An avant-garde pop album rich with tension and fear, 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) marked a pivotal point in David Bowie’s career. Standing at the bleeding edge of the new decade between the experimental Berlin Trilogy (Low, Heroes, and Lodger) and 1983’s wildly successful Let’s Dance, it was here Bowie sought to bury the ghosts of his past and the golden decade of the 1970s to become a global superstar reaching millions of new fans.
Featuring fresh insights and exclusive interviews with close collaborators, Adam Steiner’s Silhouettes and Shadows uncovers the studio stories, meanings behind, and secret history of Scary Monsters. Steiner gives a nuanced, memorable portrait of Bowie at a personal and professional crossroads, drawing on his own struggle with addiction, growing paranoia, and political turmoil. Despite the album’s confrontational themes, it included the hit singles “Fashion” and “Ashes to Ashes,” with Bowie riding a new wave of inspiration, from the post-punk of Joy Division, The Specials’ two-tone revolution, and the stadium synth-pop of Gary Numan.
Most importantly, it marked a final goodbye to Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, and The Thin White Duke, characters and personas that had defined his career: in this rare moment, David Bowie, the costumed clown of romance, suffering, and song, let his mask slip to reveal David Jones, the man within.
Adam Steiner writes about music, street-art culture, architecture, poetry, and transgressive fiction. His previous books include Into the Never: Nine Inch Nailsand the Creation of the Downward Spiral and the novel Politics of the Asylum
"Steiner writes potently and poignantly of the artist’s late-'70s personal turmoil, and comes up with a workaholic inventor at a crossroads who deals with inner madness by spewing bile, grief, the tenets of unrequited love, and a goodbye to Major Tom across one tight avant-post-punk-electronic classic. That’s a lot to chew on, and Steiner does so nobly."
"Essential reading for David Bowie fans and those interested in rock-and-roll history."
"Steiner ... takes us on the thrilling, identity-splicing journey with him, and as he does so offers a compelling, vital insight into this key Bowie album with the dexterity and insight of a novelist as well of a skilled biographer."
"Full of surprises and unexpected comments and critical revelations ... gloriously readable and informative."
"[Steiner] details the creation of this oft-overlooked LP ... There is quite a lot to be learned within the pages of Silhouettes and Shadows."
"Adam Steiner has written an in-depth discussion of David Bowie’s ‘last great album’ … It’s a convincing argument and backed up with an in-depth analysis of the social, cultural and political landscape of the time … Steiner seems to have read everything anyone’s written about Bowie’s work, and he’s also done his own interviews too."
"Adam Steiner's Silhouettes and Shadows is the mind-bendingly fascinating story of an album and its maker at the peak of his career."
"An insightful, expansive, and informed searchlight into the inner workings of one of the most essential recordings of Bowie's oeuvre. Beautifully conceived and written with penetrating insight."
"Steiner's rich text brilliantly recreates the claustrophobic paranoia and relentless self-analysis of an album that seems more unsettling every time you hear it."
"Scary Monsters is one of David Bowie's most fascinating records—a decade-closing album full of anger, confusion, innovation, retrenchment, theft, and sheer brilliance that's unique in his catalog. Adam Steiner digs into every aspect of it, from its songs to its art to its videos. He skillfully traces its many tributaries and listens to how it echoes throughout Bowie's later works. Anyone who's been entranced by Scary Monsters over the years will find much of interest here."
"The 1980 album Scary Monsters is, arguably, David Bowie's masterpiece. It sums up everything Bowie had accomplished in the 1970s, but its sounds and its obsessions also foreshadow much of what Bowie would do in the decades to come. There are good reasons that every great Bowie release till his death in 2016 was called by some reviewers ‘his best album since Scary Monsters.’ In Silhouettes and Shadows, Adam Steiner provides a kaleidoscopic view of Bowie’s masterpiece. Reading Silhouettes and Shadows is like living with the album in real-time. In some chapters we are next to Bowie as he is creating the album; sometimes we are next to the photographers and artists putting together its dazzling cover; sometimes we are with the videographer shooting the groundbreaking video for "Ashes to Ashes;" sometimes we are with Steiner himself as a responsive, insightful listener to the music and lyrics of each song, and to Bowie as an artist. It's a pleasure to relive Scary Monsters in Steiner's hands!"
"Steiner gathers together much significant research—covering areas of Bowie’s recording career that have been previously overlooked."
"Both foreshadowed destination and a point of departure, Scary Monsters is a significant staging post in Bowie’s career. Adam Steiner’s erudite book communicates the thrill of an artist meeting the times, and his past, head on."
"Adam Steiner’s analysis of one of Bowie’s most charismatic yet strangely elusive albums is as compelling as it is rich in detail. It sent me straight back to the record, as the best writing on music always does. This is a fresh and vital addition to the lengthening bibliography on David Bowie’s extraordinary career."
"Written with a poet's love for the jumble of words, the critic's fierce interrogating eye, and the fan's love of music, Silhouettes and Shadows is an essential read for anyone who takes Bowie seriously. Steiner brings out this unique stage in Bowie's life and art in full colour and with a rich and intriguing weave of testimony old and new and fresh insights on Bowie and his incredible music."