David Bowie John Mendelsohn - Essay

John Mendelsohn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

For the most part, Dave is back, after an affair with heavy! high-energy killer techniques, back into his 1966-ish, Tony Newley pop-rock thing, and happily so. [Hunky Dory] is his most easily accessible, and thus most readily enjoyable work since his Man Of Words/Man of Music album of 1969….

[The Man Who Sold the World] was erratic in the extreme, tedious music and hopelessly obscure (and sometimes downright embarrassing) words alternating frequently within the space of a verse with exciting melodic phrases and poignant, incisive lyrics.

Hunky Dory not only represents Bowie's most engaging album musically, but also finds him once more writing literally enough to let the listener examine his ideas comfortably without having to withstand a barrage of seemingly unimpregnable verbiage before getting at an idea…. (p. 63)

While compiling material for this album Dave's thoughts apparently turned frequently to the imminence of the birth of his first son, Zowie, which preoccupation is reflected in … "Oh! You Pretty Things" and "Kooks." The former, which was a hit in England for Herman Hermit, intimates that homo superior—the superman race—is about to emerge, implicitly in the form of the wee Bowie. (pp. 63-4)

"The Bewlay Brothers" sounds like something that got left off The Man Who Sold because it wasn't loud enough. Musically it's quiet and barren and sinister, lyrically virtually impenetrable—a stream-of-consciousness stream of strange and (seemingly) unrelated imagery and it closes with several repetitions of a chilling chorus….

And there you have it. With his affection for using intriguing and unusual themes in musical settings that most rock "artists" would dismiss with a quick fart as old-fashioned and uncool, he's definitely an original, is David Bowie, and as such will one day make an album that will induce us homo superior elitist rock critics to race about like a chicken with its head lopped off when he learns that he's a couple of pretentious tendencies he'd do handsomely to curtail through the composition of an album's-worth of material. Until that time, Hunky Dory will suffice hunkydorily. (p. 64)

John Mendelsohn, "Records: 'Hunky Dory'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1972; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 99, January 6, 1972, pp. 63-4.