Starman is a biography on gender-bending rock’n’roll icon, David Bowie, originally published seven years ago by music writer – and very much massive fan – Paul Trynka.
While Bowie’s status is iconic, Trynka could have elaborated on the artist’s more broadly known assets so as to appease a broader ‘pop’ market (those juxtaposing eyes, that bright orange Ziggy ’do, the suspicious right-arm-to-the-sky-then-straight-down-to-the-ground dance gesture that appears in a dozen videos). Instead, the author often comes across as a Bowie press agent, dishing out retro bios of each and every LP, as if we hadn’t already read enough glowing reviews of these in serious music journals like Mojo, Q and the NME. That said, Starman is a riveting read and why wouldn’t the life of one of the 20th Century’s most formidable musical sensations be so?
But while Trynka may lack in injecting his own subjective views on his idol – including Bowie’s shortfalls, which have been many – at least the lengthy list of sidekicks and extracurricular musos, whose quotes pepper the book, create an intriguing tug-o-war of opinion. Often, the game of two-degrees-of-David-Bowie gets so webbed and overwhelming that by the time it gets to the fourth roadie’s commentary, the reader starts to dart down the page for a juicier jube of pop fodder.
One thing that’s difficult not to notice is that whenever Bowie begins to come across as a typical rock’n’roll diva – a wanker, even – Trynka quickly takes his subject’s side, then diverts the blame onto one of the many minions who surrounded the star (Angie Bowie is very much relegated to the dunce corner, and Lou Reed gets a fair beating). But one thing’s for sure, the biographer can deliver prose as colourful as his protagonist’s glorious wardrobe; equal in parts in eloquent English and underground muso banter. Ten out of ten, then, for delivering the high art with the low; just the way the Dame would have liked it. Lisa Andrews & Antonino Tati
‘Starman’ is published through Sphere.