Monday, August 28, 2017

The Pretty Things

Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys was a group made up of art students and consisted of Dick Taylor (guitar), Keith Richards (guitar) and Mick Jagger (harp and vocals). When Brian Jones (guitar) joined the band Dick changed to playing bass and the group changed their name to the Rolling Stones. Soon after Dick soon was replaced by Bill Wyman. Dick Taylor meantime carried on his studies at the London Central School of Art, where he met Phillip Arthur Dennis Wadey (aka Phil May) and they formed the Pretty Things with Brian Pendleton (rhythm guitar), and John Stax (bass). The year was 1963. The Pretty Things soon had a loyal following and played a raw rhythm and blues inspired mainly by Bo Diddley (they took their name from Diddley's Pretty Thing) and Jimmy Reed. The band signed for Fontana label and the company introduced them to Viv Prince, who became their drummer. Their first three singles were dynamite, very much in the mode of 'white boy blues.' "Rosalyn", "Don't Bring Me Down", and “Honey I Need" all reached the UK singles chart in 1964-1965.

The Pretty Things epitomised the bad boy look (even more than the Stones) and were the antithesis to the clean cut, Beatles. They enjoyed great success in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the UK but failed to impact on the American charts. In retrospect this might have been more to do with poor management decisions which prevented mass exposure to the young Americans. Despite this they were to become one of the more influential forces in garage bands. Their stage act was wild and combined with edgy lyrics, like “Midnight to Six Man" defined the emerging Mod lifestyle.

In 1965 Viv Prince was fired from the band for being drunk and disorderly on a plane to Australia, his replacement was Skip Alan. A year later Brian Pendleton then John Stax decided to call it a day and were replaced by Jon Povey and Wally Waller. By the mid sixties the band became more involved with psychedelia and produced a significant concept album called S.F. Sorrow (1968).

This was the first ever rock opera which had a major influence on Pete Townshend who went on to compose Tommy, with the Who. Dick Taylor left the band soon after the release of S.F. Sorrow but their next album Parachute was also met with critical acclaim.

Towards the end of the decade the band played more progressive and hard rock and became firm favourites at festivals. To make some extra cash the band recorded a number of songs for low-budget films including What's Good For the Goose (1969), Haunted House of Horror (1969), and even a couple of soft core porn films. The tracks were later released under the name Electric Banana.

By late 1970, the Pretty Things decided to call it a day and all went their separate ways. A year later Phil May, Jon Povey, Skip Alan, Peter Tolson, and Stuart Brooks, were back playing together and signed with Warner Bros. Records. At first their music was bluesy, hard rock and early heavy metal, and then as the 80s approached their music became more punk and new wave. Throughout their career the Pretty Things would not enjoy great commercial success but undoubtedly were a major influence on other musicians from white boy blues movement of the 60s, to punk in the 70s and grunge in the 80s. The Pretty Things have reunited for occasional gigs and recordings but officially re-formed in 1999 and continue to perform to this day. No less a personage than the Thin White Duke (aka David Bowie) has cited Phil May as his inspiration, and he is not alone.

Worth a listen
Rosalyn (1964)
Don't Bring Me Down (1964)
Honey I Need (1965)
Midnight to six man (1965)

Bo Diddley
Pretty Thing (1955)

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