Hunky Dory (1971)



1. Changes: Masterpiece #4. Bowie has an uncanny knack of picking the perfect songs to kick his albums off with. Just think of it, Space Oddity, Width of a Circle, Station to Station, and on this album particularly he has announced straight away from the first song that this is what the album will be like, which is an extraordinary thing. A perfect start to this album and incredibly only recorded a mere 6 months after The Man Who Sold the Word wrapped up. It certainly wouldn’t have belonged on that. Nothing here would. A perfect pop tune and with a timeless quality and underlying humour (and some great sax). 10.0

2. Oh, You Pretty Things!: Masterpiece #5. Sounds like a glorified demo, but it doesn’t need to be anything more than that to convince me of its greatness. Might I also mention that this song’s got the cleanest singing of Bowie’s career? It’s effortless, pure genius. 10.0 

3. Eight Line Poem: A lovely little country-tinged melody between two timeless classics. Always loved Mick’s lead work, and that’s Bowie on piano. Beautiful live version appears on one of his Live at the Beeb bootleg. 7.0

4. Life on Mars: Masterpiece #6. They’re coming thick and fast now. This song is just about the most beautiful thing he’s ever written. There’s a live version online you can watch from 1980 on the Johnny Carson show that is one of the best performances of any song by any artist. This easily sits among his finest work. 10.0

5. Kooks: Fun tune for ‘little z’. Good little song. Fits nicely on this album. 7.0

6. Quicksand:  “I’m closer to the golden dawn, immersed in Crowley’s uniform of imagery”. What an introduction. There’s so many things to get worked up about in this song. You can focus on the mostly-Rick Wakeman piano (an instrument that dominates this album), Bowie’s 12-string guitar, or the amazing lyrics. You can even focus on the delivery – which is among Bowie’s finest. I like to think of it on a whole, as one of the greatest triumphs in rock and roll. And if that seems like I’m overreacting then you really need to listen to this song again. 9.0

7. Fill Your Heart: A Biff Rose cover and a guilty pleasure. Guilty? Not sure why. Pleasure? Absolutely. Those rolling piano moves from Wakeman keep me coming back, as does Bowie’s wry delivery. Not the best song on the album by a long shot, but a lot of fun and a great way to kick off side two. 6.5

8. Andy Warhol: Great strum-athon from Bowie and Mick. And was Andy pissed! A song about Andy Warhol when most of Britain had never heard of him. Played it for Andy, he wasn’t impressed. 7.5

9. Song for Bob Dylan: I love the sentiment and the Zimmerman voice but this track kinda falls apart around the chorus ‘Here she comes, here she comes, here she comes again’. That’s not to say I still think it’s great. 7.0 

10. Queenbitch: Unrepresentative of the album, but points the way ahead. And how about those guitars! Buzzing like chainsaws throughout the song, perhaps taking your mind off the nonsensically brilliant (more) Dylan-esque lyrics. Bring on the Spiders! 9.0

11. Bewley Brothers: Masterpiece #7.  Revisiting themes raised on ‘All the Madmen’ from his previous album, hard to make sense of some of the spikey imagery he’s throwing around but there is a method to the madness, quite literally. 10.0


VERDICT: Recorded and released quickly, Hunky Dory captures Bowie in transition from the proto metal of The Man Who Sold The World to the grand concept of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Simply a perfect album full of beautifully performed songs at a time when singer-songwriter’s were all the rage. It’s Bowie’s acoustic album, displaying his enormous potential, made up of songs about and for old friends, love, and a love of mysticism and rock ‘n roll.

NEXT: Rock n Roll Star!

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One Response to Hunky Dory (1971)

  1. Lucy says:

    Love so much about this album 🙂 Great write up and spot on comments. Watched the Johnny Carson Life on Mars performance – superb

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