Review of ‘Psychedelic Suburbia’ by Mary Finnigan

‘I Was David Bowie’s Landlady’ could be an alternative title for this book. It’s not just about that, but undeniably that’s the main draw for people who want to read all they can about David Bowie. My favourite part of the book was about the evolution of ‘Space Oddity’. Imagine this classic song being composed in your home and being the first to hear it.

Psychedelic Suburbia by Mary Finnigan, showing a black and white photo of young David Bowie.

Subtitled David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab, this memoir explores a slice of time from 1969 (when the young, relatively unknown David moved into Mary’s house, where she was a single parent with two children) to 1973 (the last time they saw each other). Mary was carving out a career as a journalist but she was drawn into the counter-culture. I like how the book has a unique perspective and doesn’t pretend to be a more comprehensive history. The book is a haze of hippies and hash; free love and free festivals. There is quite a lot about Buddhism, but not so much that it’s off-putting for those who aren’t interested in it. Mary gives us a real flavour of those times, living in the London suburb of Beckenham which turned out to be a pivotal point in Bowie’s career. Things became awkward when Angie moved into the house, but the set-up seemed to work for a while. Eventually they moved out and had a different kind of crowd, which Mary didn’t fit into. There is an epilogue to this edition, in which Mary describes her reaction on learning of Bowie’s death, which happened only four days after her book was published.

This is a good read and I have only two minor criticisms. The tenses are a bit muddled, such as describing the 60s in the present tense and then saying what happened to someone many years later. The book is also too short and I think it could have been expanded.

Published by Jorvik Press, 2016.

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