Perhaps we could have seen what was coming from the album’s very first song, “Changes”: how [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]David Bowie[/lastfm] would reinvent himself repeatedly, taking on new personas and then discarding them. Hunky Dory, released 40 years ago this month, was a change from what had come before it, and marks the beginning of a run of classic Bowie albums.
Bowie’s previous album, The Man Who Sold the World, was a hard-edged record full of songs with futuristic lyrics. Hunky Dory was more pop-oriented and melodic. Despite being only a mid-range chart hit, “Changes” would earn a place on radio playlists that it has yet to surrender. “Andy Warhol” and “Oh! You Pretty Things” were early Bowie classics; “Life on Mars” would earn a second life nearly 40 years later as the theme to a British TV series and its American version.
Hunky Dory didn’t become a major hit in the UK until 1973, following the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. It made #93 on the American charts, also boosted by Ziggy. Since its release, Hunky Dory has collected plenty of accolades, including a ranking among Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 of all time, and Time magazine’s top 100.
Here’s a British TV performance of “Oh! You Pretty Things” recorded in 1972.