Hunky Dory

David Bowie

RCA, 1971

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


After the harder-edged The Man Who Sold The World, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory is downright close to easy listening territory. It also can be heard as David Bowie’s valentine to the counterculture rock of the late ‘60s. And with bassist Trevor Bolder replacing Tony Visconti, Hunky Dory would serve as the launching pad to Ziggy Stardust.

Stylistically, Hunky Dory is a gorgeous foray into orchestral pop, highlighted by the seemingly silly-titled “Life On Mars.” Much of Hunky Dory sounds like Bowie’s homage to his peers. “Oh! You Pretty Things” borrows heavily from the melody of the Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” “Queen Bitch” is heavily seeped in the Velvet Underground’s menace and “Song For Bob Dylan” speaks for itself. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Like all great artists, Bowie’s nod to his peers doesn’t sound at all like an artist mercilessly ripping off the sound of other artists. Instead, Hunky Dory is the sound of an artist who has just begun to make a major name for himself as a shape shifter. “Changes,” the most popular song from Hunky Dory, is a cheeky, catchy number that highlights Bowie’s growing power as a songwriter. “Kooks” is Bowie doing vaudeville and “Fill Your Heart” makes use of a shuffling playoff between piano and percussion.

Bowie’s two major obsessions in the ‘70s, space and androgyny are at the center of Hunky Dory. The spacy arrangements open “Andy Warhol,” which give a decent taste of what was going to come with Ziggy Stardust. As for the androgyny element, in addition to “Changes,” Bowie proudly states “You gotta make way for the Homo Superior” in “Oh! You Pretty Things.”

While much of Hunky Dory sounds like easy listening material,  Bowie’s sophisticated songwriting and musicianship reveal a much more complex work. “Queen Bitch” is one of the earliest attempts at glam rock and it effortlessly fits in with folksy pieces like “Kooks” and “Song For Bob Dylan.” But the crown jewel of Hunky Dory would have to be “Life On Mars.” The song is a beautiful, cynical, swaggering accomplishment of songwriting and musicianship.

Bowie’s next few albums would define space rock. Hunky Dory served as an ending of Bowie’s early career and ushered him into the world of pop superstardom. For fans and non-fans alike, Hunky Dory is an essential purchase.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


I've only recently bought this album. Fuck me, it's as good as Ziggy. Everything of it is brilliant. The Belway Brothers is my new favourite song. The emotion in his voice really develops during this album. Quicksand is magic and the big hits really speak for themselves, Changes, Oh you pretty things, Life on Mars. Do yourself a favour and get this one.

© 2008 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.