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Music / S.F. Sorrow

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"You'll never be as lonely as me..."

"For ten weeks now number three stood empty
Nobody thought there would be
Family laughter behind the windows
Or a Christmas tree
Then a couple from up north
Sorrow and his wife arrived
Before the sun had left the streets
They were living inside.
Then before too long
The street it rang with the sound
From number three there came a cry
S. F. Sorrow is born..."

S.F. Sorrow is the fourth studio album by The Pretty Things, released in 1968. It was released on the same week as The White Album by The Beatles and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks. However, it wasn't released in the US until August 1969. It is their final album to feature drummer Skip Alan, who suddenly quit during the recording of this album. He was replaced by John "Twink" Alder, who helped complete the album. S.F. Sorrow was one of the very first Concept Albums ever created by a Rock Band, along with Nirvana's note  The Story of Simon Simopath.

The story told in the Album centres around a man named Sebastian F. Sorrow, who is born to a standard family in the UK and grows up with a vivid imagination until he has to get a job at the Misery Factory. He is eventually drafted into World War I and, upon serving his term in a forgotten haze of Gunfire and Artillery shells, marries and moves to a Country called Amerik. However, his wife happens to take the Windenburg, which bursts into flames and kills her. Sorrow, depressed over his wife's death, finds himself in the presence of a mysterious figure named Baron Saturday, who invites Sorrow on a journey to his inner mind and steals Sorrow's eyes for his own purposes. Sorrow is flown towards the moon by the Baron, which turns out to be his face, and enters his mouth that leads him to a room full of mirrors. After Studying the mirrors, which contain memories of Sorrow's childhood, Sorrow realizes the world is unkind and uncaring, and that he can't trust anyone ever again. In a state of despair, he blocks himself off from the rest of the world and subjugates himself to eternal loneliness.

S.F. Sorrow did not do well in either the UK or the United States, due to competition from more popular bands, mismanagement of selling the record, a lack of promotion for it, and the fact that Motown were the ones who released this album in the USA (via their rock-oriented subsidiary, Rare Earth Records). However, it is critically regarded as one of the best albums by The Pretty Things, and has been re-released with additional songs from the Pretties' Psychedelic Rock period.

Lead vocalist Phil May also painted the powerfully morbid cover art for the British version, shown above. The American release had a different cover in which the band name and album title appeared inside a coffin-shaped border.


Side One

  1. "S.F. Sorrow Is Born" (3:12)
  2. "Bracelets Of Fingers" (3:41)
  3. "She Says Good Morning" (3:23)
  4. "Private Sorrow" (3:51)
  5. "Balloon Burning" (3:51)
  6. "Death" (3:05)

Side Two

  1. "Baron Saturday" (4:01)
  2. "The Journey" (2:46)
  3. "I See You" (3:56)
  4. "Well Of Destiny" (1:46)
  5. "Trust" (2:49)
  6. "Old Man Going" (3:09)
  7. "Loneliest Person" (1:29)

Bonus Tracks (2003 Reissue):

  1. "Defecting Grey" (4:31)
  2. "Mr. Evasion" (3:31)
  3. "Talking About The Good Times" (3:46)
  4. "Walking Through My Dreams" (3:47)
  5. "Private Sorrow (Single Version)" (3:52)
  6. "Balloon Burning (Single Version)" (3:47)
  7. "Defecting Grey (Acetate Recording)" (5:10)

Principal Members:

  • Skip Alan - drums
  • Phil May - lead vocals
  • Jon Povey - organ, sitar, vocals, mellotron, percussion
  • Dick Taylor - guitar, vocals
  • Twink - drums
  • Wally Waller - bass, guitar, vocals, piano, wind instruments

Old Man Troping:

  • Break the Cutie: We get to see Sorrow go from happy child to an isolated, depressed old man.
  • BSoD Song: There's a couple of them in the album. But the crowning BSoD Song is "Loneliest Person", in which Sorrow says you might be a lonely person, but you're not as lonely as him.
  • Concept Album: If this story sounds familiar to any other well known Concept Albums, it isn't, and if it is, it's just a coincidence. Besides, this came out first.
  • A Day In The Life: The album follows the life of Sebastian F. Sorrow.
  • Despair Event Horizon: "Death", in which Sorrow, learning of his wife's death, laments how the world has grown darker to him, and directly leads to "Trust", where he realizes the world and its people cannot be trusted, so he isolates himself.
  • Despair Speech: "The Loneliest Person".
  • Downer Ending: Unlike Tommy from Tommy, or Pink from The Wall who at least overcame their isolation, Sorrow remains isolated by the end of the album, and it appears he will never get over the tragic events that isolated him in the first place. "Well, what did ya expect in an opera — a happy ending?"
  • Eldritch Abomination: Implied with Baron Saturday, who is supposed to represent the Voodoo god Baron Samedi.
  • Eye Scream: Sorrow's eyes get plucked by Baron Saturday.
  • Girl Friday: The Woman who wishes Sorrow a Good Morning in "She Says Good Morning", whom Sorrow eventually marries after World War I. Unfortunately, she dies.
  • Goal in Life: Sorrow, as a child, always wanted to visit the Moon, as heard in "Bracelets on Fingers". He sort of gets his wish in the song "The Journey", but the Moon becomes his head.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Sorrow is taken to one of these (in his own head) by Baron Saturday.
  • Heroic BSoD: Sorrow realizes that the world is uncaring and that people are untrustworthy in the song "Trust", and desperately tries to find someone in his life who he's been able to trust before giving up in the next song, "Old Man Going".
  • The Hindenburg: Sorrow's wife takes the Windenburg to get to Amerik. Unfortunately for her, it does the same thing as the Hindeburg.
  • Industrial Ghetto: The City that Sorrow lives in is built around the Misery Factory, where most of its citizens work.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Baron Saturday takes Sorrow into the centre of his own head (that is, the moon) in order to reflect on his life and find the truth.
  • Meaningful Name: The protagonist is named Sorrow, and absolutely nothing in his life goes right.
  • Mind Screw: Baron Saturday takes Sorrow's eyes, and he's still able to see. He then lifts Sorrow off the ground and this allows Sorrow to fly. He and Sorrow fly to the Moon that turns out to be Sorrow's head. Sorrow flies into his own mouth where two large wooden doors are. Baron Saturday opens these doors and inside is a room full of Mirrors, each one showing Sorrow a memory from his childhood.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Well Of Destiny" and "Loneliest Person" are both under two minutes long.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: In order to avoid the harshness of reality and the cruelty of others, Sorrow shuts himself down mentally and isolates himself physically.
  • One-Word Title: "Death" and "Trust".
  • Rock Opera: Often cited as an early example of a rock opera.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Around "Death", most, if not all, of the songs show the mental health of Sorrow decline dramatically.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Sorrow shows signs of this, as he can't seem to recall much of his service in World War I, except for the Artillery shells hitting and the gunfire.
  • The United States: Sorrow goes to a country called "Amerik" after getting Married. It is, however, definitely the United States as the first line of "Balloon Burning" is New York.
  • Ur-Example: One of the very first Concept Albums and Rock Operas ever made, but it wasn't a commercial success.
  • World War I: Sorrow serves during this war.