Written by: Pete Townshend
Recorded: October 2000
Producers: David Bowie, Mark Plati
Released: 4 June 2001
David Bowie: vocals, keyboards, Stylophone
Mark Plati: guitar, bass guitar, vocals
Sterling Campbell: drums, vocals
As the Toy recording sessions drew to a close in October 2000, David Bowie recorded a version of The Who’s 1967 hit ‘Pictures Of Lily’ for a tribute album to the band.
Rather glam, actually. We slowed it down quite a lot – I’m pleased to say that Pete liked it, so that makes me pretty happy. Did I mention it also features Stylophone? Well it does! And you can’t stop me!
BowieNet live chat, 31 October 2000
The recording was released in June 2001 on the tribute album Substitute: The Songs of The Who, which also featured Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, Phish, Paul Weller, Fastball, Stereophonics, Ocean Colour Scene, Cast, Unamerican, and The Who themselves.
Bowie reportedly joined the project at the request of Pete Townshend, who had performed on the Scary Monsters track ‘Because You’re Young’. In the winter of 2001 the two men collaborated once again, on ‘Slow Burn’ on the Heathen album.
‘Pictures Of Lily’ was recorded by The Who in April 1967, and released as a UK single later that month. An anthem about teenage lust, self-pleasure, and pinups from a bygone age (identified variously by Townshend as Lillie Langtry and Lilian Baylis), it peaked at number four on the UK charts, and was a top 10 hit in Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Bowie’s version was taped at Looking Glass Studios in New York, and featured just him, Mark Plati, and Sterling Campbell. The tempo was slowed from the original, just as Bowie had done on his 1973 cover of The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’.
The band for the new songs was a scaled down version of the ‘Toy’ band – Sterling Campbell on drums, David on stylophone and keyboards, and myself on guitars and bass (essentially, the folks who live in NYC). The first thing we tried was a version of ‘Pictures of Lily’ for a Who tribute record, an idea which had been kicking around for a few months. David’s concept was to do this song half time, there wasn’t any point in trying to ape the Who version. We did the entire thing in an afternoon, complete with stylophone solo and football hooligan chanting courtesy of the three of us (through the magic of overdubbing, it was around 30 of us in the end).
‘Pictures Of Lily’ was also the final song on Re:Call 5, a compilation of his non-album singles, single versions, remixes and b-sides included in the 2021 box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001).