I heard Bowie’s version on Deep Tracks the other night.
I was driving in the dark, on the twisty roads in the hills, and it sounded so good.
It never sounded that good before.
I bought “PinUps” and was sorely disappointed. You see I’d gotten in early, for an American, I’d been in London and Ziggy was blowing up and I bought the album and saw the band at Boston’s Music Hall before most people had any idea who he was, in less than two years he played Madison Square Garden, I was there too, but this was when it was a badge of honor to be in the know and you followed bands on the way up, Bowie ascended faster than most.
And to be honest, I found “Aladdin Sane” a disappointment. But can I say my favorite cut on that LP is the closer, the slowly-building anthem “Lady Grinning Soul”? No one ever talks about that one.
And “Diamond Dogs” was a gutter move, playing to the masses, an almost lowest common denominator endeavor that made you wonder if Bowie would ever return to form.
And then came “Young Americans.” A totally different sound, a surprise. And I still cannot listen to its biggest hit “Fame,” although I will tolerate the title track. The groove of “Fascination” hooks me, but my absolute favorite is the second side opener “Somebody Up There Likes Me. It’s the longest cut on the album, at 6:36, it starts off with a flourish, announcing the arrival of the king, and then Bowie starts to croon with emphasis, a unique combo of Englishman and James Brown, and as the track unfolds you cannot help but get on board, as Bowie gets ever more intense, throws in everything but the kitchen sink, and then you’re smiling and thrusting your arm in the air and…
That is not “PinUps.”
The problem with “PinUps” is the renditions are faithful. I thought he’d redo the originals, make them his own, but they were mostly pale imitations of his influences, sans magic. This was no Joe Cocker or Bryan Ferry reinventing what once was, this was a throwaway, which I’d paid good money for, making it so I couldn’t buy something else, and although I’m a completist, or was, before the internet, needing to own everything, I rarely spun it and was angry about it until the other night.
But the truth is even the Van Halen cover is better, that’s become the standard these days. Also kind of a cheap shot, the Dave influence, but the originals made up for the obvious remakes, then again, the band started with “You Really Got Me,” and both were Kinks songs.
They were on Warner Brothers before the label became iconic. They had giant hit singles on the radio when few people bought albums, as a matter of fact, all I had was the “Greatest Hits.” Then they stopped touring and really didn’t come back until 1970 and “Arthur” and “Victoria.” And ultimately Clive Davis made them a hit act, touring arenas, on Arista, but that was something different, that was after all the “plays,” that was after Ray Davies went on his personal hejira that most people were not paying attention to, but if you were…
Now my favorite sync on “The Sopranos,” other than Alabama 3’s opening cut, was the Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” This was not the original, but a live rendition, from the U.S. version of the album “To The Bone,” which has disappeared into the ether, it’s on no streaming service, meaning you can’t hear the incredible title track either. Tony wasn’t like everybody else, that used to be the goal, individuality, and Ray Davies was and is an individual.
Now the original “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” is the b-side of the single of “Sunny Afternoon,” which does not get the props it deserves, it’s as modern today as it was back then.
And “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” was the b-side of “Till The End of the Day.”
Well, lived my life and never stopped to worry about a thing
Opened up and shouted out and never tried to sing
Wondering if I’d done wrong
Will this depression last for long
The same depression that seems to have driven Avicii to suicide.
You don’t hear about depression in today’s hit music, everybody’s a winner, how are you supposed to identify?
That’s why music has lost its hold on popular culture, why it is not the driver, you resonate more with the people on TV.
Well, once we had an easy ride and always felt the same
Time was on my side and I had everything to gain
Let it be like yesterday
Please let me have happy days
LET IT BE LIKE YESTERDAY! How many times have you wished that???
Ma and Pa look back at all the things they used to do
Didn’t have no money and they always told the truth
Daddy didn’t have no toys
But mummy didn’t need no boys
When you’ve got nothing, oftentimes you’ve got everything. Not worried about possessions, keeping up with the joneses, you’re living on your wits, truly honestly, the more comfort you get, the more you get distracted.
Well, yesterday was such an easy game for you to play
But let’s face it things are so much easier today
Guess you need some bringing down
To get your feet back on the ground
Kinda like “Positively 4th Street.” This is a diss track. But not for the person’s personality so much as their airs, their veneer needs to be punctured so they’ll float back to earth. John Lennon did this, most famously re Paul McCartney. The English didn’t want anybody to be too big for their britches, especially if they came from nothing, like most musicians.
And now it’s no different from how it once was, in that everybody keeps wondering where have all the good times gone, people think technology killed society and they just want to go back to what once was, only in this case no one in their twenties is offering this insight, this wisdom.
Won’t you tell me, where have all the good times gone, when pop musicians had a brain and offered insight far beyond their years.