Formed in the later
stages of 1963, the Pretty Things arrived
on the Londoner scene playing Berry/Diddley/Reed
influenced raw rhythm and blues. The driving
force behind the 'Pretties' were vocalist
Brian May and Dick Taylor. (Taylor had
left a version of the embryonic Rolling
Stones with Brian Jones, Keith Richards,
and Mick Jagger because the three wanted
him to play bass guitar while he was born
to play lead guitar.)
The Pretty Things were contemporaries
of 'The Rolling Stones' and 'The Kinks'.
Of course there was also that little band
with that funny name from Liverpool, the
Beatles. This dog always had a soft spot
for the ‘Pretties' as the Beatles
were a little bit goody two shoes to be
considered cool. I mean your parents liked
them! The Rolling Stones were great, but
always seemed to want to be Americans,
denying their Dartford, Kent roots, and
the Kinks could get a little whimsical
The 'Pretties' had no image; music was
their thing and hard edged rhythm and
blues was the starting point. Their first
seven singles all went top 50 in the U.K.
(they did not mean a light in the U.S.
of A., no image, nothing to promote).
The sight of the ‘Pretties’
standing on Top of the Pops, trying to
hide their embarrassment as they mimed
their way through their latest single,
was a wonder to behold. Unlike most of
their contemporaries their lineup was
quite liquid, revolving around the main
duo, the drum seat, revolving faster than
In the late sixties the Pretty Things
plunged head first, along with everybody
else, into the psychedelic culture. Gone
was all the straight ahead music and in
came sitars, thousands of overdubs on
all guitar parts, and kaftans and beads.
Although huge on the underground scene,
this did not exactly get the till bells
ringing over, and in a state of confusion
Dick Taylor left the band to settle down
into production work. Away from the chaos
of life on the road, Taylor produced the
first albums from Hawkwind and Cochise.
Taylor was quickly replaced in the band,
which imploded within the year.
But famous rocking's roll manager Bill
Shepherd, upon hearing of the 'Pretties’
demise, tried to persuade them to reform,
telling them that the ‘Pretties'
were too good a band to lose. How right
he was. With a new dual lead guitar partnership
in place, the mercurial Peter Tolson and
Gordon Edwards, they were ready to roar
again. After six weeks rehearsal they
went into the studio to record the seminal
'Freeway Madness'. The ‘Pretties'
had now put the entire wishy-washy psychedelic
behind them and come back with a new hard-edged
sound, combining their love of American
harmony vocals and crunchy guitar licks
with screaming solos.
This gained them enough attention to
get them to be the first signing to the
newly formed Swansong label, the brainchild
of Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant. Two
wonderful albums were released over the
next two years, but, although critically
acknowledged, both failed to dent the
charts. Once more the band fell apart
in 1976, when Phil May decided enough
The band came together again in the late
nineties, including old running mate Dick
Taylor on lead guitar, and in 1999 they
released 'Rage Before Beauty', an apt
title if you consider what had gone before.
The band still plays gigs to this day.
This collection of work from the B.B.C.
Sessions gives you an overall view of
the 'Pretties' career from 1964 to 1976.
All the early singles are here. (The Pretty
Things had a surge of popularity stateside
when David Bowie covered their first two
singles 'Rosalyn' and 'Don't Bring Me
Down' on his album Pin Ups. To many Americans
this was the first time they ever heard
of the 'Pretty Things'.)
It all goes a bit pear shaped in their
psychedelic era, but then it did for a
lot of people (remember the Stones? Or
Their Satanic Majesties Request?), but
on their return to hard edged rock 'n'
roll, like on the Radio One 'In Concert'
show to promote 'Freeway Madness', the
band is so hot, it is incendiary. Nobody
can throw caution to the wind with such
abandon and still nail a song down like
the 'Pretties' like 'Onion Soup' and especially
'Route 66'. The live sessions for the
following two albums are a little more
controlled, but equally as exciting.
This album is not only a good overview
of the Pretty Things' career, but also
a good overview of British rock in this
era. If you are not familiar with the
Pretty Things, this album would be an
excellent way to find out.
Thinged by Mott The Dog
Prettied by Ella Crew