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"Oh! You Pretty Things" is a song written by David Bowie in 1971 for the album Hunky Dory. It opens with only piano and Bowie's vocal, before entering the catchy refrain. The simple piano style has been compared with The Beatles' "Martha My Dear".[1][2] Thematically, the song has been seen as reflecting the influence of occultist Aleister Crowley,[1] philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche,[3] and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1871 novel Vril, the Power of the Coming Race,[4] and heralding "the impending obsolescence of the human race in favour of an alliance between arriving aliens and the youth of the present society".[2]

"Oh! You Pretty Things"
Song by David Bowie
from the album Hunky Dory
Released17 December 1971
RecordedTrident Studios, London, early summer 1971
GenreGlam rock
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)Ken Scott, David Bowie
"Oh You Pretty Thing"
Oh You Pretty Thing single cover.jpg
Single by Peter Noone
B-side"Together Forever"
Format7" single
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)Mickie Most

The song was first released by Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, in a single on which Bowie played piano. It became a #12 hit in mid-1971. Noone replaced Bowie's line "The Earth is a bitch" with "The Earth is a beast", in a performance that NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray opined to be "one of rock and roll's most outstanding examples of a singer failing to achieve any degree of empathy whatsoever with the mood and content of a lyric".[5]



Live versionsEdit

  • A performance of the song by Bowie and Mick Ronson as a duo, broadcast on the BBC show Sounds of the 70s: Bob Harris in September 1971, was released on the Japanese edition of the 2000 release Bowie at the Beeb and on the 2016 vinyl version of that album.[8]
  • Bowie played the song at the BBC show Johnny Walker Lunchtime Show on 22 May 1972. This was broadcast in early June the same year and in 2000 was released on Bowie at the Beeb; it was also issued as a promo single in France in 2000.
  • A live version recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, on 3 July 1973 was released on the album Ziggy Stardust – The Motion Picture in 1983. This version of the song was a part of a medley with "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" and "All the Young Dudes".

Other releasesEdit

Cover versionsEdit


  1. ^ a b David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.115
  2. ^ a b Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: pp.40-41
  3. ^ David Sheppard (2007), MOJO 60 Years of Bowie: p.24
  4. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (27 September 2011). The Complete David Bowie. California: Titan Books. ISBN 9780857682901. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  5. ^ Carr & Murray (1981): p.117
  6. ^ "Rick Wakeman reveals he played piano on David Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things" - Uncut". 17 January 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Bowie or Wakeman piano mystery". 14 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017 – via
  8. ^ "Bowie At The Beeb vinyl box out now". 26 February 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  9. ^ Harvey, Michael (19 January 2007). "The Old Gray Whistle Test - 8 February 1972". The Ziggy Stardust Companion. Retrieved 29 January 2011.

External linksEdit