Hunky Dory

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Hunky Dory
David Bowie - Hunky Dory.jpg
CD and UK album cover
(The original US album cover bears no title)
Studio album by
Released17 December 1971
RecordedJune–August 1971
StudioTrident, London
Parlophone (2015 reissue)
David Bowie chronology
The Man Who Sold the World
Hunky Dory
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Singles from Hunky Dory
  1. "Changes" / "Andy Warhol"
    Released: 7 January 1972
  2. "Life on Mars?"
    Released: 22 June 1973

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.[1]

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".[2] 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".[3] Keyboardist Rick Wakeman, then of the Strawbs and a noted session musician, plays the piano on the album.

Style and themes[edit]

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."[4] 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."[5] 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.[6]

Release and aftermath[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[7]
Blender5/5 stars[8]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone5/5 stars[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[13]
Spin5/5 stars[14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[15]
The Village VoiceA−[16]

Bowie had been without a recording contract when he started work on the album at Trident Studios on 8 June 1971.[17] 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.[18][5][19] Supported by the single "Changes", the album scored generally favourable reviews and sold reasonably well on its initial release, without being a major success.[3] 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".[20] 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".[21] 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[22] and remaining on the chart for 69 weeks.[23] In 1973, RCA released "Life on Mars?" as a single, which also made number 3 in the UK.[24] A reissue returned the album, in January 1981, to the British chart, where it remained for 51 weeks.[23]

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.[25] 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.[2] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 70th most celebrated album in popular music history.[26]

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."[27]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Bowie, except where noted.[28]

Side one
2."Oh! You Pretty Things"3:12
3."Eight Line Poem"2:55
4."Life on Mars?"3:43
Side two
1."Fill Your Heart" (Biff Rose, Paul 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
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–11 on CD reissues.

Bonus tracks (1990 Rykodisc)[edit]

12."Bombers" (Previously unreleased track, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990;[29] 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[29][30])2:41
14."Quicksand" (Demo version, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990[29])4:43
15."The Bewlay Brothers" (Alternate mix[29])5:19

CD releases[edit]

1980s and 1990s[edit]

Following its initial release on compact disc in the mid-1980s, Hunky Dory was rereleased in CD format in 1990, by Rykodisc/EMI, with the bonus tracks listed above.

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.

2015 remaster[edit]

In 2015, the album was remastered for the Five Years (1969–1973) box set.[31] It was released in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, both as part of this compilation and separately.[32]


Album credits per Nicholas Pegg.[33]




Year Chart Peak
1972 UK Albums Chart[36] 3
1972 Norwegian Albums Chart 33
1972 Australian Albums Chart 39
2016 New Zealand Albums Chart[37] 30
2016 US Billboard 200[38] 57
2016 US Top Catalog Albums (Billboard)[39] 4


Year Single Chart Peak
1972 "Changes" Billboard Hot 100 66[40]
1973 "Life on Mars?" UK Singles Chart 3[36]
1975 "Changes" Billboard Pop Singles 41[40]


Organization Level Date
BPI – UK Gold 25 January 1982 (1982-01-25)[41]
BPI – UK Platinum 25 January 1982 (1982-01-25)[41]


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  2. ^ a b Josh Tyrangiel; Alan Light (26 January 2010). "The All-TIME 100 Albums". TIME. Archived from the original on 9 November 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b Carr & Murray 1981, pp. 7–11.
  4. ^ Doggett 2012, p. 11.
  5. ^ a b Buckley, David (2000) [1999]. Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books. p. 112. ISBN 0-7535-0457-X.
  6. ^ Carr & Murray 1981, p. 44.
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Hunky Dory – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2004.
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  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "David Bowie". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
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  12. ^ Sheffield, Rob (18 March 1999). "David Bowie: Hunky Dory (reissue)". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 3 October 2003. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  13. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "David Bowie". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ Dolan, Jon (July 2006). "How to Buy: David Bowie". Spin. 22 (7): 84. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  15. ^ Weisbard & Marks 1995, p. 55.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (30 December 1971). "Consumer Guide (22)". The Village Voice. New York. Archived from the original on 15 August 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  17. ^ Cann 2010, p. 219.
  18. ^ Cann 2010, pp. 219–225, 231.
  19. ^ Carr & Murray 1981, p. 40.
  20. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2004) [2000]. The Complete David Bowie. London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 265–72. ISBN 1-903111-73-0.
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  22. ^ Sheppard, David (February 2007). "60 Years of Bowie". MOJO Classic: 24.
  23. ^ a b *Roberts, David (editor). The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums, p71. Guinness Publishing Ltd. 7th edition (1996). ISBN 0-85112-619-7
  24. ^ Buckley, David (2000) [1999]. Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books. p. 624. ISBN 0-7535-0457-X.
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  26. ^ "Hunky Dory ranked 70th most celebrated album". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on 11 August 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  27. ^ Chris Roberts interview with David Bowie in Uncut, October 1999, Issue 29.
  28. ^ David Bowie. Hunky Dory (RCA Records, 1971).
  29. ^ a b c d David Bowie. Hunky Dory (Rykodisc, 1990).
  30. ^ "EMI 30th Anniversary 2CD Limited Edition (2002)". The Ziggy Stardust Companion. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  31. ^ FIVE YEARS 1969 – 1973 box set due September Archived 18 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine at
  32. ^ David Bowie / 'Five Years' vinyl available separately next month Archived 16 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine at
  33. ^ Pegg 2011, p. 1,066.
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  37. ^ "The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Archived from the original on 22 January 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
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  39. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Top Catalog Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
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  41. ^ a b "BPI Certified Awards". Archived from the original on 18 March 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2008.