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. 4.5

3. I Wish You Would: A Yardbirds “cover” showcasing Ronson’s terrific guitar sound. However 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. I love Mick Ronson but the best thing Bowie could do for his career was axe him and pick up the guitar himself, which he did (see Diamond Dogs). 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. 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: Underrated. Not to be compared to the original if you can help it. Sung in a relatively straight way, he gets inside the skin of this song and gives it a piano and horn driven make-over, ending up the best song on the album for mine. 7.5

7. Friday on My Mind: And this is the worst. This Easybeats cover falls flat. Bowie’s vocals are unflattering, and a bit silly – only enjoyable from a comedy perspective. 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. 7.5

9. Don’t Bring Me Down: Another Pretty Things cover. 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 and Bowie’s mannerisms are somewhat misdirected and exaggerated. Has its moments and rocking drums. 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 departed) 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. Also a strange and confusing album to make at this stage of his career, 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 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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