34. David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things (1972)

I think it’s official — we’re through with the hairy, self-indulgent 1960s at last, and on to the sleazy, self-conscious 1970s.

If the 1960s began with an opposition in style between mods and rockers, we might say that the 1970s began with an opposition between glam rock and prog rock. (Too bad, however, there were no glam vs. prog rumbles at seaside resorts… I’d pay good money to see one of those.)

Glam was stylish, sexy, and debauched. It was interested in testing limits and pushing boundaries — lots of gender-bending, sexual ambiguity, general excess, substance abuse, camp and kitsch, blurring of high/low culture. Oddly, glam was both retro (looking back to 1950s rock’n’roll) and futurist (looking forward to space aliens and robots) at the same time. Glam looks like it was a lot of fun, but was often strange, and sometimes just plain creepy.

Prog, on the other hand, was very, very, very nerdy. So unbelievably nerdy. But let me set prog aside for a few posts so that I can do it justice, and focus instead on glam.

I’ve been looking for some great glam tracks about London to post, and it’s been surprisingly tough to find them. This puzzles me — glam was such a big thing in London, you’d think there would be a bunch of songs celebrating the glamminess of the city. Hell, even the Folk Baroque crowd (who spent half their time drinking mead and pretending it was 1432) wrote a half dozen decent songs about contemporary London. But no dice. Apparently the glam crowd was too busy thinking about androgyny, cocaine, and alien sex (maybe all three at once) to write me a few useful songs about London.

Here, however, is one excellent option to start us off: David Bowie singing about the scene — and perhaps we can quietly supply the fact that he means the scene in London.

I think Bowie’s records from the 1970s are some of the best things going. If you enjoy this, check out the other two songs from this Old Grey Whistle Test performance: Five Years and Queen Bitch.

David Bowie


4 thoughts on “34. David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things (1972)

  1. Hazel says:

    Bowie is pretty fantastic and this is probably my favorite song he did so I’m so glad you chose it. My mother actual hung out with him in a gay bar in Rochester when he came to perform there in the late 70s. Apparently he was down to earth and just ready to be mellow.

    • Cool! I’ve heard other stories like this about Bowie being totally down to earth, and they always surprise me. But then again, I suppose even aliens need to refuel sometimes…

  2. k- says:

    I wonder if your mom was with him in 1976 when he got arrested in Rochester, along wih Iggy Pop, for drug possession.

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