Absolute Beginner
Kevin Armstrong

Published October 17 2023
ISBN 9781911036173
264pp with 8pp photo insert
6 x 8.5 in (150 x 215mm)
£16.95 UK / $24.95 US / $32.95 CAN

‘Kevin does what I pretend to do. Kevin’s a proper musician.’ – DAVID BOWIE

‘Kevin Armstrong has been around, and around.’ – IGGY POP

‘Kevin Armstrong has written a beautifully gentle tale of a life spent playing guitar with some of the hardest rockers around—a must for anyone who loves music, or even just . . . loves.’ – WILL SELF

‘This is a frank, revealing, and often very funny memoir of a life playing with other people and at the same time being yourself.’ – DAVID QUANTICK

‘An absolute whirlwind, a wonderfully funny, cleverly observed account of real life spent touring or recording with musicians on every level—from Bowie, McCartney, and Iggy Pop to Spizz and Alien Sex Fiend—and the skills and diplomacy you need to navigate it. it’s all here— hirings, firings, tour-bus etiquette, chat-show house bands, old-world after-show revelry—and in endlessly fascinating detail.’ – MARK ELLEN


Growing up in a world of punk squats and the London pub rock scene, suburban rookie guitarist Kevin Armstrong found himself signed to EMI as a solo artist in the early 80s, but fate had other plans for him, his life and career changing in an instant when he was called for a studio date with an unnamed star at Abbey Road.

That unnamed star was soon revealed to be David Bowie, and that afternoon’s recording catapulted this unlikely lad onto the world’s grandest stages alongside some of the biggest names in the business. Kevin has gone on to carve out a singular career as a producer, songwriter, and guitarist, performing live and recording with everyone from Grace Jones to Paul McCartney, Iggy Pop to Thomas Dolby, Sandie Shaw to Alien Sex Fiend.

Absolute Beginner is the story of what it takes to survive as a self-taught musician. It provides an honest and funny glimpse into the backstage world of the artists Kevin has worked with, and is packed with acerbic, laugh-out-loud observations on popular music and musicians from someone who has had a prime seat at the high table of rock’n’roll for more than forty years.

Kevin Armstrong began his musical life on Charlie Gillett’s Oval Records in 1981 with his own band, Local Heroes SW9. After two albums, he began to thrive as a writer, producer, bandleader, and, above all, bulletproof guitarist. Most notably, Kevin met David Bowie in late 1984 and worked with him on various projects, from Live Aid to his acclaimed 1. Outside album. Bowie also introduced Kevin to Iggy Pop during sessions for his 1986 album Blah Blah Blah, and Kevin promptly became Iggy’s bandleader. He also led Iggy’s touring band from 2014 to 2019. In between times, he has worked with Paul McCartney, Morrissey, Grace Jones, Sinéad O’Connor, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Transvision Vamp, Brian Eno, Sandie Shaw, Gil Evans, Alien Sex Fiend, Keziah Jones, and many, many more. This is his first book. For more information about Kevin and his music, visit https://www.kevin-armstrong.com