Monday, February 2, 2015

20 Things You May Not Have Known About The Pretty Things!

Aficionados of R&B freak-outs and totally freaky psychedelia already know The Pretty Things were the nastiest, longest-haired mob of hooligans Swinging London ever belched up. They know the band was a (sort of) outgrowth of the Rolling Stones, an early form of which counted Pretty Dick Taylor as a member, and that they beat The Who to the shops with the first LP-length rock opera, and that the Pretties will soon be the focus of their very own luxurious career-spanning box set. But even the die-est hardest Pretty-o-phile may learn something new among these 20 Things You May Not Have Known About The Pretty Things!

1. Singer Phil May was raised by his aunt and uncle, and believed them to be his biological parents. Phil was devastated when sent to live with his biological mother and her new husband at the age of nine. Although this meant he became Phil Kattner for a while, he ultimately decided to permanently keep his aunt and uncle’s surname May for himself.

2. Phil May told journalist Richie Unterberger that he learned many of the lyrics to the blues and early R&R the Pretties played from the songbook Mick Jagger personally compiled in a notepad.

3. Brian Jones and Andrew Oldham’s shaky relationship probably didn’t get any better when Jones moved into the same Georgian house as Phil May, Viv Prince, Brian Pendelton, and Jones’s former bandmate, Dick Taylor, in 1964. Rolling Stones manager Oldham supposedly hated the Pretties because he considered them his clients’ direct competition.

4. Although it was soul singer J.J. Jackson who wrote “Come See Me”, the booklet of the upcoming box set Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky misidentifies the MTV VJ of the same name as its composer in a caption beneath a photo of him with Phil May and Robert Plant on “The Midnight Special”.

5. The Pretty Things were supposedly given first refusal on “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Their refusal allowed The Byrds to be the first band to cover Dylan’s classic.

6. Van Morrison and The Pretty Things were great friends and mutual admirers. Morrison once called the Pretties “One of the greatest R&B bands of all time.” True to character, May called Morrison “the dog’s bollocks” and said “he’s like a bloke who really knows where he is and doesn’t take any bullshit.”

7. The working title of the short film, “Pretty Things on Film” was “A Day in the Life of the Pretty Things”.

8. Although keyboardist Jon Povey and bassist Wally Waller would totally transform The Pretty Things’ sound with their harmonies, the first album they made after joining the band, Emotions, is nearly as devoid of harmonies as the two albums before it.

9. According to May, that low bass drone at the beginning of “Defecting Grey” is the sound of an acoustic guitar hitting the floor.

10. S.F. Sorrow started life as a Phil May short story called “Cutting Up Sergeant Time”

11. The stereo mix of S.F. Sorrow is infamously poorly balanced. The mix hits its nadir with “She Says Good Morning”. For the majority of the song, the right channel is occupied by nothing but vocals and a single, syncopated snare drum! No wonder the band stands by the mono mix.

12. According to Wikipedia, the oft-repeated legend that Parachute was selected as Rolling Stone’s Album of the Year in 1971 was started four years later by RS critic Steve Turner. According to this online article, the album’s title didn’t appear in the magazine until Stephen Holden reviewed Freeway Madness a year after the alleged honor was bestowed.

13. The Pretty Things not only recorded library songs for low-budget films under the hilariously “sixties” pseudonym The Electric Banana, but they appeared on screen in one: a 1969 sex comedy called What’s Good for the Goose.

14. Eleven years later, they returned to the screen in Roy Ward Baker’s terrifically tongue-in-cheek horror portmanteau The Monster Club where they could be seen and heard performing the reggae-ish title track. Vincent Price and John Carradine could be seen grooving along to it!


15. That David Bowie was a major Pretty Things freak should be known to anyone who has heard the two Pretties covers (“Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Rosalyn”) on his Pin-Ups album. According to Dick Taylor, Bowie’s worship went deeper than that: apparently, Bowie listed Phil May under G for “God” in his personal phone directory!

16. Joey Ramone once identified The Pretty Things as The Ramones’ biggest influence. When his massive—and fabulous—record collection went up for auction in 2013, it included The Vintage Years.

17. Apparently, young Johnny Lydon got a crash course in punk attitude when his mother, a huge Pretties fan, brought her son to a string of the band’s gigs. On July 9, 1976, the man now known as Johnny Rotten and his band The Sex Pistols joined The Pretty Things in opening for The Ramones at London’s Lyceum Theatre.

18. The first concert Mick Jones of The Clash ever saw was The Pretty Things and The Nice in Hyde Park when he was twelve years old.

19. The band received one of their more obscure yet impassioned shout outs when Rachael Olson of Minneapolis neo-psychedelicists The Blue Up? began her lengthy list of acknowledgements in the booklet of the Spool Forka Dish CD with “EVERYONE GO BUY S.F. SORROW AND PARACHUTE BY THE PRETTY THINGS. NOW.”

20. The book included with Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky misidentifies the location of Little Steven’s 2004 Underground Garage Fest— which The Pretty Things co-headlined with The New York Dolls, The Strokes and The Stooges— as Riker’s Island. It actually took place on Randall’s Island. I should know, I was there and the Pretties were awesome!

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