Throughout the second half of 2000, and somewhat contrary to my natural one-man band instincts, I found myself in-house at EMAP HQ, just above the now defunct HMV Oxford Circus in London’s West End.
First I toiled at the retro rock realness of Mojo magazine and then, shifting across the fifth floor all of 30 feet, at Q magazine, then Europe’s biggest biggest selling music monthly. I was helping to put together the launch issue of Mojo Collections, a short-lived spin off designed to rival and then merge with the trainspotters music bible, Record Collector, when one day that July I received a telephone call in the office from a Richard Hearn.
He had bought a copy of the BowieStyle book I’d recently authored with Mojo Collections editor Mark Paytress, and absolutely fell in love with a classic Sukita portrait of Dame David as Ziggy Stardust (or was he Aladdin Sane?) in 1973 and wondered if I would be interested in selling him the transparency to use on the cover of a new book he was publishing at Reynolds & Hearn entitled The Complete David Bowie.
Eventually the deal fell though, as the litigious EMI Records, who’d supplied the image in the first place, had a clause that prevented many of their promotional wares being used as cover material, though he did kindly send me the manuscript, of which I was happy to go through and make some minor changes to a few factually incorrect passages. I didn’t know the author, Nick Pegg – in fact nobody did back then – but I was happy to offer him some exclusive material on Bowie’s brief cameo role with the 1960s psychedelic beat combo The Riot Squad, which I hadn’t quite known what to do with for a number of years. So that’s how I managed to be the first person to review The Complete David Bowie, which has now, ironically, been the subject of more revamps than many of Bowie’s own oft-repackaged albums. C’est la vie!
First published in: Mojo, December 2000
What the world doesn’t need right now is yet another Bowie biography. Thankfully this is nothing of the sort. Weighing in at a door-stopping 450 pages, The Complete… is an in-depth reference tome – a sort of Encyclopaedia Bowiettica, if you like. The songs have been expertly dissected, painstakingly researched and presented in an accessible A-Z fashion, with Pegg lavishing praise only when it’s deserved (acknowledgement, at last, that 1986’s Absolute Beginners is “one of the all-time great Bowie recordings”). It’s fitting that someone has actually taken the trouble to listen closely to their subject, as well as the blatant steals (entertainingly, Pegg alleges that the All The Young Dudes guitar intro has been “utterly ripped off by the theme to Masterchef”. Cookin’
Further reading: http://www.teenagewildlife.com/info/books/thecompletedavidbowie/interview.html