These are all songs which really meant a lot to me then – they’re all very dear to me. These are all bands which I used to go and hear play down The Marquee between 1964 and 1967. Each one meant something to me at the time. It’s my London of the time.
Pin Ups contained twelve songs by nine groups from the 1960s. Three groups had two songs apiece: ‘Rosalyn’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ were originally by the Pretty Things; ‘I Wish You Would’ and ‘Shapes Of Things’ were by the Yardbirds; and ‘I Can’t Explain’ and ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ were by the Who.
Two songs were by non-British bands. ‘Here Comes The Night’ had been the biggest hit for the Irish group Them, featuring Van Morrison on vocals, in 1965. And the only non-European song on Pin Ups was ‘Friday On My Mind’, a 1966 hit for the Easybeats from Sydney, Australia.
Of the four remaining songs, ‘See Emily Play’ was a number six hit in the UK for Pink Floyd, and was originally released in July 1967. The album’s next song, ‘Everything’s Alright’, was released by Liverpool group the Mojos, and reached number nine in 1964 under its original title ‘Everything’s Al’ Right’. Incidentally, Pin Ups drummer Aynsley Dunbar joined the Mojos in 1964, shortly after the single’s release.
Another Liverpudlian band, the Merseys, had popularised the song ‘Sorrow’ in April 1966, when it reached number four on the UK chart. However, it was not an original composition; the song had first been recorded by an American band, the McCoys, as the b-side of their 1965 single ‘Fever’.
Pin Ups closes with a Kinks song, ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’. Written by Ray Davies, this was originally the b-side of their 1965 single ‘Till The End Of The Day’, and appeared on that year’s album The Kink Kontroversy.
The lyrics of ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’ were the only ones reproduced on the Pin Ups album insert. This suggested not only Bowie’s fondness for Davies’s song, but also the appropriateness of the lyrics – which summed up not only the distance between the mod and glam eras, but also the pressures on Bowie at the peak of his fame.
The back of the album cover featured the song titles in Bowie’s handwriting, along with his brief explanation of the song choices:
these songs are among my favourites from the ’64-67′ period of London.
Most of the groups were playing the Ricky-Tak (was it a ‘y’ or an ‘i’?) – scene club circuit.
(Marquee, eel pie island la-la)
Some are still with us.
Pretty Things 1 (1) 3 (2) Them 2 (1) Yardbirds 3 (1) 4 (2) Syds Pink Floyd 4 (1) Mojos 5 (1) Who 6 (1) 5 (2) Easybeats 1 (2) Merseys 2 (2) Kinks 6 (2)
The Ricky Tick, as it was actually called, was a club operating out of several venues in and around the Greater London area, including Windsor, Aylesbury, Hounslow and Guildford.
The Eel Pie Island Club, meanwhile, was based at the Eel Pie Island Hotel, on a small Thames island near Twickenham. Bowie performed at the club with the Manish Boys. The venue burnt down in 1971.
The album title
Although often referred to as Pin Ups, the album’s cover and spine printed the title as a single word, Pinups.
This was reiterated in the album’s insert, which carried credits for the performers and other collaborators on the project, and ended with the words: “This album is called Pinups”.
To add to the confusion, on the record’s label it was hyphenated as Pin-Ups.
Despite all this, Pin Ups was reportedly Bowie’s preferred spelling, and the way his press releases and website have rendered the title in recent years.
Pin Ups also heralded a change in the way David Bowie’s name appeared on the cover. For this and the follow-up album, Diamond Dogs, he was billed simply as Bowie. His full name, however, was included on the spine.
Pin Ups II
During the recording of Pin Ups, Bowie and his band recorded a number of other songs which went unreleased. These strayed from the 1960s mod theme, and including versions of the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ (recorded again by Bowie for the 1984 album Tonight) and the Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’.
There has long been speculation that Bowie was planning a Pin Ups II album, focusing mainly on American music, which may have included these recordings and more.
Other songs said to have been recorded at this time include Roxy Music’s ‘Ladytron’, the Stooges’ ‘No Fun’, and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’. Of these, only ‘White Light/White Heat’ was released: Mick Ronson recorded new vocals over the backing track for his 1975 album Play Don’t Worry.