CD and UK album cover
(The original US album cover bears no title)
|Studio album by|
|Released||17 December 1971|
Parlophone (2015 reissue)
|David Bowie chronology|
|Singles from Hunky Dory|
Hunky Dory is the fourth studio album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on 17 December 1971 by RCA Records. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Following the hard rock sound of The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory marked a move towards art rock and art pop styles. Co-produced by Ken Scott and Bowie himself, it was recorded in mid-1971 at Trident Studios in London and featured Rick Wakeman on piano and the musicians who would later be known as the Spiders from Mars – comprising Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. The album cover, photographed by Brian Ward and airbrushed by Terry Pastor, was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie took with him to the photoshoot.
The album was initially released to favourable critical and commercial reception but wasn't a major success until the commercial breakthrough of his following album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). It was supported by the singles "Changes" in 1972 and "Life on Mars?" in 1973. Retrospectively, Hunky Dory has received critical acclaim and is regarded as one of Bowie's best works. 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". The album has been reissued multiple times and remastered in 2015 as part of the Five Years (1969–1973) box set.
With new bass player Trevor Bolder replacing Tony Visconti, Hunky 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 – comprising Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. Also debuting with Bowie, in Visconti's place as producer, was another key contributor to 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". Keyboardist Rick Wakeman, then of the Strawbs and a noted session musician, plays the piano on the album.
Style and themes
Author Peter Doggett describes Hunky Dory as "a collective of attractively accessible pop songs, through which Bowie tested out his feelings about the nature of stardom and power." Musical biographer David Buckley said of the album: "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." 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 World, Hunky 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 at the time 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" (whose lyric mentions the Golden Dawn (i.e. the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) and Aleister Crowley) 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 "the Homo 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.
Release and aftermath
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||9/10|
|The Village Voice||A−|
Bowie had been without a recording contract when he started work on the album at Trident Studios on 8 June 1971. 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. Supported by the single "Changes", the album scored generally favourable reviews and sold reasonably well on its initial release, without being a major success. 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". In the United States, Rolling Stone opined that "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". However, it was only after the commercial breakthrough of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1972 that Hunky Dory became a hit, climbing to number 3 in the UK and remaining on the chart for 69 weeks. In 1973, RCA released "Life on Mars?" as a single, which also made number 3 in the UK. A reissue returned the album, in January 1981, to the British chart, where it remained for 51 weeks.
In 1998, Q magazine readers voted Hunky Dory the 43rd greatest album of all time, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 16 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. It was also voted number 23 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000). In 2003, the album was ranked 107th on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and 108 in a 2012 revised list. In the same year, VH1 placed it 47th and the Virgin All Time Top 1000 Albums chart placed it at number 16. In 2004, it was ranked 80th on Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. In 2006, TIME magazine chose it as one of the 100 best albums of all time. According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 70th most celebrated album in popular music history.
Bowie himself considered 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."
|2.||"Oh! You Pretty Things"||3:12|
|3.||"Eight Line Poem"||2:55|
|4.||"Life on Mars?"||3:43|
|1.||"Fill Your Heart" (Biff Rose, Paul Williams)||3:07|
|3.||"Song for Bob Dylan"||4:12|
|5.||"The Bewlay Brothers"||5:22|
- Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–11 on CD reissues.
Bonus tracks (1990 Rykodisc)
|12.||"Bombers" (Previously unreleased track, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990; 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"])||2:38|
|13.||"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 the Glastonbury Festival at which Bowie had played in 1971)||2:41|
|14.||"Quicksand" (Demo version, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990)||4:43|
|15.||"The Bewlay Brothers" (Alternate mix)||5:19|
1980s and 1990s
In 1999, the album was reissued by Virgin/EMI (7243 521899 0 8), without bonus tracks, but with 24-bit digitally remastered sound. This edition was re-pressed in 2014 by Parlophone/Warner Music Group, having acquired the Virgin-owned Bowie catalogue.
- David Bowie – vocals, guitar, alto and tenor saxophone, piano (in "Oh! You Pretty Things" (together with Rick Wakeman), "Eight Line Poem" and "The Bewlay Brothers")
- Mick Ronson – guitar, vocals, Mellotron, arrangements
- Trevor Bolder – bass guitar, trumpet
- Mick Woodmansey – drums
- Rick Wakeman – piano
- Ken Scott – producer, recording engineer, mixing engineer
- David Bowie – producer
- Dr. Toby Mountain – remastering engineer (for Rykodisc release)
- Jonathan Wyner – assistant remastering engineer (for Rykodisc release)
- Peter Mew – remastering engineer (for EMI release)
- Nigel Reeve – assistant remastering engineer (for EMI release)
- George Underwood – cover art
|1972||UK Albums Chart||3|
|1972||Norwegian Albums Chart||33|
|1972||Australian Albums Chart||39|
|2016||New Zealand Albums Chart||30|
|2016||US Billboard 200||57|
|2016||US Top Catalog Albums (Billboard)||4|
|1972||"Changes"||Billboard Hot 100||66|
|1973||"Life on Mars?"||UK Singles Chart||3|
|1975||"Changes"||Billboard Pop Singles||41|
|BPI – UK||Gold||25 January 1982|
|BPI – UK||Platinum||25 January 1982|
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