The original UK 'Hunky Dory' sleeve from 1971.Click
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There's a man, back-a-ways...
December 17th, 1971, saw the release of one of the most important albums in the history of rock. With 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' almost in the can, and the unveiling of the new look that would accompany the most famous Bowie alter ego just weeks away, the release of 'Hunky Dory' was almost overlooked in the UK. Not least of all, it would seem, by David himself who was excited by the next phase of his career and the prospect of the success that surely would come with 'Ziggy Stardust'.
Despite this general indifference towards 'Hunky Dory' by the record-buying public, the critics were unanimous in their declaration of Bowie's genius:
"David Bowie is the most singularly gifted artist creating music today. He has the genius to be to the '70s what Lennon, McCartney, Jagger and Dylan were to the '60s." - Rock Magazine
"The most intellectually brilliant man yet to choose the long-playing album as his medium of expression." - The New York Times
"...Bowie's most engaging album...David Bowie, the swinging mod Garbo, male femme fatale, confidante to and darling of the avant-garde on both sides of the Atlantic, and shameless outrage, is back, and with a bang." - Rolling Stone
"Anyone who believes in pop music enough to wish to save it from swallowing its own excretion should buy this album. 'Hunky Dory' is a masterpiece from a mastermind." - New Musical Express
"One of the strongest and strangest unrecognised talents around." - Milwaukee Journal
"A peculiarly sensitive, hard-edged, precise, and truly shimmering perception." - Changes Magazine
"A singer-composer with brains, imagination and a good idea of how to use a recording console comes up with a quick-change tour de force that is both catchy and deeply felt." - Village Voice
"'Hunky Dory' beats a week at the shrink." - Rock Magazine
The recording of the album saw the beginning of a four album association with Ken Scott sharing the producer's chair with David. 'Hunky Dory' was also the first of a classic string of Bowie albums for RCA that ended less than ten years later with 'Scary Monsters'.
The iconic sleeve featured a beautiful hand-tinted Brian Ward photograph, a photographer who witnessed the birth pangs of 'Ziggy' via the 'Egyptian' shots, the 'Hunky Dory' sleeve, the 'Ziggy Stardust' sleeve itself, and the session that was used on the re-issue of 'The Man Who Sold The World'. 'Hunky Dory' was also the second of three sleeves for which David would enlist the help of his long-term friend, George Underwood. The other two being the original Philips 'David Bowie' album, and 'Ziggy Stardust'.
'Hunky Dory' has truly stood the test of time, and it sounds as fresh to a generation of new ears as it did to those of us lucky enough to have lived with it for the past thirty years. But possibly the best way to celebrate the 30th birthday of this incredible recording is to go listen to it again right now. I'll leave you with David's own thoughts on 'Hunky Dory' that he wrote all those years ago...
Excerpt from David's original notes used in press adverts at the time of the release of 'Hunky Dory'. Click for full version.
Changes - This album is full of my changes and those of some of my friends.
Pretty - The reaction of me to my wife being pregnant was archetypal daddy - Oh he's gonna be another Elvis. This song is all that plus a dash of sci-fi.
Eight - The city is a kind of high-life wart on the backside of the prairie.
Life On Mars - This is a sensitive young girls reaction to the media.
Kooks - The baby was born and it looked like me and it looked like Angie and the song came out like - if you're gonna stay with us you're gonna grow up Bananas.
Quicksand - The chain reaction of moving around through out the bliss and then the calamity of America produced this epic of confusion - Anyway, with my esoteric problems I could have written it in Plainview - or Dulwich.
There is a time and space level just before you go to sleep when all about you are losing theirs and whoosh void gets you with its cacophony of thought - that's when I like to write my songs.
Fill - Biff Rose song.
Andy - A man of media and anti-message, with a kind of cute style.
Bob - This is how some see B.D.
Queen - A song on a Velvet Underground-Lou Reed framework s'about London sometimes.
Bewlay - Another in the series of David Bowie confessions - Star Trek in a leather jacket.