As 2016 draws to an end, a 12-month period in which we have lost so many great artists, it’s only fitting that my final review of the year is spent in the company of the legendary The Pretty Things.
Two members of their current incarnation, guitarist Dick Taylor and vocalist Phil May, were there in the early 1960s, inventing the future.
They broke barriers and in their own sweet way changed the face of music, taking American blues and morphing it into rock ‘n’ roll shapes previously unheard.
Here are two true originators of this music we so love today and were the equals of The Rolling Stones. Indeed Taylor, now 73, started off on bass in a formative version of the Stones.
They recorded the very first concept album S F Sorrow, were always on the cusp of the big time and when Led Zeppelin created their Swansong record label in 1974 The Pretty Things were one of the first bands they signed up.
Sadly, their name is still not particularly household friendly, which is such a shame as tonight’s set illustrates that they had many great songs.
Supplemented nowadays by a superb band of musicians, Charlie Chuck look-a-like Frank Holland on guitar, Jack Greenwood on drums and the looming giant of a man George Perez on bass, they recreate all the almost hits and give their all in a lengthy set which encompasses psychedelia, pop, proper R ‘n’ B and acoustic blues.
A lengthy and exuberant set included SF Sorrow Is Born and the defining pop-psych masterpiece Defecting Grey. The Same Sun, I See You and Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth shut kept the momentum up.
In a beautifully paced show they transitioned seamlessly into their blues mode with versions of Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen and a version of Little Red Rooster.
Then there’s a nod to Bo Diddley with Mona and You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover, with a little bit of Who Do You Love thrown in for good measure.
For the final few lengths they get heavy with Don’t Bring Me Down, a tremendously extended workout of LSD, there was even a drum solo from Jack. I haven’t enjoyed a drum solo since a Talk Talk gig back in 1989. I think I am allergic to drum solos but this was head bogglingly amazing, such stamina and dexterity was a wonder to behold.
Spent and exhausted they finished with Rosalyn.
In another world if circumstances had been only slightly different it would have been The Pretty Things that would have headlined Glastonbury 2013 and not Sir Mick of Jagger.
Oh well it’s only rock n roll.
But I like it, yes I do.
Words by John Haylock, picture by Arthur Hughes