Book Review: Spider From Mars – My Life with Bowie, by Woody Woodmansey

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_spider_from_marsI approached this book a little apprehensively. Sometimes people who feed off fame by association, do so for very narcissistic reasons. But I was so wrong. While I am a long time Bowie fan, I knew little about the development of his public face, the creation of the albums and in particular, the part his band of Spiders played in this.

Woody Woodmansey begins his story with an unremarkable childhood in Driffield, Yorkshire. He tells his tale well, with family, friends, school and work all important at various times. He relates his early attempts as a drummer and the lengths he went to in pursuing his dream. Of course all this builds up to his introduction to David Bowie. He recalls the phone call from Bowie in 1970. No audition was required and he was given a place to live, but the move from Hull to London was a big decision. Woodmansey honestly relates his fears and concerns as he had been offered a very good job working for Vertex, the spectacle makers. Against the wishes of his parents he accepts and begins his life with Bowie. On reflection, he sees this decision as a turning point: the ordinary life or the dream life.

For anyone who knows and loves Bowie, this book gives wonderful day-to-day images of the development of both the songs, but also the style which became so famous.

Woodmansey does not just focus on his part, but on the overall vision which Bowie was developing. He recounts Bowie taking the band to see the Nutcracker ballet. This was to experience the part lighting could play in a live performance. Likewise, they go shopping with Bowie and his wife, Angie, to Liberty in London. Here they select fabrics to create some of the costumes which were so much a part of the band. The arrangements of songs, the naming of albums, the lyrics, the mime, the hairstyles and makeup. All these ideas are described in fascinating detail and you really get a first-hand account of life with Bowie.

Following David Bowie’s death in 2016, this the first account of those early years and the development of the band. Following the hectic tours, it also details the eventual breakup of the original group. I really enjoyed reading the stories behind the sound. The photos are from another era and made me nostalgic for my psychedelic teenage years. It is a wonderful read for Bowie fans, and a great handbook for aspiring drummers.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Spider from Mars – My Life with Bowie
by Woody Woodmansey
Published by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd
ISBN 9780283072734

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