It was Bowie again for my next purchase, and I go one album back from Ziggy, to the first album where the Spiders came together.
The concept of an artist “re-inventing” themselves is an over-used cliché. Justified in Bowie’s case though, being responsible for “The Laughing Gnome”, and four years later “Queen Bitch”, now that’s what I call re-invention!
Less Glam than Ziggy Stardust, this album contains Life on Mars, which still sounds fresh today, but for me the strongest element of this album is the lyrics. Hunky Dory includes his use of the cut up technique which originated in the 1920s, but was most famously used by William Burroughs. The principle is that the text is quite literally cut up into pieces which contain maybe one word, or a phrase, and then re-assembled, possibly at random to create a new verse.
Difficult to be sure, as Bowie’s lyrics are often a jumble of imagery, but…
“See the mice in their million hordes,
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads,
Rule Britannia is out of bounds,
To my mother, my dog and clowns”
definitely sounds like a cut-up job to me.
There are other tracks on this album such as Quicksand, Bewlay Brothers, Eight Line Poem, which are also great examples of Bowie’s poetic skills taking flight.
“Lay me place and bake me pie, I’m starvin’ for me gravy” he certainly hadn’t lost that Laughing Gnome sense of humour!
What effect did this album have on me? I became interested in lyrics, and suddenly discovered a world where the poetic rhythms were as varied as music. I of course started writing myself, and though I don’t tend to think of them as lyrics these days, I still continue to try to put words together in interesting ways.
Not sure how, but some years later I discovered the Burroughs connection, found a copy of The Ticket that Exploded in my local library, and after getting headaches trying to understand what on earth was going on, eventually tuned in – and that opened a whole new world. I discovered the Beat Movement, Ginsberg and Kerouac, read “On The Road”. I’m sure I would have found that stuff somehow one day, but I’ve got to give Bowie credit, Hunky Dory did have a lasting effect on my taste in literature.
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Next week, I’ll be going back to my normal blog style, a mix of photography, poetry and prose, but I hope you’ve enjoyed my foray this week into my musical past.