The Pretty Things were an English rock band, originally formed in 1963 by guitarist/vocalist Dick Taylor and singer/guitarist Phil May. Taylor had briefly played the prior year in an embryonic lineup of The Rolling Stones. They were arguably the most significant band of the beat boom to not have a stateside breakthrough during the British Invasion of 1964/65.
The Pretties started as an R&B/beat combo before moving into freakbeat/psych with the 1967 single “Defecting Grey” and the 1968 album S.F. Sorrow, one of the first rock operas. Amid multiple lineup changes during the 1970s, they embraced hard rock on the albums Parachute and Silk Torpedo. After a three-year pause in activity, they regrouped in 1980 for the New Wave-influenced Cross Talk. They remained active as a touring and occasional recording unit for the subsequent four decades.
Members: Phil May (lead vocals, harmonica, guitar), Dick Taylor (lead guitar, vocals, 1963-69, 1979-81, 1984-present), John Stax (bass, 1963-67, 2012), Brian Pendleton (guitar, 1963-66), Peter Kirtley (drums, 1963), Viv Andrews (drums, 1963), Viv Prince (drums, 1963-65), Skip Alan (drums, 1965-68, 1969-76, 1979-81, 1994-2008), John Povey (keyboards, vocals, 1967-76, 1979-81, 1994-2007), Wally Waller (bass, guitar, vocals, 1967-70, 1979-81, 1994-2007), Twink (drums, vocals, 1968), Victor Unitt (guitar, vocals, 1969-70), Peter Tolson (guitar, vocals, 1970-76, 1979-81, 1994-95), Stuart Brooks (bass, 1971-74), Jack Green (bass, vocals, 1974-76), Gordon Edwards (keyboards, guitar, 1974-76)
The Pretty Things were formed in late 1963 by guitarist Dick Taylor and singer/harmonic player Phil May, both students at London’s Central School of Art and Design.
Two years earlier, Taylor played in the R&B outfit Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys with singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards. In 1962, the three were enlisted by guitarist Brian Jones for a new band he was forming with pianist Ian Stewart, The Rolling Stones. Taylor served as their bassist for five months before quitting to enroll at Central School, where he met May.
With Taylor back on guitar, him and May enlisted bassist John Stax and rhythm guitarist Brian Pendleton. A sequence of temporary drummers preceded the arrival of wildman Viv Prince. They took their name from the 1955 song “Pretty Thing” by bluesman Willie Dixon.
Taylor hired aspiring businessman Bryan Morrison, another fellow student at Central School, as the Pretty Things’ manager. This would be the start of the Bryan Morrison Agency, which later represented Pink Floyd, The Incredible String Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Deviants, and The Pink Fairies, in addition to the Pretties. Morrison formed a songwriting partnership with American Jimmy Duncan.
The Pretty Things signed to Fontana and issued their debut single, the Morrison/Duncan-penned “Rosalyn,” in May 1964 (UK #41). It was backed with a cover of “Big Boss Man,” made famous in 1960 by bluesman Jimmy Reed. That October, the Pretties issued “Don’t Bring Me Down” (UK #10), written by Fairies road manager Johnny Dee.
As one of the cornerstones of London’s R&B/beat boom, The Pretty Things were arguably the most significant UK act from the Class of ’64 to not simultaneously break stateside as part of the British Invasion. Hard luck and missed opportunities aside, the band has enjoyed a lengthy run and mastered numerous changes of style, most notably during their psych-to-hard-rock evolution between the late 1960s and mid-1970s.
- The Pretty Things (1965)
- Get the Picture? (1965)
- Emotions (1967)
- S.F. Sorrow (1968)
- Parachute (1970)
- Freeway Madness (1972)
- Silk Torpedo (1974)
- Savage Eye (1976)
- Cross Talk (1980)
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