Being a huge Bowie fan it is hard for me to pinpoint a favorite record of his, all of them are inspirational in so many different ways. But I will say this one feels more personal, raw, and artsy. Bowie before the glam, before the characters. Hunky Dory is a transition record...the chrysalis between caterpillar and butterfly. It's a record of development and change.. it's headed a direction without complete definition. This was Bowie before Ziggy, it was more tangible and easy on the ears. Even the cover features a demure long haired Starman or should I say Davy Jones with minimal frills.
The piano driven Oh! You Pretty Things is catchy and light with a flamboyant upbeat chorus. Here is one of my favorite live performances of the song which was originally filmed in 1972 for the BBC's late night music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. I enjoy this performance because you can tell David is beginning to evolve into the figure we know and love, who would later dominate his next record, ultimately jetting him into stardom.
What can I say... Life on Mars? is a timeless beauty rich in theatrics and impelling melodies. This piece is the epitome of 'bittersweet.' Bowie is accompanied by legendary rock keyboardist Rick Wakeman of Yes. This duo creates magic when Wakeman glides down the keys while David's vocals ascend through the air when the chorus hits. The original music video for this track was filmed by legendary rock photographer, Mick Rock and features Bowie in his iconic powder blue suit and matching eyeshadow. This video is very minimal with a stark white background but somehow you never seem to take notice because Bowie is such a strange exotic presence, he draws us in and brings so much emotion to this marvelous piece.
Now for an underrated, slightly more obscure track from the record... Quicksand is a ballad which features a multi-track guitar and string arrangement by the late great Mick Ronson. Bowie's lyrics were heavily influenced by buddhism and the writings of Nietzsche at this time which is apparent in this piece. It's the precursor to songs like Rock 'n' Roll suicide and was actually released as a B-side to that track in 1974.
I have also included a live performance of Quicksand that Bowie performed with The Cure's Robert Smith for his 50th birthday party in New York's Madison Square Garden. It is a beautiful performance and the most poignant way to conclude this edition of Tori's Turntable.