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Re: Pretty Things
Sorry if this has been covered already, but I'm on digest.
Funny, but I saved an article from the Washington Post (Nov. '98) about the
Pretty Things and their album:
"The First Rock Opera (No, Not "Tommy")
by Neil Strauss
With the lyric "From number three there came the cry, 'S.F. Sorrow is
born," the British band the Pretty Things entered the rock-and-roll history
books in 1968 with what is generally acknowledged as the first rock opera.
But for a work of such importance -- among the most interesting and
ambitious albums of the 60;s -- "S.F. Sorrow" has remained unjustly obscure.
"The album has never really had a proper release," Phil May, the band's
singer, said from his home in London. "To some extent, it died at birth."
Today, three decades later, "S.F.Sorrow" is being born again. Out of
print for decades, the album is to be reissued on CD by Snapper Music. After
the band settled out of court this year with several record labels for
royalties and the rights to its catalogue, Snapper made a deal to repackage
the group's past albums and record three new ones. On Sunday, the reunited
Pretty Things are to perform "S.F. Sorrow" in its entirety for the first
time at Abbey Road Studios in London. The concert, featuring the band's 1966
lineup with the addition of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on guitar and Arthur
Brown (known for his hit "Fire") providing narration, will be broadcast live
(at 4 p.m. in New York), on the Internet (www.onlineconcerts.com) and
recorded for a live album.
The Pretty Things began as a raucous blues-rock band influenced by Bo
Diddley and constantly described in relation to the Rolling Stones as
meaner, louder, uglier and with longer hair than the Stones, a band the
Pretty Things guitarist dick Taylor originally played bass in. By its fourth
album, "S.F. Sorrow," the Pretty Things had changed their course to remain
relevant in an era that was producing more sophisticated pop like "Pet
Sounds" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." For the album, the
Pretty Things took a short story Mr. May had written and developed an entire
record around the life of the story's protagonist, Sebastian F. Sorrow,
whose downward spiral begins when he watches the hot-air balloon carrying
the woman he loves crash and burn. Loaded with rich harmonies, sharp
dissonances, odd electronic effects, early Pink Floyd-style psychedelia,
proto-heavy metal and songs that drastically change styles from one moment
to the next, the album was full of pop experiments and abstractions that
have become a calling card for current underground alternative bands.
"We were looking for another way of making a 40-minute disk," Mr. May
said. "I could never understand why an album had to be five A-sides and five
B-sides with no connection. Pieces of music had been written for at least a
40-minute listen, and I thought the best way to do that was to overlay a
story line and create music for he various characters and instances. It was
the oldest concept in the world, but at the time nobody had done it before."
The band's record label balked when the group wanted to publish Mr. May's
story with the album and made it pay the extra cost of printing the text on
the album packaging.
Though the Who has denied that the album was a major influence on its
better-known 1969 rock opera, "Tommy," Mr. May and may rock cognoscenti
disagree. "You've got the opening of 'Pinball Wizard' completely there, in
'Old Man Going,' " he said, comparing the Pete Townshend song to his.
Despite lyrics like "You might be the loneliest person in the
world/You'll never be as lonely as me," the Pretty Things did not have a
reputation as Britain's most sensitive residents. With an estimated 61
convictions, ranging from drug to weapon possession, they were banned in
Australia, kicked out of hotels and restaurants worldwide and claimed to
have invented the rock tradition of throwing furniture out hotel windows.
But Mr. May said that the band's reputation sprang mostly from its long
hair and scruffy look. "It was apparently against all the codes that were
laid down for behavior," he said. "People would look at you and want to take
a swing at you. They thought that obviously we were homosexuals or perverts
or transvestites. And we were considered dirty. But what they didn't realize
is if you have long hair you have to take more care of it than someone with
a crew cut. We were taking three showers a day."
FWIW, I had that album at one time. My "best" friend in 1974 absconded with
quite a few of my now-vintage records. Anyone want to help me track her
>Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 14:56:22 -0500
>From: "Robert VanBuskirk" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: The Pretty things
>During a little channel surfing last night, I caught the tail end of a
>(a piece of tail?) on an old band called "The Pretty Things" and some
>supposed influence on our boys. Sorry I didn't see it all (that's what I
>for listening to music all day). Anyway, curious as to any information.
>Rob in Zinzinnati
>Is it me, or do Matt Lauer and Igor from M*A*S*H look an awful lot alike?