It was a magical meeting. We stood on either side of a wooden pole at Pushover Festival, like Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio on either side of the fishtank. I gazed into his green eyes as we talked about our favourite Bowie albums. Mine was Ziggy Stardust, his was Hunky Dory. Then he ditched me to go look at t-shirts and never came back. Ah well. The owner of those green eyes was Michael Tomlinson, former frontman of the band Yves Klein Blue and major crush of mine when I was 16. After learning that his favourite album was Hunky Dory I began to listen to it more often and slowly it edged out Ziggy Stardust to become my favourite Bowie album too.
Those four rising piano chords at the beginning of Changes are so distinctive and wonderful, whetting your appetite for the fabulous song and album to come. I actually named my dog Bowie, and we have a version of this song that we sing to him that goes something along the lines of “Turn and chase your tail.”
The album that follows features a mish-mash of styles and homages. There is a stylistic tribute to the Velvet Underground and Lou reed on the high energy Queen Bitch, one of the highlights of the album. There is Song For Bob Dylan, which was composed in a Dylan-esque style. The Bewlay Brothers has a Western film twang, while Kooks and Fill Your Heart take kitsch to the extreme.
There are so many great moments on this album. Bowie yelping the title line for the first time on Oh! You Pretty Things. The epic power guitar in Queen Bitch. The recording of studio dialogue at the beginning of Andy Warhol. The piano on Life On Mars.
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There are also a lot of surprises. One is the song Eight Line Poem, which is exactly what the title says it is, set to music. It grows on me more and more each time I hear it. Fill Your Heart, a cover of a Biff Rose and Paul Williams song, is surprising in just how into the song’s positive message Bowie gets, until he almost begins to sound like a slightly manic preacher.
This is an album that I just never get sick of. I can play it on repeat endlessly and it sounds fresh every time. And that is the sign of a truly great piece of work.