Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- Two superb sides each rating a sonic grade of Double Plus (A++), a truly killer pressing that can really rock when it needs to - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Both sides are huge, clear and rich with the British Tubey Magical recorded sound of 1973, thanks to the engineering of Ken Scott
- A really fun listen, with Bowie running through covers of his favorite 60s 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
- He brings a fresh perspective to this material, just as Bryan Ferry did so brilliantly on his first two solo albums
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Listen to the vocals, which sound just right and have lots 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. 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. And it's German.
You don't need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who've experienced top quality analog pressings of Ziggy Stardust or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that's the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over Pin-Ups
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.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- 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
- 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
What We're Listening For on Pinups
- 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 would 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.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
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.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
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.
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
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)
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)
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.
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