15 Comments (since 24 Oct 2014)
More successful for ex-'Herman's Hermit' Peter Noone (a No. 12 UK hit in 1971) than it was for its writer, "Oh! You Pretty Things" is still one of his most masterful self-recordings, and, for the true Bowie connoisseur, far superior to Noone's effort, with the toothy Sixties pop icon preferring to tone down the language a bit (instead of calling it a "bitch", as in the original lyrics, he or his management instead described the Earth as a "beast" - pretty weak as prose goes, in my opinion).
Chris O'Leary, in his blog "Pushing Ahead of the Dame", has even deeper thought to share when examining the lyrics as written by David: "... Bowie, who was about to become a father when he wrote this song, offered a funny, extravagant depiction of paternal anxiety, something of a kinder cousin to David Lynch's 'Eraserhead' (which in part was inspired by Lynch's fears after the birth of his daughter). There's as much acceptance in it as there is anxiety.
"Just listen to the way Bowie delivers the lines 'All the nightmares came today/And it looks as though they're here to stay', with a shrug, even sounding a bit cavalier (the only harsh note comes with the jarring line 'the earth is a bitch'). Wry acceptance is all one can offer when the world is so eager to leave you behind.
"After all, the world into which we are born and which forms us - its people, its colors and faces, its houses, its music and smells - dies so many years before we do, leaving us to spend much of our lives in unconscious mourning for it [Ed - here he is describing a 'nostalgia trigger']. 'Pretty Things' isn't mournful.
"It ruefully celebrates its generational turmoil, in the way of a man faintly grinning while his house is being torn down; if it's also a 'coming-out' song, as some have argued, it's from the perspective of an older man watching liberated boys cavort on a street he was afraid to be seen on.
"It marvels at the young, beautiful and allegedly revolutionary (the way Michelangelo Antonioni made two vacant pretty kids into icons in 'Zabriskie Point') and takes comfort that the kids are doomed to suffer the same displacement." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh%21_You_Pretty_Things
Great tune - fine contribution from Rick Wakeman - odd to hear it without Eight Line Poem.
Ah. This is a weird song. I recall learning it back in the early 1970s. The chorus Started on the root (Oh you) 3rd (pretty things) 6th, but the second time he does it, it's NOT the same ; he sings the same, but underplaying is 3rd (Oh you) 6th (pretty things) 4th. That blew me away as a kid, to do the same melody but change from R,III, VI to III, VI, V was thrilling! Having said that, I just checked chord sites, & they simply repeat it! I'm right; it's a Bowie trademark to surprise. Thanks!
Early Bowie was musically very interesting, and is something for which he gets little credit. We always hear about the flippin' Beatles, and Bowie is relegated to image and marketing, which is a travesty IMHO
Oh, I better mention that I'm referring more to Mick Ronson's live parts and Bowie playing this himself, than Rick's Hunky Dory part. I have no idea why, but I've seen Bowie do his own songs live in different keys, so you will see this one tabbed or chorded out in random keys ! Brill guy!
Wow. Every time. Wow.
What @daved said.
From my favourite Bowie album. Great choice.
I always think the intro is for a Beatles song ('Martha My Dear'). Fantastic song writing and performance by the pop/rock master.
Probably my FaveDave track...