David Bowie's Hunky Dory is Indeed Superior
I have gotten into the habit of watching YouTube videos, and there you find numerous people who give record reviews. The reviewers I watch are average people who appear to tell about their favorite artists. The one artist that seemed to be appearing on all their lists is David Bowie.
I had seen David Bowie through the years first on the Christmas Special with Bing Crosby and then in his Ziggy Stardust period, and his model looking years in the 1980s. I liked his songs, but the only album of his I had purchased was the one entitled Let’s Dance released in 1983. It was a great album, but then the reviewers mentioned to check out his earlier album entitled Hunky Dory.
Looking up the phrase Hunky Dory it means fine, going well, and superior. This is the perfect way to define this album. The songs all blend to create a masterful album.
Let us look at this album.
Hunky Dory was released December 17, 1971. It was recorded in Trident Studios, in London England. It was David Bowie’s 4th album. It was critically well received, and Time magazine chose the album on its article “100 best albums of all time.”
The first song on the album is the song “Changes”. It was released as a single, and although it never made it to the Billboard Top 40, it is one of Bowie’s most well-known songs. David plays the saxophone on this song. He stated the song started out as parody of a night club song. I love the way the horns and piano start out the song. It is so smooth. David sings with such power. It is said he imitated the Who song “The Kids are Alright” (released in 1966), with his stuttering, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Bowie makes it work in this song. The song seems to state that everyone has their time in the sun, and soon something new will overtake what you claimed as new. It is a poetic and catchy song.
“Oh! You Pretty Things"
"Oh! You Pretty Things" is a song like the song written by Paul McCartney called “Martha My Dear”. It has that old English Music Hall sound that makes you want to tap your feet. It was first released as a single by Peter Noone. He didn’t quite give the song the same interpretation as David, but David knew how he wanted the song to be done and he delivers. The lyrics of the song appear to be that aliens are coming to earth and will overtake the young. It is a dark theme, but the melody is light and happy.
Eight Line Poem”
The song begins with a mellow sounding electric guitar with piano blending in. It is a song that seems to have been written in a room where the day is breaking, cacti is by the window and a cat is waking up with the rest of the world with the sun starting it all. The song is mellow and with a few listens this song will grow on you.
“Life on Mars”
A strange title and the lyrics make for a song that is a bit strange to. The song has a great melody with classical sounding piano, strings, and electric guitar. It was a song that made it to number 3 on the UK charts and stayed there for 13 weeks. People have wondered what the song is all about. Bowie said the song was about a young girl’s reaction to the media. He says she is disappointed with reality.
According to Melody Maker Magazine, In 1990 Bowie introduced the song by saying, “You fall in love, you write a love song. This is a love song.”
David wrote this song for the birth of his son Duncan. It is said that is it was influenced by Neil Young because at that time Bowie was listening to a lot of early Neil Young records. It has the sound of Harry Nielsen with the piano, horns, and personal lyrics. It is hard to say who influenced who in this case.
The song has an English hall sound to it and moves swiftly along. It is a catchy little tune. It is neat to see the song in the perspective of a parent asking a child will you stay with us? If you do you will be a kook too.
This song has great piano, and arrangements, but the lyrics are beyond my realm of what it is supposed to mean. According to Wikipedia the song was influenced by Buddhism, occultism, and Fredrich Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman. It has a beautiful melody and at the end when it turns instrumental that it becomes my favorite part of the song.
“Fill Your Heart”
Surprisingly this song was written by Paul Williams and Biff Rose. It starts off sounding like a Broadway show tune. David sings it with an almost strained sound but does a great job on this song. It has a great lyric to love saying, “Gentleness can clear the head, love can clean the mind and make it free.”
Strange futuristic sounds begin the song and it starts out sounding like an episode of The Twilight Zone.
David says Andy Warhol over and over. Then the song starts to jam with an acoustic guitar. It has strange lyrics, and although David admired him, Andy thought he was making fun of him. He hated the song. Later on, they bonded over a pair of shoes David wore. David said that Andy was a strange guy. There is no denying that.
“Song for Bob Dylan”
Bowie seemed to be on some roll writing songs about famous people. He continues with this song. David starts out the song sounding a lot like Bob Dylan. He has a great adjective about Dylan’s voice saying, …” he had a voice like sand and glue.” That was a great way to describe the sound of Bob’s voice. It was said that this song was written as a plea for Bob Dylan to return to the music industry. He had been in a motorcycle accident and took time away from music. Weaved through the song are the words “…here she comes again” which most likely means the muse for Bob’s songs. It is a nice song with David singing the praises of someone he admired.
This song is the liveliest on the cd starting with acoustic guitar and then moving to the electric guitar. Once again Bowie decided to write a song for someone he admired. This time it was a song for the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. It is a fast-moving song and danceable. The guitar riff according to Songfacts.com comes from Eddie Cochran and his song “Three Steps to Heaven.”
“The Bewlay Brothers”’
This is the final track of the album. It is a quiet song, with plenty of lyrics. Bowie didn’t think the lyrics really meant anything, but later he suggested it might have been about his half-brother Terry who was schizophrenic. It is a melancholy way to end the cd, but it makes you want to listen again to try and figure out all that is going on in the song.
David Bowie had been without a record deal when he made this album. When RCA heard it they signed him to three more records, and that got David Bowie’s record career going.
David considered this the most important record in his career. The listener gets to hear David’s thoughts and musical creativity in songs that range from English Music Hall, to almost an Unplugged side to it. It is Bowie at his most mellow, but it became as musical biographer David Buckley said a blue print for his career. This album gave David Bowie a chance to figure out which direction he wanted his music to go, and the fact that it was well received told him he was going in the right direction.