David Bowie – ‘Hunky Dory’

The summer of 1992, those were some of the best days of my life. But working for Keycamp wasn’t all sunshine and parties. Scrubbing groundsheets in a filthy tent in 100-degree heat with a hellish hangover is no fun. Digging trenches outside punters’ tents to drain away flood water. “How was your ten-hour drive? Welcome to your underwater holiday home.” is not an easy thing to say. But it was mostly sunshine and parties, and music. Incredible music. David Bowie’s Hunky Dory was next.

Bowie was a must-play at Charivari, but I was lazily restricted to his Changes One & Two albums, plus his ’67 self-titled debut. I don’t know why it took me so many years to check out more, but when I heard Hunky Dory, my Bowie-love rocketed. David Bowie is a musical genius, a rockstar in the truest sense of the world and a true visionary. The best albums scream their own sense of identity, and none scream louder than Hunky Dory.

It’s impossible to ignore Bowie’s stunning visual presence, but if it were, the album is still an evocative masterpiece, brilliantly flamboyant and kaleidoscopic. That said, these songs transcended the image, and throughout its 11 tracks never falls far from that lofty perfect perch. I loved it in its arty, cabaret-glam entirety but fell head over heels for the Velvets-inspired Queen Bitch and Kinks-esque Kooks. We must’ve had the 1990 re-released CD complete with four bonus tracks because Bombers was another favourite, showcasing Bowie’s avant-garde and cinematic genius…

“Seemed a good idea
To drop a bomb on the wasteland here
Only one man could be seen
And he was old and so serene
Captain sat in his deck chair
And the red light flashed, beware
Pilot felt quite big-time
As the bomb sailed through the air
Well, they danced and sang
When the bang went bang
When the lights popped out
And the smoke began to clear
It was positively queer”

Featuring the impossible-to-overrate-co-creator Mick Ronson in what was to become the Spiders From Mars, plus soon to be Yes mainman Rick Wakeman on piano, Hunky Dory was a voyage into music-hall decadence as seen through the mind of the ultimate musical stargazer; the supreme dreamer, romancer, chancer and whimsical rock earthling. Bingeing on Hunky Dory in the hot, French summer of ’92 coloured up my already sunny days. Alongside the narrative angst and inward-looking After The Goldrush, Bowie’s Hunky Dory was the most perfect overdose of musical and starry-eyed swagger.

Sweet – ‘Blockbuster’

To make it clear, this compilation will not be a list of my favourite music, more a list of musical memories which have had an effect on me; music which, when I think back, had a dramatic change to the way I thought or behaved. Music which has inspired me. No doubt much of this will indeed be my favourite music. That said, I would not put Blockbuster in my all-time top 100. Probably not my top 1000, but whilst it’s far from being void of melody and skill, its appeal to me is indeed, purely based on nostalgia.

When this hit Top of the Pops I was 7 years old. Why did I like it so much? Well, for a juvenile it was easy to sing along to, containing perfect lyrics for a boy of my age, but equally, if not more importantly for me was the fact that I looked like the lead singer, Brian Connolly. Obviously I didn’t but my bright blonde hair was exactly the same colour, which was enough.

I think I first started really enjoying ‘pop’ music around this time and I think this was my first ever ‘favourite’ single; in fact I think Sweet were the first band I remember liking and considered my favourite. Songs like Wig-Wam-Bam and Ballroom Blitz perfectly encapsulated the Glam-Rock era, which with the likes of Bowie and Bolan had two bona fide iconic figures, but hey, I didn’t look like either of them in 1973 so I was stuck with Blockbuster instead of 20th Century Boy or Life On Mars. Hey ho. Arguably, glam-rock was possibly the start of style over substance, challenged only in that respect by those gorgeous new romantics.

I remember watching this on Top of the Pops and the sense of awe and excitement that resulted. It’s a rip-roaring Glam stomp. It’s as naff as hell and one of those tunes which rockers would dance to with shoulders bent forward and thumbs through their belt loops. Or was that restricted to the Quo? I remember singing, not dancing. “Aaaaaaah, aaaaaaah. You better beware, you better take care, you better watch out if you’ve got long black hair!” I had to start somewhere.