For any youngsters or neophytes out there who define David Bowie by his recent regurgitation of currently hip musical styles, a visit to his back catalogue is in order. Recorded during his most fertile and productive period, Hunky Dory is a powerhouse of a record that reminds us that Bowie was once a leader so far ahead of the game that he seemed to be writing the rules as he went along.
Hunky Dory is Bowie's most varied recording to date, wandering fluidly on a musical terrain that shifts unexpectedly between melodramatic show tunes, flawlessly constructed pop, trippy art-rock, and earthy folk. Somehow, Bowie pulls off all of these styles with equal aplomb, lending his remarkable songwriting ability to each number and never allowing the style to outweigh the substance.
The album's most enduring and ironically prophetic moments come near its ending, with two paeans to the cult of celebrity and the price of fame. "Andy Warhol" is a piercing ode to one of Bowie's friends and biggest influences, an unblinking look at the emptiness of image: "Andy Warhol looks a scream / hang him on my wall / Andy Warhol, silver screen / can't tell them apart at all." "Song For Bob Dylan" is a brilliant examination of the use of an alter-ego to step out of one's self and create powerful art: "Now hear this Robert Zimmerman / Though I don't suppose we'll meet / Ask your good friend Dylan / If he'd gaze a while down the old street / Tell him they've lost his poems / So they're writing on the wall."
Within a year of this recording, David Bowie would come to personify both of these ideas, creating the androgynous, glam-rocking alter-ego of Ziggy Stardust, soon after shedding the image that had grown as static as a painting on a wall and creating a new persona to push himself forward.