Rock legend David Bowie was a bit of a late bloomer in the business of rock ’n’ roll. Even though he was only 17 years old when he released his debut single in 1964, he would never achieve commercial success and critical acclaim till the 70s. His first three solo albums failed to set the music world alight and in fact, Hunky Dory – which would become his fourth LP – started life as a demo to secure a new recording contract, which he duly did with RCA Records.
Hunky Dory finds Bowie in pure singer-songwriter mode – which was in vogue around the time – thus, the individual songs are quite strong and the production values rather straightforward – with simple pop-rock/folk-rock instrumentation and arrangements by and large.
Backing Bowie would be the musicians that would subsequently form The Spiders from Mars (with the exception of Rick Wakeman on piano) viz. Mick Ronson (guitars, mellotron), Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet) and Mick Woodmansey (drums).
Many of Bowie’s classic material – “Changes”, “All You Pretty Things”, “Life on Mars?” “Quicksand” and “Kooks” (written for his son, Zowie – director Duncan Jones) – were recorded during this fecund period. The second half had Bowie pay tribute to his heroes viz. Andy Warhol (“Andy Warhol”), Bob Dylan (“Song For Bob Dylan”) and Lou Reed (“Queen Bitch”) whilst “The Bewley Brothers” concerned Bowie’s relationship with his mentally disturbed brother, Terry.
After Hunky Dory, Bowie would adopt the persona of Ziggy Stardust and found fame and fortune and the rest of his 70s would see Bowie acting out different roles, played out on his discography.
So perhaps, on Hunky Dory, fans could see Bowie for who he was – before he decided to change the face of rock music irretrievably.