Reissues: Sorrow

Can Pin Ups be redeemed? Arguably the least popular of Bowie’s Seventies albums (see the reader poll last year, in which only five songs out of the album’s 12 tracks even got votes), it feels overdue for someone to make a claim for it besides Greil Marcus, who called it Bowie’s “quirky triumph” decades ago.

For me, Pin Ups still sounds, as it did when I first heard it in the late Eighties, like a scattershot record whose occasional brilliant moments are overcrowded by adequate but uninspired renditions of songs that Bowie couldn’t quite master. I’ve come to appreciate how good it sounds—it’s Ken Scott’s brightest production—and the playing’s top-notch, as you’d expect.

So here’s a revisit to one of the album’s highlights, in which I make the case for the superiority of its contemporary rival, Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things (Stephen Ryan, who proofread a lot of the book, wasn’t convinced, to put it mildly–I’ve gotten other “really?” comments over the years).

Anyhow, reconsider Pin Ups if you’d like. I’m on vacation: see you in late July!

Originally posted on 4 August 2010, it’s “Sorrow”:

Sorrow (The McCoys, 1965).
Sorrow (The Merseys, 1966).
Sorrow (Bowie).
Sorrow (Bowie, 1980 Floor Show, 1973).
Sorrow (Bowie, live, 1974).
Sorrow (Bowie, live, 1983).

Weeks before Bowie recorded Pin Ups in France, Bryan Ferry cut a covers album in London. This was Ferry’s first solo record, made as Roxy Music was entering a less anarchic second edition without Brian Eno. Learning that Bowie was doing his own covers album, Ferry grew agitated, reportedly calling Pin Ups “a rip-off,” a charge with some heft, given that Bowie would steal the look of Roxy Music’s saxophonist Andy Mackay for the album sleeve.

Though some biographies have Ferry considering having his label file an injunction to prevent Pin Ups from being issued before his record, reality was apparently more polite. After some negotiations between managers, Bowie called Ferry, purportedly to ask permission to record a Roxy Music song (“Ladytron”) but also to drop the news about Pin Ups. “He’d heard that I was doing this thing and that he was going to do something similar,” Ferry told David Buckley. Ferry had to admire what Mick Rock called Bowie’s “marvelous street instinct.” “There doesn’t seem to be any great self-doubt there,” Ferry said. “Whereas I’m always riddled with doubts and self-criticism and God-knows-what.”

Ferry needn’t have worried. These Foolish Things is what Pin Ups could have been: bolder in ambition and scope (Ferry took on the heavyweights: Elvis, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones), its arrangements fresher, its execution more consistent. Ferry considered his covers as Dadaist “readymades,” interpreting each song in a glam rococo style, singing in what Greil Marcus called his “Dracula-has-risen-from-the-grave voice” and backed by a female chorus seemingly recruited from an Andy Williams session.

It wasn’t cheap parody. Ferry strove to keep each song’s dignity intact within its new casing (his “It’s My Party” is tragic). Where Bowie stuck with the point of view of the macho teenage Mod, Ferry was catholic in tone, singing from female and male perspectives, elevating “trashy” songs and lowering “serious” ones. He made “Sympathy for the Devil” a Vegas revue number and sang “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” at a gallop, filling it with “grand camp gestures that the song just had to lie down and take,” as Robert Forster wrote, and left the Dylan original in flames. Ferry closed the record with its title song, a straight cover of Maschwitz/Strachey’s standard. It was the legend to his map: a song of how the ephemeral contains the eternal.

The Pin Ups track most worthy of These Foolish Things, and one of the few enduring pieces of music from its sessions, was Bowie’s version of “Sorrow.” Like “I Wish You Would,” it was a second-generation interpretation (Bowie covering the Merseys’ take on the McCoys’ original), with Bowie purpling a Romantic revision of a grungy teenage blues.

Written in 1965 by Richard Gottehrer, Bob Feldman and Jerry Goldstein, “Sorrow” was the B-side of “Fever,” a single from the McCoys, an Indiana garage band led by Rick Derringer. It wasn’t much of a song, a clichéd lyric over three chords that Derringer sang sheepishly, swallowing “sorrow” like a pill. Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley, as the Merseys, transformed the song when covering it the following year. Opening the track with a bowed bass, the Merseys met insistence— jangling guitar and piano—with a hollowed-out longing. Crane and Kinsley, singing close harmonies, let the last syllable of “sorrow” hang in the air and circled obsessively over two phrases, the title line and “your long blonde hair.” The Merseys’ “Sorrow” hit #4 in Britain and was treasured by the likes of George Harrison, who quoted its opening lines in his “It’s All Too Much.”

Mick Ronson’s arrangement for Bowie’s “Sorrow” took the choicest bits of the Merseys’ and subtly improved them. He made the Merseys’ bowed bass a solitary violin, in line with how the opening verse was just Bowie, his 12-string acoustic guitar (its only appearance on the album), Trevor Bolder’s bass and Mike Garson’s processed piano. The Merseys’ half-bar-delayed harmony vocals became a hall of Bowie mirrors; their piping trumpets and trombones became a ruminative saxophone break: a baritone harmonic base and a tenor melodic line. Ronson’s scoring for strings rivaled his work on Hunky Dory, from the long-held high notes in the ultimate verse (matching Bowie’s gorgeous leap of an octave) to the waltz patterns that sweep through the last refrain.

As a last pip, Bowie’s “Sorrow” had a thirty-second F major outro, where Garson on electric piano worked a new melody until the fade consigns him to silence. It paralleled how Bowie had moved the lyric to the past tense—the disaster’s over and he’s left trying to pick up the pieces.

Recorded 9-31 July 1973, Château d’Hérouville, and released as a single in October 1973 (RCA 2424 c/w “Amsterdam,” #3 UK). On Pin Ups, it was sequenced between the garish “Friday On My Mind” and the brutal “Don’t Bring Me Down” (whose opening guitar riff kills off “Sorrow”‘s fadeout). Bowie performed it in his “1980 Floor Show” (with Roxy Music cover model Amanda Lear as the heartbreaker) and in his 1974 and 1983 tours.

48 Responses to Reissues: Sorrow

  1. Jason Das says:

    Bowie’s “Sorrow” is great. Perhaps my favorite cover of his? Great arrangement and performance. I never noticed how great it is til I got the single (in a clutch that included a bunch of Bryan Ferry 45s, coincidentally). It’s a really well-mastered single and the song works better without the rest of Pin Ups around it. I think it also helps that, relative to my experience, it was more obscure than a lot of the rest of Pin Ups.

    “It’s All Too Much” has always felt like a powerful link to me. I heard that and Bowie’s “Sorrow” long before I could hear the Merseys or the McCoys. It’s one of the Beatles’ wilder tracks and about as obscure as Beatles song can be. I imagine Bowie dug it, and I dug that.

    • Robert Welsh says:

      I was 12 years old and my pocket money was £0.50 per week or about enough for 40 cigs, my brother got “Pin Ups” and didn`t hardly play it but it being the only Bowie album in the house I hardly had it off the turntable, I love all these tracks and was too young to have heard the originals which artists I then became aware of; I also found out later about the “Spiders” demise and the transition thru “Diamond Dawgs”, “David Live” (Diamond Dawgs Tour), arriving on the Soul Train with “Young Americans”.
      When you look at it like that, it is a decent starting point for the trajectory that left the Ziggy character behind, plus I then had the consolation of the previous albums to keep me going while anticipating the new material. I still love putting it on full volume and singing at the top of my voice, “won`t you tell me, where have all the good times gone???”

  2. sakura_starfall says:

    One of my favourite Bowie vocals….and those strings!!!

    • Robert Welsh says:

      When you read about that time, he had just self taught string arrangement from “the Observers Book of Orchestral Arrangement” apparently, unlikely as it sounds these were really informative books and I self taught piano from “the Observers Book of Piano” where I soon learned how to transpose piano to guitar aka Bowie & Beatles busking books.

  3. Zach Hoskins says:

    I remember this post–this is what got me to listen to These Foolish Things. I think I still prefer to listen to Pin Ups, personally, but that might be a personal preference toward Bowie’s more swaggering brand of camp than anything else; you make a strong case for These Foolish Things as an album with a stronger vision.

  4. Wayne Berry says:

    I would like to add it seems sadder since his death. i’ve sure heard it a whole lot more times since Bowie’s death than in any of the previous 30 or 40 years.

  5. jbacardi says:

    I like Pinups a lot more than you; perhaps it’s because the album, which I first heard in ’73 at age 13, was my first exposure to all those songs- I was just starting out on the road to my music obsessions, and had yet to get acquainted with a lot of the musicians covered, even the Who (I had heard one or two tracks, perhaps- I knew who they were, maybe I had Quadrophrenia by then) and Pink Floyd (I knew Dark Side but little else). “Sorrow” was my gateway to Bowie; when I saw the 1980 Floor Show on American TV, it was the track that grabbed me the hardest, and so I searched Pinups out and devoured it as soon as I got it. From a purist standpoint, having heard all the source tracks by now, yeah, I see your point on many of DB’s versions. But to this day Bowie’s versions inform my listening to, say, “I Can’t Explain”. I also think Pinups was an arranging triumph for Mick Ronson; his genius is all over every track, even the ones he didn’t play much guitar on.

    That said, if I give Pinups a B, then I’d have to give These Foolish Things an A. Ferry was at the top of his game and it’s an amazing listen, 40 years on.

    • Jaf says:

      That’s pretty much my experience of Pinups as well. I was 14 when it came out and I loved it instantly (and still do). I had never heard any of the songs before so this, rather like Lennon’s Rock & Roll a couple of years later, was my introduction to a goldmine of classic songs from the past.

      One of the high points of the David Bowie Is exhibition (apart from me being in it! I’m in one of the videos) was seeing his suit from Pinups complete with sax. I wanted a suit like that sooooo bad when I was a teenager.

      Agree about the Ferry album as well, it’s stood the test of time remarkably well – presumably because the songs are all such classics although Bry’s contribution shouldn’t be underestimated.

    • completely agree – i was a bowie fan already and the pinup tracks were a leader to investigating 60s mod music

  6. ragingglory says:

    Best song on Pinups no doubt, but I always enjoyed Where have all the good times gone as well.

  7. leonoutside says:

    Could it be British Bowie fans like Pin Ups more than American Bowie fans? Possibly older fans, rather than younger? I’ve been through stages not liking it, to loving it. Always liked Bowie’s Sorrow. It stood out on the Serious Moonlight tour. See Emily Play…now, there is one heck of a track. I love that track. Garson talks about it in Slapper’s biography. And, what an ending, the track has. It’s fabulous. My son’s training to be a studio engineer: “take that, son, there’s craft.” (Obviously I’m always introducing Bowie tracks and people to him). Oh, Amsterdam outtake is utterly gorgeous too.

    • col1234 says:

      a good question, which i tried to get into a bit in other PUs entries in the book. it certainly was a more popular record in the UK (one of his longest-ever #1s), in part because the orig songs were all hits where many were relative obscurities in the US.

      • Great blog entry; great song. I am a Bowie Brit and all my pals and many family members never give this album much play. It was a great success due to timing at the peak of his UK popularity before hopping over to the US for his mid-late 70s Stateside ‘hits’ (Young Americans, etc).

        Overall, Bryan Ferry’s album is much better by comparison, but Ferry’s “self-doubt” meant that he got rather stuck in this mode for the next 40 years and never perfected a better covers album before breaking through into his late phase jazz phase (“Jazz Age”, “Gatsby” etc) where he truly seems to have found his voice again.

        For Bowie, Pin Ups was just another mode of expression before launching into completely new flights of brilliance with “Station” “Low” et al. I see Bowie as writing on a very broad canvas with quick impatient but inspired strokes. Ferry’s canvas was narrower, and fretted over, but sublime lyrical and melodic gifts kept him in the game.

        We love them both, always.

        ps. I played ‘Sorrow’ last night on acoustic at holiday campfire; few knew it, but everybody loved it. Cheers.

    • Greg says:

      Actually, leon, I’d guess that Americans tend to like Pin Ups more than Brits (this American likes it a lot). Most of these songs were new to me when I heard the album back in ’73 at age 14, so with the exception of the Who covers, I had nothing to compare Bowie’s versions to, better or worse. And while his gimmicky singing on too many of the tracks was off-putting (and, to some extent, remains so, though I’ve warmed up to most of it over the years) the album is a treasure for Ronson fans.The guitar sound, the arrangements and, as Chris points out, the sound itself — Ken Scott’s production is absolutely perfect for Ronson’s fuzz tones — has kept me listening to Pin Ups for decades. And “Sorrow” and “See Emily Play” deserve their spots in the Bowieverse.

      • Paul O says:

        Older American, never had any use for most of Pin Ups. Didn’t get around to adding it to my collection until after the release of Tonight, which made it look like a work of genius.

      • leonoutside says:

        I take your point. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Without a comparison, they can’t be better or worse and are all fresh, original. Hell yea, re Ronson. For me, it’s the precious Ronno-Garson combo. Lou Reed always said he could never comprehend what Ronson said. I wonder if Garson had same problem? I guess Garson could understand him.

    • Jason Das says:

      I know at least one older (than me) music aficionado who’s mentioned Pin Ups as the only Bowie he likes. A lifelong New Yorker, was maybe too cool for Bowie by the time he would have encountered him in the early 70s.

  8. Paul O says:

    I always forget that this is on Pin Ups. I like it that much. 😉

  9. Pollyanna S says:

    I discovered Bowie when I was 13 via Let’s Dance (well, China Girl actually – came on the radio and I was in LOVE). The first time I ever heard Sorrow was that summer via the Serious Moonlight Tour Montreal Forum radio ‘simulcast’ (as they used to call them). I recorded the concert from the radio onto a cassette tape and listened to it every night – 2 or 3 times each night – for a year. That was my only Bowie ‘record’ till I began to learn more and more about Bowie’s work and life (not easy pre-internet!) and got my Dad to buy me a whole bunch of his albums from Singapore – where they were so much cheaper than Australia (we didn’t realise at the time they were pirated!). For years I thought Bowie himself wrote Sorrow – he really seemed to own it. I’ve heard several other versions but none as good as his. Back then Pin Ups I found PinUps to be strangely discordant and meaningless – David had set the bar pretty high – and of course I was coming at it from a ‘historians’ perspective – working backwards so cherry-picking all my favourite bits, avoiding the wait and hype – and in the case of PinUps when it was originally released, a sort of mystified disappointment. I wasn’t disappointed though – Serious Moonlight was an incredible tour – David had built up a huge body of work by then – so Sorrow from my perspective was another brilliant diamond in a mine filled with them. I do love that song – for years I was jealous of the girl in it – so I was relieved in a way that he hadn’t actually written the song; it wasn’t his heart, it was his girlfriend! (Phew)

    By the way – thank you so much for your amazing work – I read it obsessively – and for opportunity to talk about David meaningfully – I loved his work – I loved his loftiness. He taught me to be a snob. Even when his songs don’t work, he’s still trying it on – somewhere in amongst the muck is ‘high art’- I mean, even Tonight had Loving the Alien!

    • Pollyanna S says:

      PS: Though I’ve written about not understanding PinUps as a 13 year old in the 80s, I have to day that it’s long since been a favourite of mine. I read with interest the comment that PinUps was the result of a DeFries powerplay – and perhaps it was – even so some of those covers are incredibly strong. I Can’t Explain for example (The Who who?)…. It is a weirdly disjointed album – to me it’s always sounded naked and under-produced in comparison to most Bowie albums but it’s still very “David”. And disjointed or not it’s still in a whole other league in comparison to the Bryan Ferry offering. PinUps sounds like Bowie in a hurry, but “redemption” is not required – these tracks stand alone.

      • Pollyanna S says:

        Typo – should read: “I have to say”. (It’s what happens when you type from your phone late at night, lying in bed, half asleep. Bad syntax and typos – apologies)

      • Pollyanna S says:

        I think I’ve figured out why we don’t bond with PinUps as well as we should (I’ve just had another listen – it’s a good album – Bowie’s vocals are amazing as are Mick Ronson, Mike Garson et al). So here’s my theory: it’s not the songs, it’s the packaging. The photo itself is fine but it’s the wrong visual for this collection of songs. It creates a set of expectations that ultimately are not fulfilled. PinUps isn’t a Ziggy/post-Ziggy concept album – it’s Bowie the mod/rockabilly/rocker. PinUps is at its heart (musical artistry notwithstanding) a suburban rocknroll “roots” album – and the cover photo is, well, the opposite of all of those things. Maybe what they should have done is put a blowup of young Davie Jones from the King Bees on the front – we’d have got it then. Perhaps they considered something like that (David’s usually quite particular about these things) but decided to ride the Ziggy wave for just a bit longer….at least on the face of it. Ah commerce….

      • Paul O says:

        I think you’re on to something. The front cover and the title of this album got me so excited at the time…and then I played it. Major, MAJOR disappointment. It was not the (Bowie) music I needed to hear at the time, with Aladdin Sane, Innervisions and Let’s Get It On still fresh and in constant play, Selling England by the Pound and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle just released and Brain Salad Surgery, Court and Spark and Tales from Topographic Oceans on the horizon…

      • eirenehogan says:

        Oh yeah, good point about the cover. It just does not fit the music at all.

      • Pollyanna S says:

        Funny isn’t about the cover? It’s the smallest things isn’t it? On the flipside David would probably argue the cover is entirely consistent with the material as Ziggy and Twiggy were the pinups of their day and the material on the album is by his pinups. He’d have a point but a bit too esoteric for rockabilly!

  10. eirenehogan says:

    I agree with you, Chris. I remember at the time, being a total Ziggy freak, I was so disappointed with Pinups, perhaps apart from Sorrow, and that I only begrudgingly liked. Yet Bryan Ferry’s album I really enjoyed. A far better album. why? Well, for one I felt it was a massive improvement on the older Roxy Music over-the-top modernistic music, and it was also in a 70s style and in Ferry’s own style, not some poor attempt at redoing 60s music. To me Pinups was Bowie’s attempt at being the pop star he wanted to be in the 60s, where Ferry’s album was a genuine 70s reinterpretation. Just my humble opinion. I guess I was coloured by the disappointment of Bowie’s ‘retirement’ and the enjoyment of the emerging more accessible Ferry style.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Since I get a namecheck in the intro to this entry I feel somewhat obliged to comment (I’m using a new computer so I’ll probably appear as anonymous).

    Funnily enough Pin Ups has been the album I have listened to most this year having rarely played it in the past despite owning it in 1973. I’m not sure why it’s so appealing (comforting?) now, something about it being very Bowie in sound but not in content.

    The sound of the whole album is great and you can really feel the challenge of Roxy Music in almost all the arrangements. Sorrow was never one of my favourites but what do I know? I absolutely love “I can’t explain”.

    A pity the wooden dialogue was edited from the 1980 Floor Show video clip!

    • Brilliant comment – “very Bowie in sound but not in content.” Hard for me to listen to DB for first half of 2016 for his content is no longer with us as a living breathing force – reproduced, yes, but no more engaging with (this) world. So yes, listening to Pin Ups makes perfect sense.

      And “feel the challenge of Roxy Music in almost all the arrangements.” Excellent insight. Cheers!

  12. raw moon says:

    I read bowie’s manager at the time, tony defies, was unhappy with RCA’s reluctance to fully underwrite the upcoming U.S. Aladdin tour dates. This makes sense since RCA basically lost their shirt with the outrageous Mainman spending from the prior U.S. Ziggy tour. I also have read Bowie was pretty frazzled at this point, so he was relieved to hear of the scheme. In order to put negotiations back in their favor and give Bowie a much needed break from touring, the plot was to ‘retire’ Bowie from stage and original recordings. Defries bluffed RCA in that there would be no more original content. However, to fulfill his contract, Bowie would continue to record albums – just not Bowie songs. Pin Ups was an exercise in showing RCA that defries meant business. The contract was renegotiated and put defries back in the drivers’ seat for the lavish 1974 Diamond Dogs tour.

  13. jimi27 says:

    I don’t know how Bryan Ferry’s ‘These Foolish Things’ can be considered to trump (uh … sorry …) Pinups by Bowie. Pinups has always been to me (since it’s release date until right now) a solid album of covers. Each cover is better than the original, with Bowie and band sonically, electrically, and rhythmically **nailing** each of them … **pinning** them to the wall. Production values for Pinups are … in a word … ELECTRIC. The work by Ferry seems, to my ear, frail and meaningless, with the vocals sucking the life out of the originals. Not that I dislike Ferry at all …I just would never think to compare the two albums, except for the allegation that Bowie stole Ferry’s album intention.

  14. Bowietie daddy says:

    Please, Bowie Heads, admit that Ferry won this one. The Dylan cover maybe is the greatest thing ever made to a serious classic.
    I love the Pin Ups photos and sound, but I can’t love it, although I tried and tried.
    It’s a mistery to me what’s the artistic relationship between Ferry and Bowie. I think David “covered” Ferry in some songs, but I don’t know if that was mockery or true admiration.

    • eirenehogan says:

      I agree. Now I think about it, ‘Sorrow’ does sound a bit like he is covering Ferry’s style.

      • Bowietie daddy says:

        Yeah, just imagine David pulling those Ferry faces while singing this one. And the music is pure Roxy.

    • Pollyanna S says:

      Hell, never! Jokes aside, I’ve never thought about it before, but Bowie probably was doing a Ferry on Sorrow now that you mention it. Having said that – and apologies for being a predictable Bowie Head – I actually think he does a better Ferry than Ferry himself – certainly more memorable! 😉

  15. smallritual says:

    I still like Pinups – especially side 1. Even though it’s far from perfect. As a 14 yr old fan at the time, I can hardly be objective. After the ‘last thing we’ll ever do’ scare it was a blessed relief – Bowie’s *first* comeback!

    With hindsight Pinups may seem like a ‘filler’ album, but at the time we were hungry for product and simply greeted it as the next instalment of Bowie’s developing sound – hard-rocking, flash, theatrical. If you take away knowledge of the future, there is a sci-fi / rock trajectory from MWSTW through Pinups to Diamond Dogs (most people only heard MWSTW *after* they had heard Hunky Dory) which formed our understanding of what kind of an artist Bowie was. Hence the shock and unease with which many British fans, at least, greeted Young Americans. The idea of Bowie as a cultural chameleon who always changes direction took hold much later – around the time of “Heroes”, maybe. “Heroes” itself would have made better sense to us as a follow-up to Diamond Dogs.

    Like Jaf, I really wanted the suit on the back cover – that was my pin-up indeed, of how to look at that moment. It was weird to actually stand in front of it at the ‘Bowie is’ show. Of course it now seems unwearable, mannered. And I’m too fat.

    • leonoutside says:

      Chameleon – now there was a Bowie album. I love the cover. And Especially the third syllable.

    • muddymouth says:

      I, too was 14 at the time of Pinups’ release, and still pissed at Bowie over the “retirement.” Then I heard his “Shapes of Things” on the radio – it so resonated with his sci-fi/rock vibe that you speak of- and I ended my boycott and ran out to buy it. Still love the off-kilter beginning of “Everthing’s Alright” and the classic Bowie vocal warble which begins “Here Comes the Night.” In fact, Pinups may well represent the peak of “pre-croon” Bowie vocals to me.

  16. jimi27 says:

    I guess I just want to say again that Pinups is a sonic, forceful pleasure. Of course it’s not Bowie creating an original artwork, he’s doing *covers* here … and nailing them much better than the originals. “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?”
    Sooo satisfying compared to the Kinks wobbly version (and I love the Kinks) …

  17. Phil Obbard says:

    “I’ve come to appreciate how good it sounds—it’s Ken Scott’s brightest production—and the playing’s top-notch, as you’d expect.” Totally agree with this. Of the 4 Ken Scott-produced LPs, this is his finest hour. I wish Ziggy had this much bass and Aladdin Sane this much care in the mix.

    As for PIN UPS, speaking as an American fan who “discovered” this LP only in the era of the Ryko reissues, I’ve always liked it. It helps, I’m sure, that quite a few of these songs were “new” to me at the time, so I wasn’t comparing them to the originals. But even where I did know the originals, Bowie brings something new to “See Emily Play” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”, for me. And I enjoy some of the lesser numbers in the same way I enjoy “Round and Round”: Bowie & Ronson jam out their old favorites.

    Also, as a NON-Who fan, I’ve always loved this take on “I Can’t Explain”, and loved the semi-reprise on “Pictures of Lily” many years later.

    All that said, I have no trouble agreeing with Ferry’s LP as the superior effort – more cohesive, more successful reinterpretations – even though I wouldn’t call myself much of a Roxy or Ferry fan overall. In fact, the only thing I don’t care for about THESE FOOLISH THINGS is the cover… a place where PIN UPS wins hands-down, with one of my favorite Bowie covers, period.

  18. Galdo. says:

    ‘Sorrow’ is really a gem. If only the rest of the album was at least as catchy as this. I like ‘See Emily Play’ because at least it’s something interesting. I can’t even raise an eyebrow for the rest of it. I guess ‘Pin Ups’ is the album I listened less in his whole discography.

  19. s.t. says:

    Tight as a bitch from the bottom up on *most* every cut.

  20. BenJ says:

    This is one of the Pin-Ups tracks that I first knew as a Bowie song. It holds up well as one too. The song is well written to begin with, which helps. Bowie’s biggest innovation is probably the multi-tracked vocal arrangement, which gives the listener something to chew on.

    I wouldn’t say Pin-Ups is a great DB album, but he had already released Aladdin Sane in the same year, so let’s not get greedy. It’s overall a fun little extra, rather uneven. “See Emily Play” is brilliant. Bowie’s version of “Here Comes the Night” not so much.

  21. Matthew says:

    Pin-Ups is an album I’d listen to whilst doing something or at work rather than sit down to. The tracks all have a great energy and when I first heard it in the late 70’s the songs were all new to me except See Emily Play. Originally Sorrow was not one of my favourite tracks but the older I get the better I like it.

  22. Jasmine says:

    Wouldn’t it have been the coolest thing to have been at the Marquee and be watching The Who, The Kinks etc, with David Bowie next to you, just a kid.
    I Can’t Explain is phenomenal for me, Bowie’s sax is a thing. Anyone seen the The Midnight Special version? I get funny feelings again and again!

  23. princeasbo says:

    An interesting illustration of the contrasting American and British approaches to art in general can be gleaned by comparing Bette Midler second album with Bryan Ferry’s no-less-camp “These Foolish Things”, which came out the same year. Both albums contain tunes from the Tin Pan Alley-era songbook, some soul covers, teen angst and a Dylan. Yet, conceptualised in a way born of decadence and a tremulous, limited singing ability, Ferry brutally (and often hilariously) recasts his covers program with a high degree of personality and perversity; whereas Midler, hampered by a reverence and technical finesse beyond Ferry, renders her version of the oldies artifice stale, at least on side two.
    Put another way: Americans use technique to arrive at a style and the British follow the precise opposite route, delighting in an aesthetic frivolity opposed to exacting and sentimental recreation. Why this is broadly (though, obviously, not always) so probably has something to do with the conditions of our respective empires, i.e. faded (UK) and just peaked (US), but that’s for another day.

  24. Ferry fan for years but got bored as his music didnt really develop. Latecomer to Bowie obsession – I knew his big hits but didnt explore him until after he died, mainly because of the outpouring of grief/praise from all across the world of music and the endless articles about him. I was 46.
    PU’s is not my favourite DB album but i still love it. Was completely bemused by it on first listening. Had just got into Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane and Ziggy and was absolutely blown away by them. Just couldnt wait to download/buy the rest of his albums but forced myself to restrict it to one album every 2 or 3 weeks so i could really soak up his work fully. Bought PU’s and was exhilarated by the cover. On first listen I was gutted. For the first time a Bowie album that didnt immediateIy make my jaw drop. I just didnt understand what is was meant to be. took months to finally appreciate it. Its now my go to Bowie album if I’m in my car on a motorway (freeway to you, Chris) and just want good old rock music – loud and easy. Unlike other Bowie albums, it doesnt really vary in style or tempo so it doesnt really need much close attention to enjoy – there are no sudden surprises.

    ps – I’ve never really managed to get into It Ain’t Easy and now almost always skip iT. Shape of Things would have made a much better cover for inclusion on the Ziggy album. Just fits with the loose concept.

    pps – really enjoyed your book Chris and am awaiting the second volume. Have it on my bookshelf next to Nick Pegg’s (hope you don’t mind!). Only downside of your book is that it doesnt have the comments sections for debate – they really add to your already excellent blog.

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