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Bowie's Odyssey Begins... Simon Goddard's Year by Year, Bowie career overview reaches 1971

Bowie's Odyssey Begins...

Simon Goddard's Year by Year, Bowie career overview reaches 1971

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: October, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

...that long overdue magic would start to happen when 'Life on Mars' is born

Bowie Odyssey 71
Simon Goddard

Bowie BookThe second of Simon Goddard’s year-by-year trawls though David Bowie’s 1970s arrives at  a pivotal period for the artist.  The year when Bowie would no longer be known as a one hit wonder, but as someone who would help define so much of the music of the next fifty years.  1971 is the year where everything starts to change. 

To tell the story of Bowie’s 1971, Goddard depicts a society in a state of flux.  In the UK,  workers are marching against anti-union legislation in the biggest public demonstration of the peacetime era and ‘Hot Love’ by T-Rex is number one.  1971 is a year of marches by the Gay Liberation Front and protests by Women’s Libbers - dressed as nuns.   It is a time of Mary Whitehouse, the Angry Brigade and Rod Stewart saying that ‘Enoch Powell may be a good thing’.  And Jimmy Saville denying any contact with the teenage ‘crumpet’ in the Top of the Pops audience.   Some attitudes are changing and some, horrifyingly are not. 

When we are first introduced to Bowie in Goddard’s book, he’s wearing a Salmon Pink Floral Gown at a fabulous club on Kensington High Road.  He may be turning heads, but he is still a man with only one hit to his name and a new album (‘The Man Who Sold the World’) that no one is that fussed about.  He is packed off to the USA to talk up the album and the less than fabulous ‘Holy Holy’ single.  Along the way he will see the Velvet Underground play live and will introduce himself to Lou Reed, only to find out later that he'd been  talking to Doug Yule as Lou had left the band a few months beforehand.  If you’re into drawing parallels, then this meeting and his meeting with the actual Lou Reed much later in the year are significant.  Initially he is a man going nowhere who after much persistence and a gradual metamorphosis, is definitely going somewhere

Throughout the year, the pieces start to fall into place.  A song he wrote for Peter Noone (formerly of Herman’s Hermits) may be the only hit single to be inspired by Nietzschean philosophy. He will then record his own version of ‘Oh You Pretty Things’. After an agonising labour, Angie will give birth to Zowie and the new dad will write a song called ‘Kooks’ for him. 

One day, Zowie’s ‘uncle’ Rick Wakeman joins the soon to be Spiders from Mars to provide the piano accompaniment for a song that recalls Bowie’s inability to pen a decent English translation for the French number  ‘Comme D'habitude’ (that prize went to Paul Anka for something called ‘My Way’). That will be the moment when the long overdue magic would start to happen and ‘Life on Mars’ takes shape.  A week before Christmas he will release the album 'Hunky Dory' and nothing will be the same again for David Bowie. 

Bowie admits that he is no longer writing 'great drooling nine minutes epics ' about himself. He is ‘writing about anything that comes to mind’.   He is creating characters and stories to place them in, even if Andy Warhol is somewhat underwhelmed by 'Andy Warhol'. 

Although we may be familiar with where Bowie's music goes next, we will need a guide to help us understand the world that Ziggy Stardust would land in.  I’m more than happy for Simon Goddard to be that guide.  Roll on ‘Bowie Odyssey 72’.

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

about Jay Lewis »»



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