Definitions

hunky-dory

Hunky Dory

[huhng-kee-dawr-ee, -dohr-ee]

| Last album = The Man Who Sold the World
(1970) | This album = Hunky Dory
(1971) | Next album = The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
(1972) | Misc = }}

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971 (see 1971 in music). It was Bowie's first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine as 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".

Production

With the departure from Bowie's camp of Tony Visconti and his replacement on bass by Trevor Bolder, 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'. 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".

Style and themes

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." 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 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 "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

Bowie had been without a recording contract when he started work on the album at Trident Studios in April 1971. RCA Records in New York heard the tapes and signed him to a three-album deal on , releasing Hunky Dory two months later. 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". 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". However, it was only after the commercial breakthrough of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1972 that Hunky Dory became a hit, climbing to #3 in the UK charts. In 1973, RCA released "Life on Mars?" as a single, which also made #3 in the UK.

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. In the same year, the TV network VH1 placed it at number 47 and the Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums chart placed it at position 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.

Track listing

All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.

  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
  7. "Fill Your Heart" (Biff Rose, Paul Williams) – 3:07
  8. "Andy Warhol" – 3:56
  9. "Song for Bob Dylan" – 4:12
  10. "Queen Bitch" – 3:18
  11. "The Bewlay Brothers" – 5:22

Track listing note: On the original LP album release, side one was comprised of tracks 1-6; side two of tracks 7-11.

Bonus tracks (1990 Rykodisc)

  1. "Bombers" (previously unreleased track, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990) – 2:38
  2. "The Supermen" (alternate version recorded for the Glastonbury Fayre in 1971, originally released on Glastonbury Fayre Revelations - A Musical Anthology, 1972) – 2:41
  3. "Quicksand" (demo version, recorded in 1971, mixed 1990) – 4:43
  4. "The Bewlay Brothers" (alternate mix) – 5:19

Personnel

Technical personnel

  • Ken Scottproducer, 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)

Release history (selected)

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom (UK) RCA LP SF 8244
United States (U.S.) / Canada RCA LP LSP 13844
Worldwide 1985 RCA CD PD-84623 /PCD1-4623
U.S. Rykodisc CD RCD 10133
Worldwide (except U.S.) EMI CD EMC 3572/CDP 79 1843 2
U.S. Rykodisc Gold CD (Rykodisc Au20 series) RCD 80133
Worldwide EMI/Virgin CD 7243 521899 0 8

Charts

Album

Year Chart Peak
Position
1972 UK Albums Chart 3
1975 Billboard Pop Albums 93

Single

Year Single Chart Peak
Position
1972 "Changes" Billboard Pop Singles 66
1973 "Life on Mars?" UK Singles Chart 3
1975 "Changes" Billboard Pop Singles 41

Certifications

Organization Level Date
BPIUK Gold
BPI – UK Platinum

Notes

References

  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books.

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