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Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, recorded in the summer of 1971 and released by RCA Records that December.[6]It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewineas having "a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie's sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class."[1]

The album has received critical acclaim since its release, regarded as one of the artist's best works. For example, Time chose it as part of their '100 best albums of all time' list in January 2010, with journalist Josh Tyrangiel praising Bowie's "earthbound ambition to be a boho poet with prodigal style".[7] The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie took with him to the photo shoot.[8][9]

ContentsEdit

 [hide*1 Production

Production[edit]Edit

With new bass player Trevor Bolder replacing Tony ViscontiHunky Dory was the first production featuring all the members of the band that would become known the following year as Ziggy Stardust's Spiders From Mars. Also debuting with Bowie, in Visconti's place as producer, was another key member of the Ziggy phase, Ken Scott. The album's sleeve would bear the credit "Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)". The "actor" was Bowie himself, whose "pet conceit", in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was "to think of himself as an actor".[10]

Style and themes[edit]Edit

Musical biographer David Buckley said of Hunky Dory, "Its almost easy-listening status and conventional musical sensibility has detracted from the fact that, lyrically, this record lays down the blueprint for Bowie's future career."[11] The opening track, "Changes", focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention ("Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I'm going through") and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream ("Look out, you rock 'n' rollers"). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks "Song for Bob Dylan", "Andy Warhol" and the Velvet Underground inspired "Queen Bitch".

Following the hard rock of Bowie's previous album The Man Who Sold the WorldHunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as "Kooks" (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover "Fill Your Heart" sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged "Quicksand" and the semi-autobiographical "The Bewlay Brothers". Between the two extremes was "Oh! You Pretty Things", whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by "theHomo Superior", and which has been cited as a direct precursor to "Starman" from Bowie's next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.[12]

Release and aftermath[edit]Edit

Bowie had been without a recording contract when he started work on the album at Trident Studios on 8 June 1971.[13] RCA Records in New York heard the tapes and signed him to a three-album deal on 9 September 1971, releasing Hunky Dory on 17 December.[11][14] Supported by the single "Changes", the album scored generally favourable reviews and sold reasonably well on its initial release, without being a major success.[10] Melody Maker called it "the most inventive piece of song-writing to have appeared on record in a considerable time", while NME described it as Bowie "at his brilliant best".[15]Stateside, Rolling Stone opined "Hunky Dory not only represents Bowie's most engaging album musically, but also finds him once more writing literally enough to let the listener examine his ideas comfortably, without having to withstand a barrage of seemingly impregnable verbiage before getting at an idea".[16] However, it was only after the commercial breakthrough of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1972 thatHunky Dory became a hit, climbing to #3 in the UK charts.[17] In 1973, RCA released "Life on Mars?" as a single, which also made #3 in the UK.[18]

In 1998, Q magazine readers voted Hunky Dory the 43rd greatest album of all time, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at #16 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked #107 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year, VH1 placed it at #47 and the Virgin All Time Top 1000 Albums chart placed it at #16. In 2004, it was ranked #80 on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. In 2006, TIME magazine chose it as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[7]

Bowie himself considers the album to be one of the most important in his career. Speaking in 1999, he said: "Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, 'Good album, good songs.' That hadn't happened to me before. It was like, 'Ah, I'm getting it, I'm finding my feet. I'm starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?' There was always a double whammy there."[19]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.[20]

Side one
  1. "Changes" – 3:37
  2. "Oh! You Pretty Things" – 3:12
  3. "Eight Line Poem" – 2:55
  4. "Life on Mars?" – 3:53
  5. "Kooks" – 2:53
  6. "Quicksand" – 5:08
Side two
  1. "Fill Your Heart" (Biff RosePaul Williams) – 3:07
  2. "Andy Warhol" – 3:56
  3. "Song for Bob Dylan" – 4:12
  4. "Queen Bitch" – 3:18
  5. "The Bewlay Brothers" – 5:22

Bonus tracks (1990 Rykodisc)[edit]Edit

  1. "Bombers" (Previously unreleased track, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990)[21] – 2:38 (see note below)
  2. "The Supermen" (Alternate version recorded on 12 November 1971 during sessions for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, originally released on Revelations - A Musical Anthology for Glastonbury Fayre in July 1972, compiled by the organisers of Glastonbury Festival at which Bowie had played in 1971.)[21][22] – 2:41
  3. "Quicksand" (Demo version, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990)[21] – 4:43
  4. "The Bewlay Brothers" (Alternate mix)[21] – 5:19

(Note) There is a very rare LP sampler issued by RCA prior to the release of the album with the GEM logo on the cover and "Bombers" appears followed by the linking cross talk that leads into "Andy Warhol", clearly indicating that Bowie had originally intended it to be the opening track on the second side (instead of "Fill Your Heart").

Personnel[edit]Edit

Technical personnel[edit]Edit

Charts[edit]Edit

Album

Year Chart Peak

Position

1972 UK Albums Chart [23]
1975 Billboard 200 93 [24]
1972 Norwegian Album Chart 33
1972 Australian Album Chart 39

Single

Year Single Chart Peak

Position

1972 "Changes" Billboard Hot 100 66 [25]
1973 "Life on Mars?" UK Singles Chart [23]
1975 "Changes" Billboard Pop Singles 41 [25]

Certifications[edit]Edit

Organization Level Date
BPI – UK Gold 25 January 1982 [26]
BPI – UK Platinum 25 January 1982 [26]
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