Mary Finnigan - Psychedelic Suburbia book review

Short, sharp memoir of David Bowie’s Beckenham era

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Subtitled David Bowie And The Beckenham Arts Lab, Psychedelic Suburbia provides first person testimony to Bowie’s metamorphosis from charming, priapic folkie to self-consciously aloof Ziggy.

In April ’69, 29-year-old sometime journalist Finnigan, living in Beckenham with her two children, offered a room to young Dave who, despite having released his debut album two years previously, was back living with his parents. One slick Bowie seduction later, they were lovers and before you could say ‘tincture of cannabis’ the couple embraced Tibetan Buddhism and set up an Arts Lab. So far, so cross-legged and whimsical. Enter Angie. Nineteen-year old Mary Angela Barnett arrived in Beckenham in a haze of Chanel and a blaze of chutzpah and Bowie was hers. The trio continued to cohabit awkwardly, but Finnigan and Bowie’s one-sided ‘open’ relationship (no question of exclusivity on Bowie’s part) was over. While Mary might have nurtured Bowie’s growth, it was Angie who bulldozed him to stardom. As his celebrity soared, Mary lost touch and their last encounter was in 1973. Expanded since its fateful first publication last January, Psychedelic Suburbia is an illuminating and readable account of an otherwise uncharted leg of Bowie’s journey toward immortality.