hours recreating the Gentleman Take Polaroids cover shot (still my favourite look) in minute detail, complete with purple highlighted cheeks, umbrella and shiny black leather glove.

All of Japan dabbled with make-up to varying degrees – from keyboardist Richard’s rather sheepish experiments with eyeliner to David’s less inhibited raids on the make-up kit – but Mick, always one to push the envelope,  went one step further. In order to create a more sculptural, otherwordly look he actually shaved off his eyebrows. It was a stunning coup de theatre almost as eyecatching (if you’ll excuse the pun) as his slithery, sidewoods stage dancing. Too scared to copy the look myself (I was worried the brows wouldn’t grow back) it remains one of the boldest acts of what we now call ‘manscaping’ I’ve ever seen. And miles more fun than trimming your pubes, an act today considered positively outre by most men.

And so I’d like to to take this opportunity to pay homage, not just to Mick’s musical genius (he was undoubtedly one of the best bass players we’ve ever had and could also create absolute magic with a bassoon, sax, clarinet or suona) but also to his look. The make-up, the signature slicked-back hair and, yes, those famously absentee eyebrows.

For being original, inspiring and for looking so goddam cool Mick, that 15 year old boy from North Wales (and the 43 year old man he grew up into) thanks you.

Sleep tight Mr. x

PS. If anyone would like to find out more about Mick try reading his excellent autobiography Japan and Self Existence, available from www.lulu.com. The chapter on the death of his cat Kasmir tells you everything you need to know about the man.