Tuesday, 12 March 2013

David Bowie: A life reviewed

From hippie singer/songwriter, Ziggy Stardust, the ‘plastic soul’ phase, experimental electronic albums to 1980s global megastar, David Bowie’s musical reinventions have rarely been predicted. On top of this, he has confounded the critics by taking on serious acting roles (with good notices), becoming an internet pioneer, venturing onto Wall Street with his Bowie bonds, and dabbling in the art world.

Bowie: A life reviewed, tells the ever-changing Bowie story as reported by the Guardian and the Observer. Starting with his elevation to pop stardom via 1969’s Space Oddity it covers most of the classic albums and tours through contemporaneous reviews, interviews and features. The book gives an insight into what critics really thought at the time, rather than the nostalgia-tinged selective memory occasionally favoured by pop historians. As such, releases that have attained near-mythic status sometimes receive less than glowing write-ups.

The book closes with a review of the The Next Day - and the beginning of a new chapter in the life of David Bowie.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Nostalgia for press cuttings

Despite the prevalence of full-text databases, digital archives and other electronic sources, old-fashioned press cuttings can still be a valuable research tool for journalists. I wrote about this, along with the nostalgia for the scrappy files, for the Guardian's Open door column.

The response was predictably misty-eyed, with the piece providing an excuse for people to reminisce about the good old days of Fleet Street. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it was interesting to discover that a campaign has been started by a group of journalists in Leeds to try and preserve cuttings libraries. Presserve aims to identity titles which still have such collections, with a view to estimating the amount of work (and the costs) necessary to digitise the material and make it publicly available online.

More details can be found on their website and a letter about the group appeared in the Guardian.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Digging out gems from the archives

I recently wrote a piece about about how the Guardian library uses archive material in the paper. It was for the Open door column which is a good place to look if you're interested in reading about the day-to-day business of running a large news operation.