It’s a hard thing to pick a favorite Bowie album. I’ve spent so much of my life with his music, discovering, and re-discovering, hits and deeper cuts alike, album to album. I’ve listened to them on vinyl, cassette, CD, and yes, even 8-Track. Although time has changed what songs hit me, and what albums I gravitate towards, there’s one that has remained consistent, beloved, and even made it to the number 1 spot of Lyriquediscorde’s Top 30 Albums. Hunky Dory.
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Hunky Dory is David Bowie’s fourth studio album. It was released on December 17, 1971, by RCA Records. It was Bowie’s first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. (from Wikipedia)
The album was recorded at Trident Studios in July 1971, several days after his Glastonbury appearance. Hunky Dory has been said to capture Bowie’s transition from the pot-enhanced rock of The Man Who Sold the World, to the grand concept of Ziggy Stardust. (from BBC Music)
Although I was alive in 1971, I was too young to have taken in Hunky Dory at its “birth”. Bowie wasn’t played in my house, so my access to him took some time. It happened through Duran Duran talking about Bowie and his influence. It was an article with Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, where he mentioned his favorite Bowie song. It was the first Bowie I’d hear. “Starman”.
From there it was a crash-course of Bowie for me. Lucky for me MTV had videos like “China Girl”, “Modern Love”, and “Let’s Dance” on heavy rotation, as did my favorite radio station at the time (KROQ). I wanted more though. I have always been one to dig in deep with artists and bands I fall in love with. Hunky Dory was the first album I bought. On vinyl. And I devoured it.
The album opens with “Changes”. Hearing this song as a teenager was deeply impactful. I related deep beneath my skin, wrapping my insecurities, dreams, and uncertainties on it. I wanted to change just about everything in my life. I wanted to leap into the world and get far away from my world. I wanted to recreate myself and become something new.
Lyrics from “Changes” would open the movie The Breakfast Club, solidifying its teen angst understanding to me. Funny thing though, playing it at age 49 hits me just as deeply. I think we are all longing for some kind of change. Always. I think that desire for change is what living is.
Bowie would touch on so many different aspects of life on Hunky Dory. Some would take years for me to connect with. “Kooks”, which tells the story of a young, unconventional couple and their young child, did not truly resonate with me until I was myself a young and unconventional parent. “Eight Line Poem” would hit me when I was deeply immersed in literature and poetry, during my first run at college in the early ’90s.
And, “Life On Mars?” would knock me completely to the ground in the early 2000s when I’d hear it for what felt like the first time. Something about the song changed me, and it soon became one of my forever favorite Bowie tracks.
Music does that. You hear a song once, twice, a hundred times, and then one day you hear it again and it unravels you, takes you apart and puts you back together, and becomes a part of you. “Life On Mars?” did that to me.
It remains my favorite on the album. What is your favorite track?
My Top 5 Songs from David Bowie’s Hunky Dory
1. “Life On Mars?”
“It’s a God-awful small affair.
To the girl with the mousy hair.
But her mummy is yelling no.
And her daddy has told her to go.”
“Will you stay in our lovers’ story?
If you stay you won’t be sorry.
‘Cause we believe in you.
Soon you’ll grow so take a chance,
with a couple of Kooks,
hung up on romancing.”
3. “The Bewlay Brothers”
“With our backs on the arch,
and if the Devil may be here,
but he can’t sing about that.
Oh, and we were gone,
real cool traders.
We were so turned on,
you thought we were fakers.”
4. “Oh! You Pretty Things”
“Wake up you sleepy head.
Put on some clothes,
shake up your bed.
Put another log on the fire for me,
I’ve made some breakfast and coffee.
Look out my window,
and what do I see?
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me.
All the nightmares came today,
and it looks as though they’re here to stay.”
5. “Eight Line Poem”
“But the key to the city,
is in the sun that pins –
the branches to the sky.”