March 21, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Pretty Things

In the beginning there were The Rolling Stones, Mike, Keith, Brian and Dick Taylor. Wait? Dick who? Dick Taylor, who left the group in 1963 after about nine months to go to art school, where he met Phil May. Still bitten by the rock and roll bug, they formed a band, The Pretty Things. Not just a band, but a downright dirty, gritty, R&B, blues rock band. A band that had a real raw, edge, they went on to become a staple of the early London mod scene 1964-66, and are universally recognized as huge influences on more commerecially sucessful groups like The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream and more. They had a number of UK hits, the biggest being "Don't Bring Me Down," and the coolest which addressed being a mod in the scene, "Midnight to Six Man." After '66 the band's lineup began to fluctuate with the core of May and Taylor staying tight, but others coming and going.

The Pretty Things, besides producing bloody good music, have an interesting story. After a commercially disastrous, but strangely listenable pop music outing in 1967, they followed up later that year by producing what was arguably the first ever rock opera, S.F. Sorrow, which is a tour de force of mod psychadelia. Listening to it, it's hard to believe that The Who and Pink Floyd weren't hugely influenced by this when they worked on Tommy and The Wall (though they swear they weren't you listen and tell me if that's possible). Towards the end of the decade and the beginning of the next, even while still producing regular albums, the band decided to record a slew of film library tracks that eventually ended up as the music for scores of '70s horror and soft porn films. For lack of another name, and for obvious reasons not wanting to use their band name, the tracks were eventually credited to a group called Electric Banana.

The band continues to perform today, and have recorded albums in every decade since their inception, the last ---2007's being a pretty good, gritty, return to their R&B roots. Here they arae in a video for their very first UK single, which peaked the charts at #64, "Roslyn", made a scant 40+ years after the single dropped. This just goes to show, old mods don't die. But apparently, they do end up in the mafia.


The Pretty Things -- Midnight to Six Man


The Pretty Things -- Rosalyn

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, Townshend claims to have been heavily influenced by S.F. Sorrow, and is said to have listened to it on repeat for a week before writing Tommy.

Mr. Suave said...

Interesting. Not surprising. The Pretty Things were influential at the time, so it isn't a stretch to think that Townsend was paying attention. I'd just never seen or read anything confirming that. Thanks.

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