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THE PRETTY THINGS

Proto-Prog • United Kingdom


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The Pretty Things picture
The Pretty Things biography
Founded in London, UK in 1963 - Disbanded in 1976 - Reformed on several ocasions with different line-ups - Reunited in 1994 - Farewell tour announced for 2018

Like so many groups who formed the backbone of the burgeoning R&B movement in the UK, the roots of the Pretty Things can be traced to an unlikely source: British Art Schools. You could be forgiven for believing such establishments produced considerably more musicians than visual artists in the early 60's. They were 'safe houses' for dissenting and disaffected youth with a passion for raw, visceral, primal and uncompromising self expression. They found these values distilled in esoteric black American music: blues, R&B and Soul, which they considered somehow purer, closer to the source , than the
rock & roll it helped inspire. Dick (the Beard) Taylor was a fellow student of Keith Richard's at Sidcup Art College in 1963 and an original member of the Rolling Stones. Initially the lead guitarist, Taylor appears to have taken um-bridge at being relegated to bass duties when Brian Jones was taken on board. The Pretties were recruited shortly thereafter in the shape of Phil May(another Sidcup student) plus John Stax, Brian Pendleton and Viv Prince. All were local lads from the surrounding Kent area, and had known one another through their formative years.

The band's music from the outset was an unashamedly earthy, raucous and raw take on the inspiration provided by Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. Their concerts at around this time went straight to the heart of a nascent youth rebellion. They appeared on stage in their scruffiest street clothes, their hair matted in unkempt disarray. The songs weren't merely performed, they were set-upon, as if by a hirsute tribe of maraca wielding degenerates. Discipline and professionalism were considered the preserve of insincerity: so what if the guitars hit a few wrong notes, or the drummer sounded like he was falling down a staircase? The important thing was the energy being raved up, and that's what they generated. Sound familiar? (I could be describing a Punk band here and how many groups can you name that intuited the former AND Progressive Rock within one career?)

Given that the Pretty Things enjoyed considerable UK chart success with early singles such as 'Rosalyn', 'Don't Bring Me Down' and 'Honey I Need', their management's decision not to tour the band in the USA seems in hindsight, like a huge missed opportunity.<...
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Parachute ( Vinyl LP)Parachute ( Vinyl LP)
MADFISH 2017
$23.99
$27.55 (used)
Silk TorpedoSilk Torpedo
Repertoire 2002
$7.58
$5.83 (used)
Live at RockpalastLive at Rockpalast
Repertoire 2014
$11.76
$9.13 (used)
Rage Before BeautyRage Before Beauty
Repertoire 2002
$7.77
$6.94 (used)
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Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo To Anywhere (CD & DVD, Special Edition, 2006). USD $1.23 [0 bids]
2h 4m
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Pretty Things UK ex toc LP 1967-1971 - with Defecting Grey USD $24.99 Buy It Now 3h 46m
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THE PRETTY THINGS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE PRETTY THINGS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.58 | 19 ratings
The Pretty Things
1965
3.63 | 16 ratings
Get the Picture?
1965
3.27 | 11 ratings
Emotions
1967
4.03 | 72 ratings
S.F. Sorrow
1968
4.03 | 40 ratings
Parachute
1970
3.38 | 8 ratings
Freeway Madness
1972
3.27 | 11 ratings
Silk Torpedo
1974
3.52 | 14 ratings
Savage Eye
1975
3.25 | 4 ratings
Cross Talk
1980
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Sweet Pretty Things (Are In Bed Now, Of Course...)
2015

THE PRETTY THINGS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Resurrection
1998

THE PRETTY THINGS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE PRETTY THINGS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
The Psychedelic Years 1966-1970
2001
5.00 | 1 ratings
S. F. Sorrow and Live At Abbey Road
2010

THE PRETTY THINGS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.00 | 1 ratings
Road Runner
1966
3.00 | 1 ratings
A House In The Country
1966

THE PRETTY THINGS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 S.F. Sorrow by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.03 | 72 ratings

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S.F. Sorrow
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by patrickq

4 stars In a 1998 New York Times article, Neil Strauss said that S.F. Sorrow 'is generally acknowledged as the first rock opera.' Maybe things were different twenty years ago, but unfortunately, I don't really think S.F. Sorrow is 'generally acknowledged.'

In some ways, S.F. Sorrow sounds exactly like an album from 1968. I don't have the technical vocabulary to explain this other to say that the soundscape feels confined, as if the technology limited the band's ability to realize their vision - - but at the same time, we have a pretty good idea of what that vision must've been. On the other hand, S.F. Sorrow had to have seemed a little ambitious and risky for what had theretofore been a blues-based pop/rock band.

At least at the time it was released, S.F. Sorrow must've invited comparisons to the Beatles, and by extension, the Beach Boys. It may have been 'the first rock opera,' but it wasn't the first rock concept album, and there are definitely echoes of 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' here. But there must've been a lot of cross-pollination, as there's a lot in common with contemporaneous recordings by the Moody Blues and Tommy James and the Shondells, and on the poppier material here, the vocals aren't all that different from, say, the Lovin' Spoonful or the Buckinghams.

But a lot of the material here is not especially poppy. A fair chunk of S.F. Sorrow is more experimental than Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds. For example, there's genuine musique concr'te throughout, in substantial quality and quantity. Tape manipulation is used to achieve pitch changes and synchronized delay effects long before digital techniques made these common. And the mixing is creative: often, the vocals are almost buried, challenging the listener to pay closer attention. This unorthodoxy is especially clear when the songs recorded for S.F. Sorrow are compared to those drawn from the same pool, but recorded for release as singles or for radio airplay. (On remastered reissues of S.F. Sorrow, several of these are appended to the original album.) A notable exception to this is the album's closing track, 'Loneliest Person,' which - - probably intentionally - - sounds completely different from the foregoing. Gone are the layered instruments and vocals, the heavy audio effects, and the edgy rock atmosphere which prefigured Black Sabbath more than once. 'Loneliest Person' is performed in what sounds like one take, featuring just an acoustic guitar and dry vocals. This starkness seems to fit with the album's storyline; in the end, the protagonist is, as the song goes, 'the loneliest person in the world.'

The material is strong throughout the album. This work is intended to be experienced more as an album than a compilation of songs - - after all, the standalone songs were recorded separately. But a few numbers stand out: 'S.F. Sorrow is Born,' 'Private Sorrow,' and 'Baron Saturday,' the latter reminding me of the Moody Blues' 'Legend of a Mind' reinterpreted as. John Lennon song. But the real standout here, and a good representation of S.F. Sorrow as a whole is 'Balloon Burning,' a detached reminiscence of observing the destruction of the Hindenburg and the fiery death of one of its passengers.

S.F. Sorrow meets the definition of 'proto-prog,' but it's also heavily psychedelic; and while it's not at all a heavy-metal album, it has passages whose heaviness goes beyond that of Vanilla Fudge or Iron Butterfly. Like the music of those early heavy-metal bands, these passages aren't particularly slow or blues-based.

S.F. Sorrow represents a transition from the Sgt. Pepper era to what is now regarded as 1970s progressive rock, so much of what made S.F. Sorrow groundbreaking also makes it sound dated. Whereas the Beatles may have had to temper their technological ambitions to ensure a high-quality sound, the Pretty Things were willing to sacrifice sound quality to create a work which wasn't quite achievable at the time.

Nonetheless, S.F. Sorrow is an excellent album which, despite its practical shortcomings, is worthy of four stars for its concept, composition, and creativity.

 Parachute by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.03 | 40 ratings

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Parachute
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars With Dick Taylor jumping ship, Twink departing to kick off Pink Fairies, and S.F. Sorrow performing dismally as far as sales went, The Pretty Things had plenty of reason to be demoralised. One more Electric Banana album of library music to re-charge the band's coffers later, and they got back in the saddle with Parachute. Slightly less ambitious than S.F. Sorrow, Parachute opens with a dazzling side-long suite about subjects ranging from social conformity to romantic failure to rainy-day misery and beyond, whilst the second side offers a range of different songs in a remarkable range of styles. Moving beyond the Beatles influence which the previous album had show, Parachute finds the Pretty Things on absolutely top form and doesn't deserve to be neglected in the shadow of its more famous predecessor.
 S.F. Sorrow by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.03 | 72 ratings

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S.F. Sorrow
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Ranking amongst the first narrative concept albums, S.F. Sorrow might not have a very well- explained plot, but musically it's downright fantastic, taking the most psychedelic moments of the Beatles (think Tomorrow Never Knows and the like) and bringing them to the next level. At some points the pulsating percussion on the album seems to offer a precedent for later drum and bass, whilst the acoustic closer Loneliest Person is downright haunting. At points a Kinks- and-Beatles-inspired product of its time, at other point years ahead of the rest of the pack, it's a fascinating musical trip and deserves its reputation as one of the keystone psychedelic albums of its era.
 S.F. Sorrow by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.03 | 72 ratings

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S.F. Sorrow
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by coasterzombie

2 stars S.F. Sorrow? More like S.F. Borrow!

The Pretty Things' cult hit, originally released in December 1968, has drawn increased attention in the last 10 years with the belated availability of the group's discography. With that attention has come a bit of revisionist history, perhaps overstating the band's impact and influence on rock culture. Various accounts have S.F. Sorrow recording sessions beginning as early as Spring 1967, which would have pre-dated both Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Piper At The Gates of Dawn, which were also recorded at Abbey Road. S.F. Sorrow mimics both of those in my opinion, and is not nearly as groundbreaking as many would have you believe. I will concede that S.F. Sorrow is the first "Rock Opera," despite what Pete Townshend says. The Who's Tommy, released in 1969, popularized the template Pretty Things created and they were ahead of their time in that regard. If you compare Procol Harum's Shine On Brightly (released the same month), there was clearly something in the water - but where that album is truly progressive, S.F. Sorrow is glorified psych rock or even psychedelic pop. Proto-Prog may be a bit of a stretch for this peculiar release.

In a nutshell, S.F. Sorrow tells the tale of its titular protagonist, whose life begins innocently enough before a series of unfortunate events lead to a nightmarish, psychedelic journey which ultimately renders him hopelessly secluded and painfully alone. Though the lyrics are bleak and depressing, the music is mostly chipper and uptempo; this imbalance doesn't do any favors, and seems to contradict the point. There are some heavy moments, like the fuzzed-out "Balloon Burning," and the rowdiness of "Old Man Going." These highlights are just too far and few between for me, and I can't muster three stars for the site at large; as a psych album it is okay but I prefer mine with jams and don't understand the appeal here. Maybe there is something I'm missing, but plenty of Psych Pop gems like Gandalf (US, not Austria) wipe the floor with this. I should note however that the bonus track "Perfecting Grey (Acetate Recording)" on the Repertoire CD is incredible proto-punk for those interested, but that hardly makes it essential. Those interested in Prog's roots may want to investigate S.F. Sorrow after all other bases are covered.

 Savage Eye by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.52 | 14 ratings

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Savage Eye
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by SeventhBridgeofSighs

4 stars This is only my Third review here for Progarchives... and a real First for this album.

First of all... i want to make it clear from the start... this is a ROCK N ROLL/POP ROCK record... ... so for the progheads who cannot look & hear outside that genre (without nervous tics) ...they surely will be frustrated... but for those who had nothing against other sort of rock music... if it's well done... for those who can appreciate mid 70s Elton John, mid 70s Swan Song label kind of stuff or mid 70s Rolling Stones etc... etc... this Pretty Things album will surely satisfy their curiosity...

Led Zepellin & Peter Grant were friends of many Pretty Things band members , and when Led Zepellin & Grant decided to form a new label around late 1973 ...they called it SWAN SONG... their 2 first signed bands were first Bad Company then The Pretty Things...

As 2nd album released for Swang Song ...at the end of 1974 The Pretty Things released the dirty & glamourous "Silk the Torpedo" released even before the monstrous "Physical Graffiti"... unfortunately without much commercial success... one year later it was time for "SAVAGE EYE"...

1A) "Under the Volcano" ...it's a black & red starter... Phil May's sing about his childhood memories... and how rock n roll started to take shape in his teenage lifespan... there's a fine chuckberryan solo at the middle with a monolotical rythmn (guitar) section a la Zepellin... but the best is really the end of the song with one of the best guitar solo of the record...it's a true wall of sound and that is pure rock n roll with many guitars playin' together ...it's a big kick in the ass for a starter...and naturally those 6 minutes are some of the best on the whole album.

2A) "My song" is a Phil May song, already the peak is reached after this 2nd song... it was my fave song on the lp for years ... and this is not as heavy as the previous song...it's really epic mid 70s pop rock...and surely it ain't no prog but personally i just don't care of the tags as long as quality is involved... The lyrics are kinda lightweight but at the same time it's perfect for the music...the music is majestic and really epic ...specially in the end... Skip Alan the drummer has made one of the best performance of his carreer on this one...waoowww

3A) "Sad Eye" is another rather quiet song and it is an heartbreaker , is is a Peter Tolson song... it's one of those good vintage melancholic song ( maybe as good as Rush "Tears" or Bee Gees "Don't wanna live inside myself"). There's a calm acoustic guitar and basic but brilliant (backing) vocals ...this guitar sound is like a sweet rain under a british late september sky...

It's one of the best song on the album but strangely i don't listen to this one as much as some others in the lp...

The band was probably influenced by this song to choose the tittle of the album

4A) Heavier guitars are back for this "Remember that Boy"... the refrein is kinda pure rock n roll a la rolling stones circa 1974... the guitars are excellent here and the backing vocals too (is it girls or boys?... still not sure) ... i'm not that excited of the refreins but it's surely good enough... the rest is even better...and the end again rocks with those soulful backing vocals ...and killer guitars...

Side A is impressive ...a classic in my opinion it deserve a 9/10

Unfotunately Side B won't be as good...

1B) "It isn't rock'n roll"... is kinda old school... ...in a cabaret style... then full rock push the doors... personally not really a favourite ...because of the too classic rock n roll refrein... but at least the band seems motivated ... it's like if Elton John, Queen, the Pretty Things and Billy Joel goes wild together in a 1975 saturday night performance with 30 people watchin' them in a saloon...with at the end... chairs flyin' in the air...in the middle of so sober fights... rather funny...

2B) "I'm Keepin' " is pure rock... A song that i have appreciated directly at first listen but who don't offer much more than that after many listenings...still Phil May again finally stole the show... good backing vocals again too... + they offer a good outro to the song... i love their excellent outros !

3B) "It's Been So Long" is the laid-back song ... relax take a drink at the balconny... burn a cigarette in slow motion... while watching the city lights... This song nearly reminds me some early recordings of english late 70s-early80s band Charlie... The Pretty Things goes really soulful here... it can even please some Dr John fans... still a decent song with a pleasant atmosphere but surely not so memorable...

4B) "Drowned Man" is the only song that i don't like at all in this album...not all the instruments and ideas are bad in this song...but ultimately it just does not stick together...still sometimes this song is rather strange... it could be a Procol Harum c-side of that time !

5B) "Theme for Michelle" ...this is a rather short ...it's John Povey leading this piano instrumental song...simple and pleasant again but not much more...at least it close the album more decently ...

B Side 6.5/10

So I give 8/10 - 4 stars to the whole album... it's frustrating that Phil May just leaved the band just after this recording...too much dope was one of the main reasons...

It was the 2nd record i bought of the Pretty Things some 12 years ago when i was just 20 ...just after the so-completely different SF Sorrow... but this is another story... an already well known story...

(a bit sorry for this overlong review :)

 Parachute by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.03 | 40 ratings

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Parachute
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars. After the disappointing sales for their previous album "S.F. Sorrow" the drummer left to join the PINK FAIRIES and the guitarist / vocalist and founder Dick Taylor also left. The latter was a significant blow to the band but 2 years after "S.F. Sorrow" they released "Parachute" in 1970. That BEATLES flavour is still strong but thankfully there is less of a commercial flavour, and for three straight songs (8-10) they sound like nobody but themselves and that section is the highlight for me.

The songs on the first side of the album all blend into one another. "Scene One" opens with an orchestral flavour then strummed guitar takes over with drums and vocals to follow. "The Good Mr. Square" is BEATLES-like especially the harmonies then a laid back soundscape with vocals takes over and blends into "She Was Tall, She Was High". What a great title. More passion on this one. "The Square" has acoustic guitar, piano and reserved vocals while "The Letter" is relaxed as well but gets fuller late with guitar. "Rain" is just that while "Miss Fay Regrets" features bass, drums and guitar as the vocals join in in this uptempo tune.

The next three tracks impress me simply because they don't sound like any other band. Okay "Cries from The Midnight Circus" does remind me of THE DOORS at times but this is darker and there's some nice guitar after 4 minutes as they seem to jam. "Grass" sounds like "Animals" era PINK FLOYD which of course was in the future at this point. A feel good but melancholic tune. "Sickle Clowns" has a great sounding rhythm as the vocals join in. I like the guitar late to end it as well. "She's A Lover" puts the focus on the vocals to start then it turns BEATLES-like after a minute then back to that earlier sound. "What's The Use" is very BEATLES-like while "Parachute" is the closer that sounds surprisingly like THE BEATLES.

If anything I like this better than "S.F. Sorrow" but it's still not very original sounding considering it's only 1970.

 S.F. Sorrow by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.03 | 72 ratings

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S.F. Sorrow
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by The Truth
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

5 stars Glad to see this album finally added, a concept album of epic proportions, at times better than even Tommy whom it is said gained alot of influence from good ol' S.F. Sorrow.

The Pretty Things truly but the rock in rock opera and made the practice a regularity in rock music. While some look down upon this album because "Sgt Pepper was the first rock opera" (puhlease, it's hardly got a concept) S.F. Sorrow is an emotional journey that absolutely stuns the listener, psychedelic greatness with a story behind it. Isn't that pretty progressive?

Either way, Sorrow's tale of losing everything and eventually become the "Loneliest Person" is one of those where you know there's a personal metaphor and it makes the listener have to make up his own, for me, that's one of the best things a rock opera can do. Each song is well crafted and song transitions (you have no idea how important those are to me) are flawless. After maybe three listens every song on this record will be stuck in your head. No exaggeration, it happened to me.

I think I'll give this five stars because, honestly, it started something great when it itself was an amazing record that had a large part in starting the progressive rock era of music.

The live version they did awhile later with David Gilmour is also a top notch record with story interludes to further explain the action of the rock opera. Very cool stuff.

 S.F. Sorrow by PRETTY THINGS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.03 | 72 ratings

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S.F. Sorrow
The Pretty Things Proto-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars. This is a very significant and influencial album that was released in 1968. Regarded as the first Rock Opera, it's a concept album about one S.F. Sorrow and his life from the cradle to the grave. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios and produced by Norman Smith who by then was working with PINK FLOYD but previously was with THE BEATLES. The music has a Psychedelic flavour but is often quite poppy as well, or maybe commercial sounding is a better way to put it. The songs I like the least are the commercial ones which sound way too much like THE BEATLES. In fact after just a few listens of this cd I was skipping certain tracks because I was already tired of them. Too bad because there's a lot on here that I do enjoy.

"SF Sorrow Is Born" opens with strummed guitar then it settles in with vocals quickly. Backing vocals on the chorus. Not a fan of this one. "Bracelets Of Fingers" is very BEATLES-like just before a minute. I do like the short instrumental section a minute later. An okay tune. "She Says Good Morning" is a catchy BEATLES-like song. Quite poppy and a real toe-tapper. Some nice distorted guitar before 2 minutes. "Private Sorrow" is different. Acid soaked psychedelia. A calm with spoken words after 3 minutes with marching styled drums. "Balloon Buring" is my favourite. I like the repeated guitar line with those dreamy vocals. It becomes an uptempo burner.

"Death" is mealncholic with vocals and an interesting soundscape. "Baron Saturday" is maybe my least favourite. Catchy and very BEATLES-like. "The Journey" is laid back but it then picks up. It's more aggressive before 2 minutes to the end. "I See You" is my other favourite tune. It's that Psychedelic flavour including the lyrics and I love the guitar late to end it. Great track. "Well Of Destiny" is a short piece that builds to the end. "Trust" is a vocal track with harmonies. "Old Man Going" has some excellent guitar and the vocals are softer in the chorus. "Loneliest Person" is the ballad-like closer.

I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a slew of 5 star reviews for this one. There's something about Proto-Prog and concept albums that I generally don't like. Combine the two and it's a tough sell. Still I recognize the influence of this release.

Thanks to exitthelemming for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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