Dave Thompson, author of best-selling biographies of Kurt Cobain, John
Travolta, David Bowie and many more, turns his attention now to the longest life
of them all, Doctor Who.
With over 100 published books to his name, pop culture historian Dave Thompson is one of rock’n’roll’s leading experts. Ferociously self-opinionated, relentless controversially but writing, too, with irresistible charm and finesse, Thompson’s sharply-honed eye for culture and historical context ensure a no-nonsense approach to his writing, together with a Himalaya-like refusal to be taken in by the hyperbole and tat that traditionally surrounds the subject.
“Rock’n’roll is the most significant cultural art form of the past century,” says Thompson. “But it is also the most self-important. Cut out the pomposity, cut out the deference, cut out the analysis, and tell it for what it is – a force that can either move mountains, or fall flat on its face in the foothills.”
This uncompromising stance long ago established Thompson among the leading figures in his field. In 1999, he was ranked among the top five foremost rock biographers by the prestigious Mojo magazine, and he received an ARSC “best research” award in 2003 for his encyclopedia Reggae & Caribbean Music. More recently, former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham proclaimed Thompson “Sherlock Holmes with the facts,” while celebrating his refusal to allow common preconceptions to bog down his opinions. Whether music, film, or sports, his research is always extensive, loaded with exclusive interviews and fascinating insights.
Thompson’s first book, the U2 biography Stories For Boys, was published in 1984. He relocated to the USA in 1989, shortly after being proclaimed the most published English music biographer under the age of 30. Among Thompson’s other titles are biographies of David Bowie (Moonage Daydream – 1987, Hallo Spaceboy – 2006), Deep Purple (Smoke On The Water), the Red Hot Chili Peppers (By The Way), Gothic Rock (In The Reptile House), Genesis (Turn It On Again), Depeche Mode, the Cure, ZZ Top, KISS and many more. His 1994 biography of Kurt Cobain, Never Fade Away, was an international best seller, while Wheels Out Of Gear, his study of British music and politics at the end of the 1970s, was elected one of Uncut magazine’s Top 25 rock books for 2004.
Born in Devon, England, Thompson got his start writing and publishing a fanzine during the punk explosion at the end of the 1970s. “I was fascinated by the cultural aspect of it all,” he says. “So many other writers were getting hung up on the aggression and energies of the period, or trying to loop Punk into their own favorite art form, that they completely overlooked the fact that it was happening NOW. People go on about this artist seeming ‘relevant,’ or that one being ‘political,’ but they never stopped to ask how and why those positions were arrived at. That’s what interested me… that’s what still interests me.”
This fascination characterizes almost everything Dave writes, from the shortest reviews of an obscure Glam Rock classic, to the lengthiest exposition on Cream, Jeff Beck or David Bowie (the subjects of his three most recent rock books).
A regular contributor to the weekly music paper Melody Maker throughout the 1980s, he has also written for the publications Record Collector, Rolling Stone, Mojo, Q, Spin, Alternative Press and many others. He is currently a columnist in the record collecting magazine Goldmine, and a contributor to the All Music Guide.
His first novel, To Major Tom, was published in 2001.
Although he is best known for his musical writings, Thompson is also the author of a number of well-received titles in a variety of other fields, including sport, Hollywood, and various collecting pursuits. These include the English soccer trilogy Those We Have Loved, biographies of actors John Travolta and Winona Ryder, and a groundbreaking history of the development of erotic film, Black and White and Blue (2007).