With The Rolling Stones having played the most anticipated set of the festival season recently, it is remarkable to see how a bunch of mates can keep a band going through half a century whilst attracting generation after generation of new fans. 50 years as a band is something to be admired by everyone and so with all the publicity focussed on the Stones, I decided to focus on another band celebrating the big 50 with a series of reunion gigs this year, The Pretty Things.
Forming in 1963 The Pretty Things grew in infamy due to their visceral live shows playing electrifying Rhythm and Blues with a ferocious snarl. As The Rolling Stones began taking off with their excellent song writing skills and bad boy image, The Pretty Things had the skills but living the bad boy lifestyle hindered their careers. When Mick Jagger and co. were causing outrage by publicly urinating, The Pretties’ roadie was calming down a riotous crowd with a sawn off shotgun. As The Stones began breaking America on their tour, The Pretties received a lifetime ban from New Zealand whilst touring after drummer Viv Prince started a fire on an airborne plane. The Pretty Things caused enough scandal amongst the public to be discussed in the Houses of Parliament. There are enough stories which were not immortalised by journalists but clouded in the mists of time to create an air of legend and mythology around these deserving-of-the-title rock stars.
Whilst the lifestyle may not have been granted the coverage from the press the stories merited, the music certainly was not appreciated by the number of people it so richly warranted, although a devout follower of the group was a young David Jones, who gave a polite nod to the influence they gave when he recorded “Rosalyn” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” as the world famous David Bowie.
‘S.F.Sorrow’ showed The Pretty Things’ forward thinking when they recorded the world’s first rock opera at Abbey Road studios whilst The Beatles recorded ’Sergeant Peppers’ and Pink Floyd recorded ’Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ in 1967, yet the credit was given to The Who’s ’Tommy’, released a year after ‘S.F.Sorrow’. Frustrations grew and band members came in and out continuously. Their album ’Parachutes’ in 1970 being the highest charting since their self-titled début in 1963 gave the band critical praise which unfortunately failed to materialise into purchases. Further albums were released yet management unsuccessfully promoted them to the extent that The Pretties began fading from not only public consciousness but also that of the fans too.
50 years from the beginning of The Pretty Things, guitarist Dick Taylor, who was a member of a primitive version of The Rolling Stones surely could not have envisioned two more juxtaposed paths for two bands to have taken. But whilst he may be envious of the financial comfort of the Glastonbury headliners, surely it is a luxury he was willing to forego to be part of one of the best sagas in rock and roll ever. As he stands amongst his band mates on their UK dates, I really hope he sees fresh faces in the audiences, knowing they will take on the stories and music to the next generation and continue the legacy of The Pretty Things.
If there’s one gig you go to this summer, I implore it to be a Pretties one, you will not regret it.
Post by Sam