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Angie Bowie
edited by Don Short
Free Spirit
Mushroom, London, 1981
price: 1.50
176 pages + 16 pages of b/w photos

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Angela Bowie with Patrick Carr
Backstage Passes:
Life on the wild side with David Bowie

Orion, London, 1993
price: 4.99
262 pages + 16 pages b/w photos

There's no law saying you can't write two autobiographies, of course, and there are precedents in the business world of show, if you want to look for them - Diana Dors used to knock one out whenever she needed a few bob. Normally, however, the motivation is a desire to retract the previous version: Linda Lovelace, for example, when she re-emerged as victim in Ordeal, denying every word that had previously been published under her name, or - at a lesser level - Roseanne Barr's My Lives which totally recast the earlier showbiz account My Life As A Woman and 'revealed' the child-abuse &c. &c.

It's a bit different with Angie Bowie. What's changed is not her as such, but rather her perception of her career. The first attempt at an autobiography proudly proclaimed: 'If I am to be remembered at all, let me be remembered as I am, a free spirit.' Twelve years later, she'd evidently sussed that - while she was, of course, a woman in her own right - we, the public, were so shallow that we had no intention of remembering her as anything other than Bowie's ex. So she gave up the struggle and took the old tales out for another run around the block. She thus became, I believe, the first person from the world of rock & roll to write two autobiographies. Which raises the question: which one to choose?

Well, Free Spirit has an adrenalin simplicity that I quite enjoy. Take this account of a Donovan gig at the Speakeasy in the early days:

'Do you jive?' David asked me.
'Jive?' I said. 'Certainly.'
So we got up and started to dance. God it was great. It's fabulous when two people who have been trained as dancers, no matter under what circumstances, whether it be studio or night club, get a chance to dance together for the first time. (p.33)

They're basically the same person, you see? Both creative, both bisexual, both stars. It's a theme that Backstage Passes spells out more graphically, with a cover that shows a face split between David and Angie (sorry, Angela). Where Free Spirit was supposed to appeal on the strength of Angie herself, Backstage Passes has no such illusions: it's David who's the selling point here. The other change is the more considered tone - thanks, presumably, to Patrick Carr writing it, rather than to Angie splurging it out and leaving Don Short to deal with it. There are more anecdotes, told at greater length and much more salacious drooling over having 'a great night of naughty-girl pleasure', and the like.

I have to say that I miss the earlier, more optimistic tone. The back of Free Spirit proclaims Angie to be:


and claims that the book is 'as outrageous, moving, funny and uninhibited as Angie Bowie herself.' That's overstating it a bit, but there's a hell of a lot more character to this version. If I said it was The Man Who Sold The World compared to the Let's Dance of Backstage Passes, I'd be lying, but you'd get the idea.

And you can't help feeling that Angie should have made it bigger in some capacity or other. She may well have been preposterous, but hell this was the '70s - we wanted preposterosity. She was entertaining, fantastically stylish and she looked like a star. She's the alternative Bianca Jagger.

Backstage Passes is the more professional book, Free Spirit is the better read.

the US edition
Backstage Passes - the US edition
non fiction