Upping Your Ziggy: How David Bowie Faced His Childhood Demons – and How You Can Face Yours

Author(s) : Oliver James

Upping Your Ziggy: How David Bowie Faced His Childhood Demons – and How You Can Face Yours

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : June 2016
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 208
  • Category :
    Popular Psychology
  • Catalogue No : 39019
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782204909
  • ISBN 10 : 1782204903

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David Bowie was one of the most famous men of his generation, and remains one of the greatest rock stars of all time. But while his flamboyant career in the public eye has been well documented, much less is known about his family history.

In this new book psychologist Oliver James, bestselling author of They F*** You Up, Affluenza and Not in Your Genes, explores the mental illnesses that afflicted members of Bowie’s family, and Bowie’s fear that he too was destined for insanity.

Three of his aunts became psychotic and his grandmother declared the family cursed. His half brother Terry also became psychotic, hallucinating a visitation from God, the famous ‘crack in the sky and a hand pointing down to me’ about which Bowie sang. These family crises left Bowie afflicted with a fear of madness. His music and stage personae during the 1970s were his way of eluding it.

Born David Jones, he dubbed himself Bowie. During 1973 there were periods in which he actually believed he was Ziggy Stardust. Through Ziggy, and other subsequent personas including Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke, he engaged in an internal dialogue played out on an international stage from which he eventually emerged as the emotionally healthy man who died in January this year.

If most exceptional achievement derives from childhood adversity, so does nearly all mental illness. His brother Terry passed through the door marked ‘Madness’. Bowie opened it, took a good look around and then passed through the adjoining one, marked ‘Artistic Self-Expression’.

Using Bowie’s example, Oliver James shows the therapeutic value to us all of personas, illustrated with cases from his work as a therapist. He demonstrates how we can convert the lead of childhood adversity into the gold of emotional health through identifying the roots of our many selves and choosing who we become.

Reviews and Endorsements

Read a review of this title in 'The Independent'

Praise for Oliver James

‘James is charting new psychological frontiers’

‘Our foremost chronicler of what ails us’
- Will Self

About the Author(s)

Oliver James trained and practised as a child clinical psychologist and, since 1988, has worked as a writer, journalist, broadcaster and television documentary producer and presenter. He practices as a psychotherapist and chartered psychologist. His books include the bestselling They F*** You Up, Affluenza and Contented Dementia.

More titles by Oliver James

Customer Reviews

Our customers have given this title an average rating of 4 out of 5 from 1 review(s), add your own review for this title.

Kate Gard on 07/07/2016 10:01:02

Rating1Rating2Rating3Rating4Rating5 (4 out of 5)

This will be interesting to both Bowie fans and people interested in people, but it is let down by some important implied or unexamined opinions that needed further work. Oliver James offers an interesting way of looking at our past and our personas, using the compelling Bowie as a case study, and supports this with fascinating psychological and therapeutic material. But some implied opinions sit very uncomfortably. For example, in the Bowie story an episode is repeated from a single source uncritically - a girl in her 'early teens' is spoken of as making Bowie at 26 her 'conquest'. The episode is repeated almost salaciously rather than referred to by the author and we are left wondering just what James the parent is saying here?

A less major concern is that this reads like a rapidly written first draft, apparently unedited for style and readability, even best word order. This is disappointing from Karnac who have a substantial reputation. James wanted to avoid being too 'academic and gritty' and in my view has gone too far the other way, which a good editor could have prevented in both the reader's and ultimately the writer's interests. Perhaps James is just too powerful to edit now?

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