An English rock and roll band from London, who formed in 1963 and remained active for well over 50 years. They're best known for releasing S.F. Sorrow, the first ever Rock Opera — yes, even before The Who's Tommy! In the beginning, they were a tough R&B outfit often compared with The Rolling Stones (mostly because guitarist Dick Taylor was the Stones' first bassist), although they never achieved the level of fame and success that the Stones did. Built around the core formed by Taylor and lead singer Phil May.
As noted, the Pretty Things began as a hard-edged Blues Rock outfit, releasing two albums and several singles in the UK. When that scene began to decay, the band recorded a contractually-required album, Emotions, before switching labels and beginning the S.F. Sorrow sessions in 1967. The album was released in 1968 to little success, although today it is usually regarded as a groundbreaking work of art. The next album, 1970's Parachute, continued in the psychedelic/art rock vein and became Rolling Stone's Album of the Year.
Still failing to attain much popular success, the Pretties recorded a few more albums before disbanding in 1980; two of these, Silk Torpedo and Savage Eye, were originally released on Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label and were their best-selling albums in America. They went on to reunite several times and release further critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful albums. May and Taylor toured with a new lineup until their manager announced their retirement from the road in 2018. Also, a group called xPT's, consisting of several former Pretties (not including May or Taylor), released Parachute Reborn (a re-recording of Parachute with a couple of bonus tracks) in 2012.
Phil May died in 2020, presumably bringing an end to the long story of The Pretty Things. They leave behind a following who regard them (along with contemporaries like The Creation and The Move) as one of the great lost bands of The British Invasion — a group who were never as successful as they deserved to be, but stayed true to themselves throughout their career.
The Pretty Things' studio albums:
- The Pretty Things (1965)
- Get the Picture? (1965)
- Emotions (1967)
- S.F. Sorrow (1968)
- Parachute (1970)
- Freeway Madness (1972)
- Silk Torpedo (1974)
- Savage Eye (1975)
- Cross Talk (1980)
- Rage Before Beauty (1999)
- Balboa Island (2007)
- The Sweet Pretty Things (Are In Bed Now, Of Course...) (2015)
- Bare As Bone, Bright As Blood (2020; their Grand Finale, a Cover Album released after May's death)
"Honey, need your tropin', all the time, all the time":
- All Drummers Are Animals: Viv Prince, the Pretties' drummer on the earliest records, was even loonier than Keith Moon. In fact, he became so erratic and unreliable that he was fired by the time Get the Picture? was released.
- Cool Old Guy: What May and Taylor eventually became.
- Darker and Edgier: Just as The Rolling Stones were edgier than The Beatles, the Pretties were even edgier than the Stones.
- Emphasis On The Wrong Syllable: The title of "Photographer" is sung "pho-to-GRAPH-er".
- Genre Shift: From heavy blues to Psychedelic Rock and art-rock.
- Heavy Metal: S.F. Sorrow included some proto-metal tracks, most notably "Old Man Going", which may have been heavier than anything that came before.
- I Am the Band: Phil May was the Pretties' only consistent member, although Dick Taylor, who left during The '70s but eventually returned, was in most of the lineups.
- Revolving Door Band: The Pretties went through many members, hardly surprising considering how long they were around.
- Rock Opera: S.F. Sorrow was the Ur-Example.
- Something Blues: "Blue Serge Blues".
- Starving Artist: "Photographer" is about one of these.
- Titled After the Song: In this case, Bo Diddley's "Pretty Thing". Their Cover Version ends with Phil May doing a spoken Shout-Out: "We thank you, Bo, for the name".