Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded by Jason Heller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Despite the title, this isn't a biography of David Bowie, though he does figure prominently in it. (It is rather bittersweet reading at times, as the author makes plain how keenly Bowie is still missed.) It is, however, the chronicle of a decade, the 70's, bookended by Bowie's Major Tom songs, 1969's "Space Oddity" and 1980's "Ashes To Ashes." The focus here is on the marriage of rock, funk, disco, New Wave, and punk music with science fiction and fantasy. David Bowie is one of this eclectic blend's foremost practitioners, but he is by no means the only one, as the author's exhaustive research demonstrates.
Indeed, the progression of forgotten artists and songs across these pages is amazing. (And amusing, such as the anecdotes of Jefferson Starship, apparently post-Grace Slick, acting as the holo band in the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special, and a pre-Doctor Who Peter Capaldi singing and playing on an SF song with his group, the Dreamboys.) The prog-rock band Hawkwind, with its SF connection being the novelist Michael Moorcock, is almost as prominent as Bowie and Paul Kantner, who, with Jefferson Airplane, released the first Hugo-nominated album, Blows Against the Empire, in 1970. There's also a very interesting discussion of the amount of music inspired by Star Wars in 1977, including the disco-fied Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (which I remember owning once upon a time! It might've been worth something now, dammit!).
This book's twelve chapters cover the marriage of SF and music from the end of the 60's to the beginning of the 80's, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to the birth of MTV. What a long, strange trip it was, and I'm grateful to the author for chronicling it.
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