The Pretty Things – in concert at Amsterdam Paradiso – March 29, 1969 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The Pretty Things in concert tonight. Normally, I don’t run music by the same artists twice in a day. But with the passing of Phil May, the leader, founder and guiding light of The Pretty Things, it seemed like the only logical thing to do.
If you were around during the time of the British Invasion of the early 60s, tucked in amongst The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Animals, Zombies, Kinks and Herman’s Hermits was a band that, inexplicably got little attention, at least over here in the U.S. – The Pretty Things just didn’t look like your normal British Invasion band – they didn’t dress the same, have the same haircuts or sing the same well-constructed songs. They looked like the ones who got to the audition late because they were hung over from the previous night. Their sound was loud and dirty and it was searing to listen to. They didn’t sing about looking at stars and holding hands – they sang about a nighttime world – they sang about being broke – they sang about being consumed by love, rather than tacitly giving into it.
They just didn’t fit the mold. And for all the outrage American parents had for The British Invasion and the styles that went with it, they had no idea what to make of The Pretty Things – they were past being every parent’s nightmare; they were the future they feared most – the future that was in your face – the future that demanded to be heard. The future that was very loud and shook the ground you walked on.
And for a fourteen year-old, who was just “coming into his own” – with raging hormones and marathon feelings, The Pretty Things were the perfect storm – they said and did everything the fourteen year-old was thinking about – and spelled it out in big block letters.
I don’t think people realized it at the time, but The Pretty Things were well on their way to being the “next logical step” in Rock’s coming-of-age. And maybe they were just ahead of the game. Maybe they really were the future.
Why they didn’t become household names like The Rolling Stones or achieve the mania that followed The Dave Clark Five is something one can only guess and speculate over. Many point to mismanagement as the culprit, and it wasn’t for some time that the band finally toured the U.S. – some felt they were just too raw and unpredictable.
Whatever it was that prevented most of America from falling under their spell, we may never know. But if you were one of the lucky ones, one of those kids who kept your ears to the ground and hung out at record stores – you know that The Pretty Things largely changed your life. And it was all Phil May’s fault.
I can’t imagine what the 60’s would have been like without the presence of Phil May or The Pretty Things in general – certainly they were the bolt of lightning we all needed. They went from being the quintessential British Blues band to the quintessential Psych band and everything they did was pivotal in some form or fashion.
I was lucky to have been turned on to the them when I did – they stayed with me for the rest of my life. It’s a debt I certainly can’t repay – but I can do my level best to tell everyone who has never heard of Phil May or The Pretty Things to stop, listen and soak in something wonderful.
It’s the least I can do to say thanks for making the trip amazing and grateful that Phil May was on the planet.