Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pin Ups (1973)


1. Rosalyn: Mick Ronson’s pulsating guitar (his sensational playing on this album is a given throughout) introduces an energetic performance from Bowie and his band (another constant throughout the album) and this take on The Pretty Things’ Rosalyn is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the whole set. 7.0

2. Here Comes the Night: Van Morrison penned track and just a little bit ridiculous. Bowie’s tongue-in-cheek crooning is way over the top here (and not for the first time on this album) as is the arrangement, displaying a lack of sympathy for the original. 4.0

3. I Wish You Would: A Yardbirds “cover” this is one of the least awesome moments on the album, although showcasing Ronson’s terrific guitar sound. However (and this is just a personal opinion - gulp), this was around the same time that it, worryingly, became the Dave and Mick show (see the 1980 Floor Show), with Mick inching his way centre stage to join his “partner”. Now I love Mick Ronson to bits (just read some of this shit), but the best thing Bowie could do for his career was axe him and pick up the guitar himself, which he did thank the rock gods! 4.5

4. See Emily Play: Cover of a Syd Barrett tune at a time when the Floyd had just released their magnum opus Dark Side of the Moon. A great song any way you look at it, Bowie emphasising the rocking rather than the psychedelic qualities of the song, although a deliberately screwy version, almost a piss-take. 5.0

5. Everything’s Alright: The band is in fine feather throughout this song (particularly Mike Garson) as is Bowie for his sax (which is all over this album) and his histrionic vocal delivery (which for better or for worse is also all over this album). A hit for the Mojos (whoever they were) in the 60s. Not horrible. 5.5

6. I Can’t Explain: Not only because it’s sung in a relatively straight way, but he gets inside the skin of this great song and exquisitely shapes a piano and horn driven make-over of an early hit single by The Who, into slowed down and subtle rendition resulting in the best song on the album. 7.5

7. Friday on My Mind: And this is the worst. An Easybeats cover and very silly indeed, falls flat. Bowie’s vocals are unflattering and only enjoyable from a novelty perspective. There was a good song in there somewhere I’m sure of it. 3.0

8. Sorrow: Originally a hit for the Merseys however an even bigger hit by Bowie and an obvious choice for single. One of the highlights of the album and a great Bowie sax solo, both edgy and elegant. 7.0

9. Don’t Bring Me Down: Another Pretty Things cover (they’ve got to be happy with that). Like most of the songs here, there’s a lot of style and an element of sneer, and a masterful display of his grasp of phrasing and nuance. 6.0

10. Shapes of Things: Yardbirds again, and later by the Jeff Beck Group (with rockin’ Rod Stewart on vocals on 1968’s masterpiece 'Truth'). A demolition job when compared with the original unfortunately. 4.0

11. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: Another Who song. Not as good as I Can’t Explain. Bowie’s mannerisms are misdirected and too exaggerated. 5.0

12. Where Have All the Good Times Gone: Kinks B-side and great circular riff ideal for Ronson’s style. A high point of the album and nice finish. 6.5


VERDICT: Pin Ups was Bowie’s last album to feature the Spiders from Mars (actually Woody Woodmansey had already been axed) and the last album he did with producer Ken Scott. It’s a lightweight and a relatively enjoyable history lesson of British hits of the 60s that Bowie happened to be a fan. Also a strange and confusing album to make at this stage of his career (a covers album), particularly after the landmark albums which had established his originality, however it’s not a tossed-off pastiche it has been mistaken for. Pin Ups is better than that and it does not take itself too seriously (unlike perhaps Bryan Ferry’s ‘These Foolish Things’ of the same year), and good to see him role-playing on this somewhat trifling affair. In retrospect it’s an appropriate stepping stone into his next phenomenal and risk-taking artistic phase. The album cover with Twiggy was originally planned for a magazine but ended up as one of Bowie’s most famous.

NEXT: Apocalypse Now!

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