released December 4, 1971
RCA LSP-4623 (US)
Chart peak 176
released December 17, 1971
RCA SF 8244 (UK)
Chart peak 3 (September 1972 reissue)
Oh! You Pretty Things 3:12
Eight Line Poem 2:53
Life On Mars? 3:48
Fill Your Heart 3:07
Andy Warhol 3:58
Song For Bob Dylan 4:12
Queen Bitch 3:13
The Bewlay Brothers 5:21
All songs by David Bowie except Fill Your Heart (Williams, Rose)
Produced by Ken Scott assisted by The Actor [David Bowie]
Arrangements by David Bowie and Mick Ronson
David Bowie (vocals, guitar, piano, saxophones)
Mick Ronson (guitar, mellotron, vocal)
Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet)
Mick Woodmansey (drums)
Rick Wakeman (piano)
Photography by Brian Ward
Artwork by Terry Pastor (Main Artery)
April 1984 RCA picture disc
October 1984 RCA CD
January 1990 Rykodisc/EMI remastered CD
with bonus tracks:
The Supermen [1971 2nd version]
Quicksand [Demo] 4:43
The Bewlay Brothers [alternate mix] 5:19
July 1996 Rykodisc Au20 CD
September 1999 EMI remastered CD
January 2007 Toshiba EMI mini LP replica CD
Trident Studios, London
Tuesday June 8
Song For Bob Dylan
Hunky Dory sessions began with Ken Scott co-producing with Bowie. Scott was a logical choice having engineered Bowie’s previous two albums and more recently, the tracks with Mickey King. They started with a song from the recent Peel session, Song For Bob Dylan.
Bowie (1976): That laid out what I wanted to do in rock. It was at that period that I said, 'Okay, Dylan, if you don't want to do it, I will.' I saw that leadership void. Even though the song isn't one of the most important on the album, it represented for me what the album was all about. If there wasn't someone who was going to use rock'n'roll, then I'd do it.
The sessions were characterised by immediacy and spontaneity. Bowie was present throughout and focused on the moment.
Ken Scott (2005): It was very much him knowing what he wanted right from the get-go. I think he knew all along what was going to happen, but he didn't always tell you. You had to be ready. And with David almost all of the lead vocals are one take. And no need to put them in tune afterward. Even if you could. [Chiccarelli, Joe. ‘Shooting to thrill’ (EQ, 2005)]
Trevor Bolder (2011): Our approach was very off the top of our heads. We'd go in, David would play us a song – often one we hadn't heard – we'd run through it once, and then take it. No time to think about what you're going to play. You'd have to do it there and then. In some respects, it's nerve-wracking, but it gives a certain feel. [DeMain, Bill. ‘The Freakiest Show’ (Classic Rock, April 2011)]
Woody Woodmansey (2011): There was incredible pressure in getting a track recorded right. Many times we'd go in with a track to record and at the last minute David would change his mind and we'd do one we hadn't rehearsed! We would be panicking, as he didn't like doing more than three takes to get it. Nearly every track I recorded with David was first, second or third take – usually second. He knew when a take was 'right'. [DeMain, Bill. ‘The Freakiest Show’ (Classic Rock, April 2011)]
Friday July 9
It Ain’t Easy
Bombers [two takes]
Bowie’s cover of Ron Davies’ It Ain't Easy would be held over for Ziggy Stardust. As on the John Peel radio session, Dana Gillespie sang backing vocals. Rick Wakeman played harpsichord.
Rick Wakeman (2009): David called me up to his house in Beckenham, Kent, as he wanted to play me some songs. I sat at his beautiful grand piano while he played all the songs that were to appear on the Hunky Dory album on his battered 12-string guitar. [Sharp, Ken. ‘Hunky Dory’ (Record Collector, June 2009)]
Rick Wakeman (2011): I enquired about the state of the instrument he was playing, David replied, ‘Rick, very soon you too will be recording music, and you will realise if it sounds good on rubbish like this, then it will sound amazing when it is completed in the studio’. [Jones, Robert. ‘Audience Mesmerised By Rick’s Piano Playing’ (North West Evening Mail, 16 June 2011)]
Ken Scott (2009): The piano we used was an 1898 Bechstein, and there wasn’t another one quite like it. It’s the same piano used by The Beatles on Hey Jude. [Sharp, Ken. ‘Hunky Dory’ (Record Collector, June 2009)]
Rick Wakeman (2009): David very much let me have free rein. I had worked a lot with Ken Scott as well, so they both knew my style of playing. David simply said to play the music as piano pieces in my style. [Sharp, Ken. ‘Hunky Dory’ (Record Collector, June 2009)]
Life On Mars?
Bowie (2008): I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus to Lewisham to buy shoes and shirts but couldn't get the riff out of my head. Jumped off two stops into the ride and more or less loped back to the house up on Southend Road. Rick Wakeman came over a couple of weeks later and embellished the piano part and guitarist Mick Ronson created one of his first and best string parts. [Bowie, David. ‘I Went To Buy Some Shoes, And I Came Back With Life On Mars’ (Mail On Sunday, 28 June 2008)]
Suzi Ronson (2009): [Mick] used to write the strings sitting in the toilet. Without even a keyboard. Only by ear. It was quiet in there. [Spitz, Marc. David Bowie (Aurum, 2009)]
The Bewlay Brothers
Ken Scott (2011): That was almost a last-minute song. Just down the street from Trident, there was a tobacconist, which apparently gave him the inspiration for the name. He came in and said, 'We've got to do this song for the American market.' I said, 'OK, how do you mean?' He said, 'Well, the lyrics make absolutely no sense, but the Americans always like to read into things, so let them read into it what they will.’ [DeMain, Bill. ‘The Freakiest Show’ (Classic Rock, April 2011)]
Bowie (2000): It's another vaguely anecdotal piece about my feelings about myself and my brother, or my other doppelganger. I was never quite sure what real position Terry had in my life, whether Terry was a real person or whether I was actually referring to another part of me. [DeMain, Bill. ‘The Freakiest Show’ (Classic Rock, April 2011)]
Bowie (2008): I used Bewlay as a cognomen - in place of my own. This wasn't just a song about brotherhood so I didn't want to misrepresent it by using my true name. The circumstances of the recording barely exist in my memory. It was late, I know that. I was on my own with my producer Ken Scott; the other musicians having gone for the night. Unlike the rest of the Hunky Dory album, which I had written before the studio had been booked, this song was an unwritten piece that I felt had to be recorded instantaneously. I had a whole wad of words that I had been writing all day. I had felt distanced and unsteady all evening, something settling in my mind. I distinctly remember a sense of emotional invasion. I do believe that we finished the whole thing on that one night. [Bowie, David. ‘I went to buy some shoes, and I came back with Life On Mars’ (Mail On Sunday, 28 June 2008)]
Bowie’s cover portrait, one of a series Brian Ward shot at his Heddon Street studio, was blown up to a 12-inch square print, then hand coloured by Terry Pastor and George Underwood (partners at Main Artery).
The cover evoked both Hollywood nostalgia and Warhol modernism, and alluded to the silver screen in Life On Mars? and Andy Warhol – one a compelling spectacle, the other a simulacrum where the artist becomes the spectacle.
In contrast, the back cover personalised the songs, with Bowie’s left handed scrawl paying tribute to their origins.
An acetate was produced of Hunky Dory with a track listing much the same as the final version, but without Eight Line Poem and differing track times on half of the songs.
Bombers was originally intended to segue to the studio chat intro of Andy Warhol (‘It’s Warhol, actually’) but it was replaced by Biff Rose’s Fill Your Heart, which Bowie had recorded at Bob Grace’s suggestion.
Fill Your Heart had already been covered by Tiny Tim and appeared on the flipside of Tiptoe Through The Tulips. The song was often in Bowie’s set during this period and prior to that, Bowie had also been performing Rose’s Buzz The Fuzz (recorded on a February 1970 BBC radio session – still unreleased).