Matisse, Patti Smith and Sunflowers

Stefano Pilati drew inspiration from Patti Smith while styling this fashion editorial for Harper’s Bazaar (YSL Remixed by Kristina O’Neill, December 2005). The blouse was inspired by Matisse and Picasso’s muses. Photo: Anthony Ward

 
 

Vase of Sunflowers, Henri Matisse, 1898

 
 

Patti, Car and Sunflowers. Photo by Judy Linn. Circa early ’70s

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Pretty Things

“Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed…”

David Bowie

Oh! You Pretty Things

 
 

Terry Pastor’s airbrushed painting after a photograph taken by Brian Ward. Hunky Dory is hailed as being the second most iconic cover ever produced. The Beatles Abbey Road being the first

 

 
 

Oh You Pretty Thing, George Underwood, 1973. This was painted as a gift for David Bowie but became lost for nearly 37 years until George discovered.

Perfectly Satisfactory

Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.”

David Bowie

 
 

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.” The slang hunky dory (of uncertain origin), would mean perfectly satisfactory, about as well as one could wish or expect; fine

 
 

The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie brought with him to the photo session, which was taken by Brian Ward. Terry Pastor achieved the silk-screen printing appearance in the manner of Andy Warhol, using an airbrush. However,  the album’s sleeve would bear the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. George Underwood was also involved in the creative process of the album cover design.

 
 

The opening track, Changes, focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention (“Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”) and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream (“Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers”). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks Song for Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch.

Following the hard rock of Bowie’s previous album The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as Kooks (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover “Fill Your Heart” sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged Quicksand and the semi-autobiographical The Bewlay Brothers. Between the two extremes was Oh! You Pretty Things, whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by “the Homo Superior”, and which has been cited as a direct precursor to Starman from Bowie’s next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Looks Like a Scream

“Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I’d like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall
Andy Warhol, Silver Screen
Can’t tell them apart at all

Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”

 
 

David Bowie as Andy Warhol. Promotional picture for Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996)

 
 

Andy Warhol is a song written by David Bowie in 1971 for the album Hunky Dory. This is an acoustic song about one of Bowie’s greatest inspirations, the American pop artist Andy Warhol. The song starts with some studio chat where Bowie explains to producer Ken Scott, who has just been heard to mispronounce Warhol’s name when introducing the take, the right way to say it. Scott solemnly reintroduces the take with the correct pronunciation. There follows several seconds of silence before Bowie asks if the tape is rolling. Upon realizing they are indeed recording, Bowie bursts into laughter and begins playing. The song is memorable for its distinctive, flamenco-sounding opening riff on the acoustic guitar that continues through the song.

Bowie later played the song to Andy Warhol, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie reportedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes.

 
 

David Bowie and Dana Gillespie. Photo: Brian Ward

 
 

Originally the song was written for Dana Gillespie in 1971, but her version of the song was not released until 1973 on her album Weren’t Born a Man. This version features Mick Ronson on guitar.