Spin #76 : Hunky Dory : David Bowie
SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #76
Welcome to our 76th Sunday drop from the R'nR with Rylo collection! This week my wife, children and I have chosen the '70s classic, 'Hunky Dory' by the late David Bowie. Probably his most important record and the one that gave him his confidence and musical direction. I remember that this was the first record we received from the record of the month club, Waxx Lyrical and it was instead of an album we already had ('Purple Rain' by Prince and the Revolution). I had a couple of Bowie albums and I hadn't come across a copy of this one for a decent price. Thankfully Waxx Lyrical helped us out by starting our subscription with this one instead and made me delve a little deeper into his career.
This week I have chosen our loungeroom set-up to spin 'Hunky Dory' because the children will enjoy it more as it plays from 4 x speakers, instead of the front room's standalone speaker. There is a lot to appreciate on this album and one that I find more and more with each listen.
Image: David Bowie
Time to place 'Hunky Dory' LP on your turntable and give it a quick brush before we #dropthestylus on this '70s classic!
A very important movie was released in 2004 and it doesn't matter if you have seen it our not really but one thing that stands out is the soundtrack. There is a lot of Bowie songs covered by Brazillian singer, Seu Jorge and they have stayed with me since hearing them. The movie that I'm talking about is the oddball comedy starring Bill Murray called, 'The Life Aquatic'. I want them to release the official vinyl of 'Seu Jorge: The Life Aquatic Sessions', as I've only been able to find bootlegs that have mixed reviews regarding the pressing quality. I mention all of this because it got me exploring into the songs and realising how influential Bowie had been as an artist. If you have time - check the songs out on Spotify.
Hard to think that Bowie was without a label after his previous album and trying to work out where he was heading musically at the beginning of the 1970's. Having only known him as the star he is regarded as today, I was wondering what album was regarded as the turning point and apparently it is 'Hunky Dory'. Some people don't give the album enough credit and feel that his career only started on the follow up, 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars'. There is a lot to like about this album and if you haven't taken the time yet, hopefully by the time you have finished this spin, you will be looking for your own copy to add to your collection. I don't know if it was his idea or a label that he was trying to sign with, but heading to the United States of America seemed to revitalize Bowie and give him balance again. He said that he owes a lot to that trip and was able to write songs that had given him mental block previously.
Bowie was afraid that people would only know him as a one hit wonder for his 1969 song, 'Space Oddity'. This was because it was used for all of the moon landing promotions happening at the same time. I think I read somewhere too that a Tesla car was recently launched into space and the song on the radio was also 'Space Oddity' (will have to check). I've also got in our collection the album before 'Hunky Dory' and feel that it's a great album, just darker and rockier. It is pretty evident on the opening song, 'CHANGES' that Bowie is embracing whatever was coming his way at the time. Production on this copy is pretty impressive and the musicianship behind Bowie's voice really shines, as it fills our loungeroom. You have Michael Ronson (Guitar), Woody Woodmansey (drums), Trevor Bolder (Trumpets/bass) and Richard Wakeman(Piano). I like how the back cover artwork looks like Bowie has grabbed a pen and written whatever he wants. I like his honesty of, "I played some guitar, saxophones and the less complicated piano-parts (inability)".
Second song on the album is 'OH! YOU PRETTY THINGS' and I'm not sure who is playing piano at the beginning (Bowie or Wakeman) but it instantly draws you in. There are a couple of moments on this album that were inspired by Bowie becoming a father and the pride he has in being a parent. Each day is a battle to be the best Dad I can be for our children and working with their growing little personalities. Our son is almost 5 years old now and our daughter is in her prime terrible two's currently - even finding a pink canvas hat that she wears backwards as she walks out to eat her scrambled eggs. I don't take it for granted and I'm thankful each and every day that I get to spend with them. The song keeps rolling on and it sounds similar to something that the Rolling Stones or The Beatles were coming out, but with a distinct Bowie influence. Next up is an interesting song that only has, as the title suggests, eight lines of lyrics in the form of an 'EIGHT LINE POEM'. Instantly getting Alex Turner vibes as Bowie is moving through this poem - Turner is the vocalist of UK band, The Arctic Monkeys. I would love to know Tuner's thoughts on this short song.
My favourite song on the album is up next and I was shocked that it wasn't on a different album to be honest. 'LIFE ON MARS?' is on 'Hunky Dory' and is one of those anthemic and emotive songs that feels timeless. There is also a brutal end to the beauty that was done on purpose, similar to an 'end of transmission' suddenness. I heard that this was written and inspired by Frank Sinatra (only because 'My Way' was written and influenced by a song that Bowie hadn't released yet). For the full story, go and look it up online but sometimes the creative juices don't start flowing until you get angry or motivated. 'LIFE ON MARS?' is one of those songs that I find myself singing along with and think about it from time to time. What is a song that sticks in your mind like an ear worm? Let us know in the comments below or on our social pages. "As I ask you to focus on Sailors fighting in the dance hall. Oh man! Look at these caveman go. It's the freakiest show. Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong guy. Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know. He's in the best selling show, Is there Life on Mars?".
Another track dedicated to being a new dad on this album is 'KOOKS' which is a piano driven track, like a lot of songs on this album. Bowie was inspired to write songs firstly with the piano and similarly to Bruce Springsteen on his album 'Born To Run'. Both are important albums that turned the careers' of both artist's around. Can you imagine if we never had David Bowie or Bruce Springsteen. As quickly as the positivity comes, the darker and sadness of the final song on Side A starts playing. 'QUICKSAND' at first sounds very one dimensional (best way possible) and grows as the song progresses. Just at the moment that you feel it should be uplifting, it comes in with lyrics of, "Don't believe in yourself, Don't deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death's release". Bowie has an aura about his vocals and they shine on this track especially towards the end. I thought it was funny that the movie 'Labyrinth' was on television this week and who could forget his performance as Jareth the Goblin King. Some of you reached out to say the clues were too easy, but really it's about having fun and sometimes better if the answer is achievable. Plus, not everyone does know Jareth but maybe will get people to go and watch that classic movie. If you haven't seen that movie then do yourself a favour and find it/stream it after you stop reading this blog. Something that I am excited to watch with our children in the future, but not just now as it might cause nightmares. Time now to take a break and lift the stylus so we can hear the rest of this album. Are you feeling 'Hunky Dory'? I'd love to know where that expression originated from as I do hear it from time to time.
I find myself closing my eyes and it helps focus your senses. I want to sit here and soak in all that it has to offer and take in the moment. There are so many Bowie albums out there that I haven't even streamed and I'm excited to give them a chance. Are there any recommendations out there that are must haves for a record collector like me? I am only adding albums to my want list for now, but eventually add it to our family library. That's right, I want to have a large area where the kids walk through and can do their homework whilst listening to music, comfy chairs to wind down after stressful days, read books from our bookcases that cover a wall and maybe even jam in a music room that splits off from this larger room. It definitely tends to 'FILL YOUR HEART' thinking about the future and the hope that you can offer your children the best life. Its best to keep the positivity up and not let life pressures control the narrative. Night Kat Kiz and I often have deep dive conversations and lift each others spirits and I think that is important in a relationship. The first song on Side B has great pacing and I really like the rawness that it has. It is also the only song on the album that wasn't written by Bowie and is a cover of a Biff Rose song.
There is a bit of studio sounds and discussion left in the mix to start off 'ANDY WARHOL'. The guitar is so prominent on this song and reminds me a bit of The Beatles, 'Let It Be' sessions that have the conversations left in during the un-used mix. Apparently Andy Warhol didn't enjoy the song and let Bowie know it towards the end of 1971. The ending is slightly chaotic and similar to an artist frantically throwing paint around the room, with sounds coming from all directions. More of a Jackson Pollock style I'd say than Warhol. 'SONG FOR BOB DYLAN' and
'QUEEN BITCH' are influenced by popular people too and I'm not certain if Dylan and Bowie were friends really or if the song was liked or hated. Same with The Velvet Underground and if they liked the song that was written for them. There is a folk and Springsteen feeling to the song for Robert Zimmerman and I quite enjoy the style of the guitar being played. Where as the rockier sounds of 'QUEEN BITCH' makes you feel as though you are listening to a different album. Such a big song from the Bowie catalogue and would need to look up if it was ever released as a single from the album.
Acoustic guitar starts this slower number off, last song on the album - 'THE BEWLAY BROTHERS'. Bowie's vocal effect is deep and rich as it comes through the loungeroom speakers and I feel that the musicians are pairing with his vocals perfectly. I read somewhere that Bowie made sure that the lyrics made no sense and was purposely written for the American market. The stylus has hit the dead wax and is ready to be lifted. Our children want to keep spinning records but that is all we have time for today.
Another album has been spun and another week has come to an end. I hope that you enjoyed listening to early days David Bowie and it inspires you to add a few more of his to your collection. Maybe grab yourself a nice book to read this afternoon and let me know what you have chosen. I am always interested in what books draw people to them and the simplicity of getting through a book one page at a time. Just like life, one step at a time. Have a look next week at our MWSP clues and reach out if you need anything.
“I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring” – David Bowie (David Robert Jones)
Until our next Spin, be Kind to bookworms like Bowie and be Kind to your Wax!
KEN SCOTT & DAVID BOWIE
SPEED PLAYED AT
33 1/3 RPM
THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD (1970)
THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972)
SEU JORGE - THE LIFE AQUATIC STUDIO SESSIONS (2016)
LIFE ON MARS?
RATING OUT OF 5
WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE
1 X BLACK LP, LYRIC SHEET
"Sailors fighting in the dance hall. Oh man! Look at those caveman go. It's the freakiest show. Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong guy. Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know. He's in the best selling show, Is there Life on Mars?" ~ Life on Mars? - Side A
LP / SIDE
OH! YOU PRETTY THINGS
EIGHT LINE POEM
LIFE ON MARS?
FILL YOUR HEART
SONG FOR BOB DYLAN
THE BEWLAY BROTHERS
David Bowie with guitar in hand and having a smile with his fans