David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things…Sunday Album Cut

It’s been months since I did a Sunday album cut and I really enjoy album cuts more than hits most of the time. This is a great one to kick it off again.

This song is from my favorite album by David Bowie…Hunky Dory which contained my favorite Bowie song… Life On Mars .

David Bowie played the opening piano line and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who later became a member of Yes, took over for the rest of the song. Wakeman was also credited with performing on the Hunky Dory tracks “Life On Mars?” and “Changes.”

The album Hunky Dory peaked at #57 in the Billboard Album Charts, #43 in Canada, #30 in New Zealand, and #3 in the UK in 1971. Looks like the UK were the ones in the know here. Hard to believe this only reached #57 and #43 in the US and Canada.

Peter Noone of the Herman Hermits covered this song. That just doesn’t compute to me but he did. I have the Peter Noone version right after the Songfacts section. To give Noone credit…the song peaked at #12 in the UK in 1971.

Aphoristic reviews Hunky Dory on his David Bowie reviews…check it out.

From Songfacts

According to the book Bowie: An illustrated Record by Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, this song heralds “the impending obsolescence of the human race in favor of an alliance between arriving aliens and the youth of the present society.” All Music Guide on the other hand regards this as more of a Nietzschean lyric “invoking concepts of the ‘homo superior.'”

Uncut magazine June 2008 thought it might be interesting to get Phil May from the 1960s British band The Pretty Things to give his opinion. He told them: “I’ve always interpreted this song as a fantasy of outsiders taking over. In terms of using our name, I think we were a beacon to him. I’ve never had a conversation with him about it, but there was ‘Pretty Things Are Going to Hell’ (from 1999s hours… too. I think the phrase is a euphemism for how he saw our band when he was starting up-somebody shining a light on his situation, when for the rest of his life, he was on his own.”

He recalled to Danny Baker on his BBC Radio 5 Live show in 2017:

“David wanted it to be very simple but if I remember rightly he kept cocking up the little riff. He did a few bits of it and I did the rest. He did the beginning.”

Peter Noone covered this six months prior to the release of the Hunky Dory album. Bowie played the piano on the former Herman’s Hermits vocalist’s version, which peaked at #12 in the UK. When Noone’s recording with producer Mickie Most couldn’t match the feel of Bowie’s demo, they asked Bowie to show them how it’s done.

In a Songfacts interview, Noone said: “We tried to record it from the demo which was just David on the piano, but the piano player just couldn’t get it. We had Herbie Flowers, the world’s greatest bass player, and the best people in the studio, the best drummer and everything, but nobody could play the part that David Bowie played because David played it in F sharp. He could only play on black keys. And for normal piano players, that’s unusual and difficult. We wanted to record the song in F and nobody could do it.

Mickie said, ‘Let’s get Bowie over here.’

David comes in. Bowie says, ‘I can’t play it all the way through. I get tired. I’m not a real piano player.’

So Mickie says, ‘Let’s record one section and then we’ll cut the tape and repeat it three times.’

David says, ‘That sounds like a good idea.’

So he plays it perfectly once, everybody loves it, it’s a great version, then we repeat it. It was one of the first bits-and-pieces type of recordings. David played it great once and we worked around that. We just put the vocals on it and Mickie put some violins on it that night – I don’t know why, we didn’t need them. But he said, ‘I put some violins on it, if you don’t like it we’ll get rid of it.’ But of course they never got rid of anything if they spent money on it.”

“He could only play the song in F#, which became the new key, Noone recalled to Mojo magazine in 2011. “Suddenly with him playing the piano the song came alive. We cut it sort of half-live, I kept the original scratch vocal and they just doubled the high notes. It was mixed in 30 minutes.”

It was Bowie, said Noone, who suggested he change the line “the earth is a bitch” to “the earth is a beast” to ensure the single didn’t miss out on radio airplay.

David Bowie expert Nicholas Pegg told Q magazine this song began life with the title of “I’d Like a Big Girl With a Couple Of Melons.”

Peter Noone performed his version on the British TV series Top Of The Pops in 1971. Bowie joined him on piano, making his second appearance on the show.

Ok…I have to include Mr. Noone also

Oh! You Pretty Things

Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed
Put another log on the fire for me
I’ve made some breakfast and coffee
Look out my window and what do I see
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me
All the nightmares came today
And it looks as though they’re here to stay

What are we coming to
No room for me, no fun for you
I think about a world to come
Where the books were found by the Golden ones
Written in pain, written in awe
By a puzzled man who questioned
What we were here for
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh you Pretty Things
Don’t you know you’re driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Oh you Pretty Things
Don’t you know you’re driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the Homo Superior

Look out at your children
See their faces in golden rays
Don’t kid yourself they belong to you
They’re the start of a coming race
The earth is a bitch
We’ve finished our news
Homo Sapiens have outgrown their use
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh you Pretty Things
Don’t you know you’re driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Oh you Pretty Things
Don’t you know you’re driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the Homo Superior

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

21 thoughts on “David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things…Sunday Album Cut”

  1. Great record, and Peter Noone’s version was pretty decent. I saw Bowie twice (1987 Wembley Stadium, 1998 Wembley Stadium Netaid) and Peter Noone once (Disney Epcot, which was great you get really close and can video it 🙂 ) and not one performance had the song, doh! Mind you, Peter was playing for US audiences in the 90’s who remembered the 60’s – so that meant awful stuff like I’m Henry The Eighth I Am & Mrs Brown, rather than the much-better British hits that flopped in the US. I ought to post it on youtube sometime, that small gig….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are very fortunate to have seen Bowie…Oh Epcot…I love that place…I’ve only went once but loved it.
      It really took me by surprise to see that Noone covered it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. On guitar it’s not a big deal. I admire that you play. It’s something I really regret not learning. I have thought about picking an old used upright piano up somewhere and learning. Since I know bass guitar in particular pretty well…I thought that would help.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. just listening to the Bowie one… I think I’ve heard it once or twice, but kind of unfamiliar. Sounds ok though. did the DJ interview yesterday make you think of this (the disappearing AOR format)? Historically I find the labels more often than not get the right cuts for singles, but I could definitely pick two dozen albums or so quickly where the best tracks weren’t released as singles… and then, of course there are albums so good that most of the tracks are good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it did…I did a few of these album cuts a few months ago…I thought why not start it back… Yea I could pick some that should have been singles but back in the day they would not release as many songs as singles…so in turn they would have some on the bench that should have played.


  3. Damfine song and I love the 2nd video. I don’t hear new music even close to this good. It has form and substance and a message that transcends time. Noone’s version is ok but poppified and not in a good way.

    Liked by 1 person

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