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Baker's Dozen

Peculiar Relationships: Neil Gaiman’s Favourite Albums
Emily Mackay , November 21st, 2013 08:30

Following this week's release of his live collaborative album with Amanda Palmer, the fantasy and science fiction author picks out the records that have most inspired and informed his writing


David Bowie - Diamond Dogs
[groans] It is really hard picking a Bowie album. I picked Diamond Dogs because it was kind of mine. It was science fiction, it came out when I was 13-and-a-half, and it was a weird mash-up of this strange, dystopian, mutanty 1984. It filled my head. I loved the imagery. I loved trying to work out what it was about. And loved the songs, obviously. But the entire thing is tiny quotes in my head. “And in the death, as the last few corpses lay rotting on the slimy thoroughfare/ The shutters lifted in inches/ In Temperance Building high on Poacher's Hill/ And red mutant eyes gazed down on Hunger City”. This stuff is fucking awesome! And it's overwritten, and it's stupid, but it's magic. “Fleas the size of rats preyed on rats the size of cats”. I was wondering, “Who is this man? Why do they call them the Diamond Dogs?” And then 'Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me', the lizards. Why do they lay crying in the heat? I remember the weird disillusion and awkwardness that set in watching the BBC Cracked Actor documentary and discovering that the lyrics were just cut-ups, and they didn't really mean anything. But in my head, they meant this huge thing. And being a story creator, I would just build a giant story in my head about what was going on. I even read 1984, which I didn't have to read yet for school, but I got it out of the school library to see if it would cast more light on what was going on. Something I actually love doing with my stories is throwing in references to things that I go, “Maybe 999 out of a thousand people are going to ignore this. But one person might go off and look up that reference, may hunt down that author, may listen to that music.”

I'm trying to think if I actually drew a Diamond Dogs comic, when I was 14, in class. I don't think I did. I drew 'Five Years' as a comic, and I'd forgotten that I'd done that until my friend who'd lettered it showed me a copy of it which he'd kept all those years. I definitely used to sit there doing comics of Bowie songs in geography and history classes at the back. Talking to Alan Moore, who's a little bit older than I am, we both fed on Bowie imagery and absorbed it, and it went into that early melting pot where you believe it, you take it in and you let it grow. I don't know that I'd be the writer I am if I hadn't encountered Bowie when I was 11.