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The Pretty Things - The B.B.C. Sessions (complete)

Review: 229
Date: 18 Jun 05


Rating: 5 Stars

Pretties doing their Thing on these sessions:
Dick Taylor - Lead Guitar
Brian Pendleton - Lead Guitar
Victor Unitt - Lead Guitar
Peter Tolson - Lead Guitar
Gordon Edwards - Lead Guitar
Phil May - Vocals
John Stax - Bass Guitar
Wally Allen - Bass Guitar
Stuart Brooks - Bass Guitar
Jack Green - Bass Guitar
John Povey - Keyboards
Viv Prince – Drums
Skip Alan - Drums
Twink Alder - Drums

Tracks Listing:
CD 1
Big Boss Man
Don’t Bring Me Down
Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
Big City
Midnight To Six Man
Sitting All Alone
Midnight To Six Man
Buzz The Jerk
Defecting Grey
Turn My Head
Walking Through My Dreams
Balloon Burning
S.F. Sorrow Is Born
She Says Good Morning
Send You With Loving
Sickle Clowns
She’s A Lover
Cries From The Midnight Circus
Stone-Hearted Mama
Cold Stone
Summer Time
All Night Sailor
Religion’s Dead

CD 2
Havana Bound
Love Is Good
Route 66
Onion Sup/Another Bowl
Route 66
Peter/Rip Off Train
Bridge Of God
Singapore Silk Torpedo
Come Home Momma
Not Only But Also
Big City
Belfast Cowboys / Bruise In The Sky

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 at times.

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 Spinal Tap's.

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 was 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


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