The Pretty Things – Fowlers Live Saturday 13 October 2018.
Words Geoff Jenke
The Pretty Things are currently on their World Farewell Tour. The band was formed by Dick Taylor and Phil May in London 1963. It has taken them 55 years to get to Adelaide and they will retire at the end of the year after a final show on December 18 in London.
They took their name from the 1955 Willie Dixon song, Pretty Thing and while perhaps they didn’t set the world alight like the Rolling Stones and Beatles, their impact on the world of rock cannot be understated.
David Gilmour sites the album Parachutes, as an influence on Dark Side of the Moon.
They were the first British band to win Rolling Stone magazine Record of the Year with the album Parachute.
Joey Ramone claims “The Pretty Things were the biggest influence on the Ramones… they invented garage rock”
The Pretty Things released the first Rock Opera album in S.F. Sorrow, six months before The Who released Tommy.
They were the first signing to Led Zeppelin’s Swan label, releasing their Silk Torpedo album before Led Zeppelin released an album on their own label.
So why weren’t The Pretty Things one of the biggest bands in the world? Rock and Roll can be a cruel mistress.
The Pretty Things played Fowlers Live and while the audience were mostly over 50 years of age (and British), it was good to see a smattering of younger folk, who obviously enjoy some RnB, in the audience. The band started with Mr. Evasion and Honey, I Need before giving us an entertaining evening of classic Pretty Things songs and great RnB covers.
They were there at the beginning of British rock. Phil May and Dick Taylor went to art school with David Bowie and Mick Jagger, in fact, Dick Taylor was in the original line up of the Rolling Stones. He was forced to play bass as the band had two guitarists already, so he left before they recorded their debut single and album. Maybe the Stones should have kept him on as a guitarist because tonight he was exceptional. The licks just rolled off his fingers with ease, even at his age, something Keith Richard has trouble with these days.
Phil May still has a wonderful rock and roll voice to go with Dick’s guitar work. The rest of the band were somewhat younger than Phil and Dick but they provided the perfect beat for them. Second guitarist Frank Holland was also pretty darn handy on harmonica, filling out the blues songs. A surprise was the song Alexander, from the band Electric Banana, who were in fact The Pretty Things recording movie soundtracks under an alias.
They played a great S.F. Sorrow mini show of S.F. Sorrow is Born, She Says Good Morning and I See You before launching into four glorious blues covers in I Can’t Be Satisfied (Waters), Come On In My Kitchen (Johnson), Little Red Rooster (Dixon) and You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover (Diddley).
Following an entertaining, but too long, drum solo, the band finished the set with two absolute classics in Midnight to Six and LSD. Encore was their debut single hit Rosalyn before setting the place alight with the Bo Diddley song Roadrunner.
They may have missed out on being one of the biggest bands in the world but for near on two hours on this night, they transported us back to the beat clubs and taverns of England, 1964. Wonderful to see the band before they retire.
So what else can The pretty Things claim in the world of Rock n Roll?
They were the first ever band to take their original labels to court and win back their recording rights.
The band were banned from New Zealand after setting fire to a bag containing a rotting crayfish, onboard a flight (as you do).
David Bowie studied Phil May’s stagecraft assiduously and declared Phil to be god. (Bowie as a teen followed the band around religiously and later covered two of the band’s singles on his Pinups album).
Had the “longest hair in the world”
The first ever rock and roll drugs bust.
The most arrests of any band.
Arrested for discharging a sawn-off shotgun.
“The Beatles” were cute, “The Stones” were students, but “The Pretty Things” were plain frightening.” John Peel