26 September 2006

David Bowie: Hunky Dory

I’ve wanted to feature a 1970s-era Bowie album for weeks, but it was hard picking one. How do you single out a Bowie album from that decade? It’s his best period; nearly every album is brilliant. So let’s talk about my personal favorite (after all, isn’t that what I’m doing on Tuesdays anyway?): Hunky Dory, released in December 1971.

Don’t you just feel cool when you listen to a Bowie song? Somehow he elevates us, makes us feel as groovy as he is. Or so that’s how I feel. I’m writing about early Bowie today, but I think he’s been relevant in every decade. Don’t agree? Listen to Heathen, released in 2002; it’s a great album, and he even covers The Pixies. And, yes, I like Tin Machine.

So, how many times have you seen Bowie live? Just four for me — and never during the 1970s, dammit; I wasn’t that cool in high school. I saw him twice in the 1980s, once in the 1990s, and two years ago. The most recent show was at our outdoor amphitheater, with opening act Stereophonics. We were on the ninth row, so close we could barely stand it, so close we had a discussion about his fabulous belt. Bowie still has the sexy charm and androgynous swagger that makes him Bowie. Love him.

Now, you youngsters out there put this album in chronological perspective. T. Rex’s Electric Warrior was released in September, three months before Hunky Dory — but both were recorded that spring. Think how fresh and new that glam pop sounded. The album came out before Ziggy Stardust, Alladin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and Young Americans. The Man Who Sold the World came out earlier in 1971, but it’s more of a rock album.

I love every track on Hunky Dory, but I’m too tired to chat about each one. Let’s hit a few highlights (and I apologize for skipping “Oh! You Pretty Things,” but I’m trying to go with less familiar tunes).

You have to love an album that kicks off with “Changes.” Thirty-five years, and it’s still as fresh as it was the month it was released. I cannot switch the station when it’s playing, and I must sit in the car, singing and baying along at the top of my lungs, until it ends. I make others “break down and cry” when they hear me sing along. (And, yes, I know I’m referencing a non-Hunky Dory song.)

“Kooks” is a fun, loving family song, fitting for Bowie and Angela to sing to then-named Zowie: I bought you a pair of shoes / A trumpet you can blow / And a book of rules / On what to say to people when they pick on you / Cause if you stay with us / You’re gonna be pretty kookie too. If I’d had a child, this would have been one of her lullabies, with “Green Grows the Rushes” and “Pink Moon.”

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“Queen Bitch,” on the other hand, has that Velvet Underground sound. And you can dance to it! This may be my favorite track on the album.

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Who knew when he recorded “Andy Warhol” that he’d play his friend 25 years later in Basquiat? And he nailed that portrayal.

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Hunky Dory is great fun. If you love Bowie's music and don't have this disc, hit your local CD shop this week.

* * * * * *



At 9/26/2006 09:43:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

“Ooooh, look out, you rock ‘n rollers”

‘70s Bowie is some gooood stuff. Nice call, Beth!

“I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through”


At 9/26/2006 10:35:00 AM, Anonymous cindee said...

Liked today’s blog. I saw Bowie in his Diamond Dogs tour, in the 70s (I think) at the Fox…. I had his Ziggy Stardust poster in my room… loved him when I was a teen… wore sparkly platforms and belts and high waisted pants… ha…. Loved Bowie.

At 9/26/2006 11:19:00 AM, Blogger barista brat said...

i love bowie.

that's all i need to say, haha. i wonder if benny is dancing in her chair because you mentioned t. rex ;)

At 9/26/2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Old Lady said...

I saw him on some fashion award show last year, singing with a group of younger musicians and he is still fabulous, on TV even. I have no idea why I was watching the show but I surely glad that I did.

At 9/26/2006 12:12:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

HAANSTER: I had to restrain myself from features "Changes" and "Oh! You Pretty Things" since most people know those songs so well ... but, damn, they're great tunes, aren't they?

CINDEE: You were so much cooler than moi during high school. I'm still jealous about your early Bowie adventures.

BRAT: How can you not mention T. Rex? Marc Bolan was the sexiest rock star ever.

OLD LADY: I think he performed with Arcade Fire. I love that Bowie stays current. There's a documentary on The Pixies, and he's featured quite a bit with insightful comments. You can tell he loves music.

At 9/26/2006 04:40:00 PM, Blogger Ben Heller said...

Were you and I separated at birth Beth ? Early Bowie is MY favourite period and "Hunky Dory" is without doubt his greatest ever work. I didn't hear the album until about 1979 on Annie Nightingale's BBC night time show. She played "Changes" and I fell in love with the song immediately.

There really isn't a bad song on it, and it led me to discover much of his early back catalogue. "Ziggy Stardust" and "Aladdinsane" are both up there too.

Great review. And I love Bowie's chuckle just before he starts singing "Andy Warhol".

Mick Ronson has to take a lot of credit for his early stuff too.

I'm blabbing, it's probably because it's late at night and I've drunk 4 pints of Stella Artois. Sorry.

At 9/26/2006 04:44:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Ben, I think you should comment with Stella Artois fortification more often!

And I am beginning to think we're twin sons/daughters of different mothers. Or else we're just the two coolest folks in the blogosphere.

At 9/26/2006 04:58:00 PM, Blogger Will said...

I love early Bowie ... heck, I love most Bowie. And "Andy Warhol" is absolutely one of my favorite Bowie songs ... maybe Andy Warhol has always been my hero. David Bowie has kinda always been my hero, too.

At 9/26/2006 04:59:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

And Bowie as Andy Warhol was brilliant casting, wasn't it? It's my favorite part of Basquiat.

At 9/26/2006 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Marni said...

I can't believe you haven't heard from Ziggy yet! He is going to LOVE this post...

At 9/26/2006 08:41:00 PM, Anonymous Glassmeow said...

1974 was the year I met Beckie L. right after she came back from a year in London as a faculty brat whose U of O professor parents had been on sabbatical there. She introduced us to all things Bowie (and Mick Ronson and the Glimmer Twins, Rod Stewart - all of the Glam Rock Brits). We played the Ziggy Stardust album until we wore it out. Then we backtracked and picked up everything else we could get our hands on. I used to own all of it on vinyl and let it go, dammit!

Life on Mars would have to be my favorite song on Hunky Dory. Everything on The Man Who Sold The World. But especially the title track. Love the guitar in that one... Might have to go hunt it up on cd. If it exists.

...and Yip! You like Tin Machine too!!! The first album is better than the second (I didn't bother with it). Love his cover of John Lennon's Working Class Hero.

I've seen Bowie live hmmm...how many times? Four. Serious Moonlight, Glass Spider, the weird tour with NIN and Reality. Damn near got myself squished on the front of the stage in Tacoma for Serious Moonlight. Reality was the best outing. Still remember hanging out outside his hotel for Glass Spider with my red shoes in hand hoping he'd sign them. He never came out and I had to go back to work.

& then walking to the concert which was a block from my apartment.

At 9/26/2006 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Great review Beth and great comments from everyone. I have to admit I'm really only a Greatest Hits kind of Bowie guy but I'll definitely look for this album. Loved the tracks you put up and discussed.

The film I mentioned some time back on my blog C.R.A.Z.Y. has Bowie figuring a little into the plot especially in one heartbreaking scene.

Perhaps I should see Basquiat now huh?

At 9/26/2006 10:47:00 PM, Anonymous DJ Cayenne said...

The band Bowie sang with on the Fashion benefit show was definitely Arcade Fire (available for a sneak listen on iTunes).

If I had to pick one album from that period, Ziggy Stardust would win by a hair on the strength of Five Years.

At 9/26/2006 11:15:00 PM, Blogger OnMyWatch said...

yeah, I have to admit I'm a greatest hits type person too, with him, but he is cool and you're right - you do feel cool when you listen to his songs.

my first intro when I was little was either Golden Years or Fame, can't remember which came first.

he's had quite the career.

At 9/26/2006 11:15:00 PM, Blogger Tenacious S said...

Holy crap, Beth! I love Hunky Dory (my favorite Bowie album)! He is my island music. Queen Bitch rocks and Kooks did get sung to my infant children. I've only seen him three times. Once on the Glass Spiders tour, once for his Vision tour, and again about two years ago. Beth, sooner or later I will be in Atlanta and we will go out and have a few drinks and dance. OK?

At 9/26/2006 11:18:00 PM, Blogger Tenacious S said...

Sorry, meant to say Sound and vision tour. Too excited. Typing too fast.

At 9/26/2006 11:26:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

MARNI: I'm surprised myself. He must be enjoying his mews.

GLASSMEOW: What great memories! You should post that on your blog and expand.

DALE: Basquiat is definitely worth a watch. Jeffey Wright is brilliant as Basquiat, but he's brilliant in every role, isn't he?

DJ CAYENNE: It was very part deciding between Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust. "Queen Bitch" was my tiebreaker.

ONMYWATCH: He has so many great hits, it's almost enough to have just his collections.

TENACIOUS S: Call me when you hit Atlanta; I'll drink with anyone who played "Kooks" for the little ones. And we hit the same tours.

At 9/27/2006 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

I love Bowie. Although he creeped me out when I was a kid because my brother took me to see The Man Who Fell to Earth - it took me years to get the picture of him removing his eyes out of my head.

I saw the Moonlight tour when I was living outside of Paris in 1983. I have a soft spot for that album because I was having the time of my life in those days. But I agree that his stuff from the 70s is the best. "Changes" & "Andy Warhol" are two of my favorite songs.

At 9/27/2006 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Tenacious S said...

How could I have forgotten? I saw the Let's Dance tour as well. Where is my brain these days? I should hook you up with my good friend from WUSC, Bill, who lives in Atlanta. Great guy, great musical taste.

At 9/27/2006 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Marni said...

I don't know much about Bowie (I hang my head in shame, Beth), but I did love him in Labrynith!

The songs I do know I really like!

At 9/27/2006 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

COASTER PUNCHMAN: See, now I seethe green because you had to throw in "when I was living outside of Paris."

TENACIOUS S: Your coolness factor keeps rising. And tell WUSC Bill I said hello; always looking for others with music brilliance.

MARNI: Looks like I have another cousin who needs my music help; look for a CD this weekend. I will not stand for relatives with heads hung in shame.

At 9/27/2006 05:08:00 PM, Blogger Benny said...

Benny is dancing in her chair because Beth mentioned T. Rex...

(Am I really that predictable?)

David Bowie was my very first crush. Five years old. Bowie as the Goblin King.

IMHO, that was the superior casting. I hated Bowie as Warhol! There was something too... skinny... about him. And too British.

I love that film, though. But mostly because of the soundtrack. ;-)

At 9/27/2006 05:17:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Benny, when we love, we love completely ... so I'm glad you got a chair dance out of the T. Rex mention.

The soundtrack is wonderful, isn't it?

My crush at five? Paul McCartney. Yes, I was five in 1964.

At 9/29/2006 03:39:00 AM, Blogger ziggystardust73 said...

Hi Beth,

Sorry I'm late to comment on this post - for obvious reasons!

I love Hunky Dory (I love pretty much all David's work - including Tin Machine and even Tonight/Never Let Me Down! Even his worst is better than a lot of artists bests in my opinion...!) but my personal favourite from the seventies was 'Station to Station'.

The cold, hard yet groovy brilliance of that album still makes me shiver.

Oh! and you are so right about his current output - Heathen is amazing.

I love you for this post.

At 9/29/2006 03:41:00 AM, Blogger ziggystardust73 said...

ps. sorry I'm so late! Marni was RIGHT! I LOVED THIS POST!

At 9/29/2006 06:43:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Ziggy, you nailed it with "Even his worst is better than a lot of artists bests." Has there ever been anyone cooler?

At 9/29/2006 07:36:00 AM, Blogger ziggystardust73 said...

No, Beth. There hasn't. And I doubt there ever will be. I'm so glad you recognise that. :-)

At 9/30/2006 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

"Don’t you just feel cool when you listen to a Bowie song?"

Except for "Absolute Beginners," which makes me feel akward somehow.

"Somehow he elevates us, makes us feel as groovy as he is. Or so that’s how I feel."

Absolutely, especiall "Fame" and "Cat People, Part II."

At 10/02/2006 05:21:00 PM, Blogger Tumuli said...

Thanks for the heads-up. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have yet to purchase a Bowie record, although several of his songs are my all-time favorites...

You have impeccable taste, by the way.

At 10/02/2006 05:42:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

ZIGGY: I'm a brilliant woman with impeccable taste, so of course I believe that!

WRITEPROCRASTINATOR: "Cat People"! Don't you love it? And "Fame" ... and so many others ...

TUMULI: You must go out this week and at least get a greatest hits collection. You can't go wrong with Bowie. And thanks for recognizing my brilliance.


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