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David Bowie - Pin Ups

Review: 218
Date: 11 Mar 05


Maybe 1 Stars

Musicians: (known to be on the album)
David Bowie - Vocals, Harmonica, Saxophone
Mick Ronson - Guitars
Trevor Boulder - Bass
Woody Woodmansy - Drums
Mike Garson - Piano

Tracks Listing:
Here Comes The Night
I Wish You Would
See Emily Play
Everything's Alright
I Can't Explain
Friday On My Mind
Don' Bring Me Down
Shapes Of Things
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
Where Have All The Good Times Gone?
Bonus Tracks
Growin’ Up
Port of Amsterdam


Over the years many artists have decided it would be a wonderful idea to collect some of their favorite songs, cover them, and then release them onto their fans for consumption. Some have done this with great success. Joan Jett's 'Hit List' from 1990 put a great new spin on some of her favorite tunes, and Bryan Ferry's 'These Foolish Things' gave Ferry the perfect outlet to show off his lounge lizard thing.

Other times it does not work so well. The desperate attempt by Mettalica to get back some street credibility after losing it with their two terrible albums 'Load' and 'Re-Load', their horrific collection of covers called ‘Garage Days Re-visited’ (1996), which more or less went straight from the sales racks to the second hand stalls for those who were unfortunate enough to have bought it.

'Pin Ups' was one of the front runners of this vogue, and really, with the results perhaps it should of been the last. In between the albums 'Alladin Sane' (I973) and the magnificent 'Diamond Dogs' (1974), David Bowie split up his backing band, although he used them to record this motley collection of music. Why? I have no idea. The talents of the ‘Spiders from Mars’ are so far put down in the mix, they are hardly audible. The one thing that this record screams out for is some fiery guitar licks from the platinum haired ‘Spider from Mars’ Mick Ronson, instead he is so far down in the mix, he is barely audible. The same applies to the rest of the band. The rhythm section that was so solid on 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' sounds as though they have had their amplifiers stolen. Mike Garson's piano is used only to help fill out the chorus. The only lead instrument that blares forward at the front of the mix on almost every song is David Bowie’s saxophone, blowing up a very amateurish storm. What a waste.

Maybe the biggest problem with ‘Pin Ups’ is that these ten songs, probably David Bowie's most favorite songs from the early sixties, may not necessarily suit his style? And can he pull it off? (Don't forget, David Bowie and ‘The Spiders from Mars’ did a marvelous cover of the Stones classic 'Let’s Spend the Night Together' on the band’s previous album 'Alladin Sane') The answer to both questions is definitely “no”.

The song selection is second to none, but with the instruments pushed so far down in the mix, all the songs rely upon Bowie’s voice. In parts it works. The re-hash of the Merseys 'Sorrow' is a lovely little love song, which gave David Bowie a Top Ten hit and much needed writing royalties to the 'Merseys' songwriters Feldman/Konrad/Stavely/James/Karlson. Bowie even manages to out weird Syd Barret on Pink Floyd's 'See Emily Play'.

But these are the only two songs in the positive column. When David Bowie tries to sing the songs of some of Britain's finest vocalists like Roger Daltrey of the Who, Phil May of the Pretty Things, and the great Van Morrison, who in the sixties led 'Them', then there is no doubt, Bowie just has not got the chops for it. The two Who songs should have Bowie up in musical court for murder. The Pretty Things anthem ‘Don't Bring Me Down' does bring you down in Bowie's hands. One wonders ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone?’ when Bowie launches into this Kinks classic, such is the lack of enthusiasm of all those involved. And this was the song left to close the set before two wretched bonus tracks were added for the CD release. If you are a Bruce Springstein fan, please do not listen to Bowie’s version of ‘Growin' Up’.

The ultimate disaster though is reserved for the Yardbirds classic 'Shapes Of Things'. The song sounds as though having lost the services of Eric Clapton. The rest of the Yardbirds decided to replace Clapton with not Jeff Beck, but the Camp Kenneth Williams from the Carry-On series. Has to be heard to be believed.

The artwork for the cover says a lot, a nice picture of David Bowie with Twiggy on the front cover. Then inside more pictures of the man himself mostly with the offending saxophone or wearing the most ludicrous pair of trousers. But - tellingly - no mention or picture of any other musician connected to the album. Probably they did not want to be associated with it.

The following year Bowie came out with the magnificent ‘Diamond Dogs’ and all was forgiven, but ‘Pin Ups’ was a positive disaster. Best to avoid this little bump on Bowie's rise to superstardom.


Pinned up by Mott the Dog
Stretched out by Ella Crew


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