Whether you’re new to Bowie, or already a fan, every new release, reinvention, and re-appreciation of the Thin White Duke inevitably sends us back his brilliant run of albums in the ’70s, including The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Aladdin Sane, and one record many people seem to have forgotten: 1973’s Pin Ups. We feel like it’s our mission at Trunkworthy to turn you on to (or remind you of) one of the greatest Spiders from Mars albums of all time.
Pin Ups was hatched as a way to introduce Bowie’s audience to songs recorded by fellow English acts he loved, including Pink Floyd, The Mojos, Them, Pretty Things and The Easybeats. “These songs are among my favourites from the’64-’67 period of London,” he wrote in the liner notes.
They weren’t the artists that made him pick up a guitar, but, in some cases, his friends and definitely his contemporaries. Imagine if Jack White did a covers album that sidestepped 1920s gutbucket blues for songs by The Black Keys, Ted Leo and the Drive-By Truckers, and you get a sense of what the Thin White Duke was after.
Bowie wasn’t the first to release a covers album, but Pin Ups was one of the earliest ones by a rock artist, and to this day, it’s still one of the best. Why? Well, even if it didn’t represent the last studio album by his classic backing band, The Spiders from Mars, it’s a must-have because Bowie didn’t just go for the easy score. No, he Ziggy’d the hell out of every track, enveloping each song in starman charisma and panic-in-Detroit urgency.
And Bowie being Bowie, he didn’t pick the obvious hits either. Bowie wasn’t just tipping his space helmet to early influence, but breathing new life into songs from his musical peers, and, in some cases—hell, pretty much every case—besting them.
With studio technology unavailable to the original artists, including multitrack recording and stacks and stacks of Marshall amps to give it that signature Spiders glam metal punch, you might mistake this for another Bowie story cycle.
The fuzzed-out, filthy Mick Ronson guitar grind combined with the bull-rush Trevor Bolder bass on The Kinks’ thug rocker “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” sounds like it could be a sequel to such Bowie standards as “Watch That Man” or “Suffragette City.” Check out the glam-punky “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” where Bowie’s soul shouting and the Spiders’ psychedelic thunder reshape The Who’s seeker into . . . just pure Bowie. This is a band at their peak, putting their stamp on their generation’s songs with glimpses of past and future Bowie: hippie, punk, minimalist, pop star and . . . whatever period we’re in now.
Here is Bowie introducing you to British Invasion acts like The Yardbirds and Them (featuring Van Morrison) courtesy of his sound and vision, from Ronson’s barreling, lunatic fringe solos to the complete psychedelic transformation of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” into a sensual, seductive soul stroll.
This is the capstone to the Spiders era, and it is a fitting finale, a glitter metal masterpiece as provocative as any of the band’s previous offerings. Revel in the discovery of Aussie rockers The Easybeats’ 1966 mod hit “Friday On My Mind.” With a hitch of panic in his voice and a proto-punk arrangement that introduces an edge of danger, Bowie takes lyrics like “Tonight, I’ll spend my bread/Tonight, I’ll lose my head” and makes them seem like a warning rather than a daydream.
Sometime-actor Bowie doesn’t just sing these songs, he truly performs them like they were another Ziggy fantasia, giving each one a character and unique voice that you can almost picture in your mind.
So, if you loved albums like The Man Who Sold the World, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy and Aladdin Sane, or even modern-day garage and mod rock revivalists like Oasis, The White Stripes and The Greenhornes, Pin Ups is the great lost Spiders album you have to add to your collection