David Bowie – Pin-Ups

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

  • A stunning copy of this Classic Bowie album from 1973 with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides have phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic, thanks to the engineering of Ken Scott
  • The bottom end is huge, as would be expected from anything Ken recorded, and if you don’t believe me, check out Baby You’re a Rich Man off MMT
  • A really fun listen, with Bowie running through covers of his favorite Sixties hits in true Demo Disc sound
  • Turns out he’s a great interpreter, turning in passionate versions of songs by The Who, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds and more

The music on this album is wonderful. Bowie puts a unique spin on tracks originally played by The Who, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd and other British rockers. It’s a fun, intriguing album that stands up well to repeated plays. Bryan Ferry did the same thing in 1973 with some of his favorite pop songs. Oddly enough both albums entered the charts on the very same day in November of that year.

The sound is lively and full-bodied with nice transparency throughout. Bowie’s voice sounds correct and the bottom end is huge, as would be expected from anything Ken Scott recorded, and if you don’t believe me check out Baby You’re a Rich Man off MMT.

The bass here is deep and not nearly as sloppy as on most copies. Listen to the vocals, which sound just right and have lots of texture to them. The harmonica on I Wish You Would is AMAZING. When has a harmonica ever sounded so rich and full? You’ll also want to check out the sax solo on Sorrow, which just plain ROCKS.

So what were some of the worst copies we heard? One was a British Original, believe it or not. They tend to be dull, thick, and lifeless — not a good match for this punky, energetic material. There are some very good sounding Brit originals but, having said that, to date they have never won a shootout.

On the other side, many of the other copies we heard were bright and grainy. It’s tough to find a copy that strikes the right balance, but this copy sure did.

What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Pinups

  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ken Scott in this case — would have put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.

Ken Scott, Engineering Genius

The amazing KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century (all Top 100), as well as All Things Must Pass, Truth, Birds of Fire, Son Of Schmilsson, America’s debut and many more is the man responsible for the sound here. It should go without saying that this is one seriously talented guy! (He also co-produced the album.)

The kind of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness that he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s, not to mention sound that is remarkably spacious and practically free from distortion — qualities that are especially important to us Big Speaker guys who like to play their records good and loud –has rarely been equaled by anyone in the years that’ve followed (even by Ken).

As noted above, many of his best recordings can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums, limited to the titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to hear Ken speak at an AES meeting here in Los Angeles. I won’t bore you by trying to recap his talk, but if it ever comes out on youtube or the like, you should definitely check it out. The Behind-The-Scenes discussion of these artists and their recordings was a thrill for someone like me who has been playing and enjoying the hell out of most of his albums for more than forty years.

Bowie, writing in his own hand, describes Pin Ups this way:

These songs are among my favourites from the “64–67” period of London.

Most of the groups were playing the Ricky-Tick (was it a ‘y’ or an ‘i’?) – Scene club circuit (Marquee, eel pie island la-la).

Some are still with us.

Pretty Things, Them, Yardbirds, Syd’s Pink Floyd, Mojos, Who, Easybeats, Merseys, The Kinks.

Love-on ya!

A1 & B3: Originally performed by The Pretty Things A2: Originally performed by Them A3 & B4: Originally performed by The Yardbirds A4: Originally performed by Pink Floyd A5: Originally performed by The Mojos A6 & B5: Originally performed by The Who B1: Originally performed by The Easybeats B2: Originally performed by The Merseys B6: Originally performed by The Kinks

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rosalyn (Pretty Things) 
Here Comes the Night (Them)
I Wish You Would (The Yardbirds)
See Emily Play (Pink Floyd)
Everything’s Alright (The Mojos)
I Can’t Explain (The Who)

Side Two

Friday on My Mind (The Easybeats)
Sorrow (The Merseys)
Don’t Bring Me Down (Pretty Things)
Shapes of Things (The Yardbirds)
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (The Who) 
Where Have All the Good Times Gone! (The Kinks)

AMG Review

A brace of ’60s British hits… Pin Ups was an artistic statement, of sorts, with some thought behind it, rather than just a quick album of oldies covers to buy some time, as it was often dismissed as being. In the broader context of Bowie’s career, Pin Ups was more than an anomaly — it marked the swan song for the Spiders From Mars and something of an interlude between the first and second phases of his international career; the next, beginning with Diamond Dogs, would be a break from his glam rock phase, going off in new directions. It’s not a bad bridge between the two, and it has endured across the decades.

Leave a Reply