David Bowie: Pinups (1973)

Studio album: David Bowie
Released: October 19, 1973
Recorded:  July 8 – August 1973
Genre: Glam rock, proto-punk
Producer: Ken Scott, David Bowie

Pin-ups is the name of David Bowie's seventh studio album. Released in October 1973, all its tracks are covers of songs recorded by fellow English acts, including Pink Floyd, The Kinks, Them, Pretty Things, and The Easybeats.

It was the last studio album by his classic backing band, The Spiders from Mars. The woman on the cover with Bowie is 1960s supermodel Twiggy. The photograph was shot in Paris for Vogue magazine. Bowie used it for the album instead.

In 1973, Bowie worked on songs for an adaptation of George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He also had a few pieces intended for a play based on his now-retired Ziggy Stardust character. 

He couldn't get permission from Orwell's widow to use the book. The Orwell tunes made up the main section of his Diamond Dogs album. Rock 'n Roll with Me and Rebel Rebel, from the same LP, were meant for his stage production of the Ziggy Stardust show.

He was transitioning to his Plastic Soul phase, fully realized on "Young Americans."  But he needed an album to fulfill his record label's contract. Pin Ups was devised as a "stopgap" solution. 

 “These songs are among my favorites from the ’64-’67 period of London.”
Liner notes for Bowie's Pinups LP

Friday On My Mind 
The Easybeats

"Friday on My Mind" was recorded by the Easybeats, an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in late 1964. The song was co-written by the group's guitarists, Harry Vanda and George Young. Young is the older brother of Malcolm and Angus Young from AC/DC. 


They were the first Australian rock act to score an international hit with the 1966 single "Friday on My Mind." It was huge in Australia, where it sat at Number One on the charts for eight weeks.

Shapes of Things
The Yardbirds
"'Shapes of Things' was very much about the state of the situation 
with the Vietnam War,  so it was sort of an anti-war song."  
Jim McCarty in an  interview with Songfacts

"Shapes of Things" by the English rock group the Yardbirds was the first popular psychedelic rock song and the first record composed by the group to chart. The song reached number three in the UK and the top ten in the US and Canada.


It features Jeff Beck's use of feedback. Beck's work was groundbreaking, influencing Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix. Bass player Chris Dreja says of this song on their website"I think 'Shapes of Things' is one of the finest things the band ever did. It was the first recording done at Chess in Chicago. They just nailed our sound." 

Here Comes the Night

Them, a band from Belfast, Ireland, were still considered part of the "British Invasion."  Van Morrison was their lead singer. He left the band in 1966 to pursue a solo career.

Van Morrison & Them
Van Morrison & Them

"Here Comes the Night" was written by Bert Berns, also known as Bert Russell. He also wrote "Twist And Shout," "Hang On Sloopy," "Piece Of My Heart," and "Tell Him" by the Exciters. He produced Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Under The Boardwalk" for The Drifters.

Where Have All the Good Times Gone
The Kinks 
"I wanted to write a song my dad or relatives could sing. 
They always talked about how great it was before or during the war."
Rolling Stone interview with Ray Davies


The Kinks


"Where Have All the Good Times Gone," written by Kinks front-man Ray Davies, was inspired by the good times Davies had singing around the piano when his family would get together. The tune was initially released on a single as the B-side of "Till the End of the Day." It became an A-side after David Bowie covered it for Pin-Ups. Van Halen also covered "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" on the album Diver Down. 


Pin-ups was released in the UK on October 19, 1973, by RCA Records. It entered the UK chart on November 3, 1973, and stayed there for 21 weeks, eventually reaching Number One. It reentered the chart on April 30, 1983, this time for 15 weeks, peaking at Number 57. In July 1990, it again entered the chart, for one week, at Number 52. The lead single, a cover of the McCoys' "Sorrow," peaked at Number Three on the UK Singles Chart.
"Although many of the tracks are excellent, none stands up to the originals."
Greg Shaw of Rolling Stone 
The album is usually judged unfavorably by music critics. Their main complaint is that Bowie's covers are inferior to the originals. Reviewing the album as part of the 2015 box set Five Years (1969–1973) for Pitchfork, Douglas Wolk called it a "quick-and-sloppy covers album." He thought all the original versions were "vastly" superior, and Bowie added nothing to them. He said it didn't help that the Spiders from Mars were falling apart when recording it.

David Bowie as Aladdin Sane

Bruce Eder of AllMusic wrote: "Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane had established Bowie as perhaps the most fiercely original of all England's glam rockers, so an album of covers didn't make any sense and was especially confusing for American fans." However, Eder praised Bowie's cover of "Sorrow," arguing that it's a "distinct improvement" over the original. 

The McCoys

"Sorrow" was initially performed by The McCoys in 1965. The band is better known for their Number One hit, "Hang On Sloopy." "Sorrow" was written by Richard Gottehrer, Jerry Goldstein, and Bob Feldman, who had three US hits in the mid-1960s as The Strangeloves: "I Want Candy," "Cara-Lin," and "Night Time."

The Merseys covered  "Sorrow" for their first single using top UK session musicians: Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, Jack Bruce on stand-up bass, and Clem Cattini on drums. Their version peaked at number 4 on the singles chart in 1966.

But David Bowie's cover is the most famous. While most of the covers on Pin Ups are a 'glam' interpretation of harder-edged tunes, "Sorrow" most firmly reflects Bowie's new shift to the "Plastic Soul" sound of his "Young Americans" personae. 


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