Archive for the ‘The Pretty Things’ Category

The Pretty Things and Arthur Brown Newcastle Tyne Theatre 5th October 2002

The Pretty Things and Arthur Brown Newcastle Tyne Theatre 5th October 2002
prttythingslpWhen I was a kid, way back in 1968, I received some record vouchers as part of my Christmas present. Now lps were precious items in those days; I went to the local record shop and spent ages choosing which discs to spend my vouchers on. In the end I chose “Prophets Seers and Sages, the Angels of the Ages” by Tyrannosaurus Rex and “Crazy World of Arthur Brown”. Both good choices. A few months later I came across and bought a copy of The Pretty Things’ “S F Sorrow” in a second hand shop. I played those albums constantly on our new home stereo system. The Arthur Brown lp had such wonderful prog tracks as “Spontaneous Apple Creation”, “Child of My Kingdom” and (of course) “Fire” and “Fire Poem”, featuring Arthur’s manic soaring vocals and the late great Vincent Crane’s rich swirling Hammond organ. And S F Sorrow simply amazed me; with its rich mix of great pop hooks, R&B, and psych. “Baron Saturday”, “She Says Good Morning” and “Loneliest Person” were my favourite tracks.
prttytixI first got to see Arthur Brown live around 1973 at a Kingdom Come gig in Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall. That concert was spectacular, and unlike anything I’ve ever see before or since. The show started with Arthur being tied to a large wooden cross in a simulated crucifixion, featured a massive brain being chased around the hall by the pope, and concluded with Arthur being dragged from stage in a straitjacket.
arthurThe first time I saw The Pretty Things live was at Sunderland Locarno, in January 1973. Their set at the time drew heavily from S F Sorrow and also included some of their classic 60s R&B singles. Phil May had the longest hair I had ever seen, and remains to this day one of our best rock vocalists and front men. I saw them a few times after that gig, supporting touring acts at Newcastle City Hall; once with Status Quo, and with a few other bands; exactly who I don’t remember, maybe Bad Company.

So some 30 odd years later, this gig at the Tyne Theatre teamed up two of my favourite acts. Arthur was as crazy and powerful as ever, and the Pretty Things played much of S F Sorrow, featuring a line-up which reunited many of the original band members. Arthur also joined The Pretty Things for a couple of songs. Arthur signed my ticket with a weird hippy third eye, and Phil May and the rest of The Pretty Things signed a reissue copy of S F Sorrow which was on sale at the venue. A great night. Oh and David came along with me and became a fan of Arthur and The Pretty Things that night 🙂

Great British R&B Festival Colne August 26th 2013. Chris Farlowe, Climax Blues Band, The Pretty Things, and Wilko Johnson

Great British R&B Festival Colne August 26th 2013. Chris Farlowe, Climax Blues Band, The Pretty Things, and Wilko Johnson
band Marie and I spent the bank holiday Monday afternoon at the Great British R&B Festival, which is held each year in Colne, Lancashire. Yesterday afternoon’s line-up was particularly strong, featuring Chris Farlowe, Climax Blues Band, The Pretty Things, and Wilko Johnson on the International Stage which is in the Municipal Hall on the main street.
The Norman Beaker Band opened the proceedings at 2pm. Or rather the proceedings were actually opened by the crazy compare, wearing a fluorescent suit and hat. The guy did a great job on introducing the bands, changing his suit and hat throughout the day, getting more and emore outrageous as the day went on. Norman and the guys played a couple of songs before they were joined by Chris Farlowe. It’s a few years since I saw Chris. His voice was as soulful as ever, and the years haven’t diminished his energy or style. They played a set of favourites including Stormy Monday Blues; Tough on you, Tough on me; The Small Faces’ hit All or Nothing, and Handbags and Gladrags. They closed with (of course) his big hit Out of Time. The guy remains a master of R&B. Pure class and a great way to start the day.
Next up was The Climax Blues Band. Now if its a few years since I saw Chris, it’s even longer since I saw these guys in concert. In fact I think the last time I saw them was probably I the mid 70s. The line-up has changed many times over the years, with no-one remaining from the early days of the band. The current band continues the Climax traditional of recreating an authentic Chicago blues sound. We slipped out for something to eat,but got back in time to catch the end of their set, including their hit single Couldn’t Get It Right. colneprog The Pretty Things are a big favourite of mine, and they never let me down. The current line-up of the band features originals Phil May on vocals, tambourine and maracas, and Dick Taylor on guitar, along with long standing Pretty Frank Holland on guitar and mouth organ. They started the set with a couple of old R&B tunes, and the classic Cries From the Midnight Circus. Phil then explained that, although it was a blues festival, they had to play something from their classic album S F Sorrow. So next up was S F Sorrow is Born and She Says Good Morning. The three front men then switched to acoustic mode to sing a couple of old blues: Come on in my Kitchen, and Little Red Rooster, featuring some excellent slide guitar from Dick, growling vocals from Phil and great blues harp courtesy of Frank. These guy know how to sing the blues, and they just held the place spellbound. Then it was back to their old rock roots for Mona, and Midnight to Six Man. Great stuff. The Pretty Things were swiftly followed by the great Wilko Johnson. Wilko’s situation has been well documented, and his recent appearances have apparently all been joyous celebrations of his music and legend. Thankfully Wilko is still able to play and, in his own words: ‘It seems that I am still being spared the final onslaught of my terminal cancer. As the memory of the Farewell Tour recedes I am feeling again the desire to get up on stage and do my thing while health allows – so it is that I have decided to make some festival appearances during during the summer’. wilko He had asked specially to play at the festival, having done so several times in the past, and everyone present yesterday was delighted to see him. First Wilko was presented with an award for British Blues legend, he then started his set with the Feelgood’s song All Through the City, and also included the Feelgood classics Going Back Home, Roxette, Back in the Night and She Does It Right. The crowd clearly love the guy, and it was a very emotional show, with Wilko strutting his stuff back and forth across the stage, chopping away at his telecaster with those familiar riffs. Its many years since I’ve seen Wilko in concert and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to do so once more. I must also mention Norman Watt-Roy whose bass playing was simply stunning. Again, its many years since I’ve seen Norman perform, probably since I he was with Ian Drury and the Blockheads. The encore was a very emotional Bye Bye Johnny, with everyone waving Bye Bye to Wilko. The crowd were on their feet for a full 5 or 10 minutes after he finished, giving him a real standing ovation. Strong stuff.
We left after Wilko’s set, and drove back up north to pick Laura up and then return home.

Maggie Bell and Stone the Crows in concert 1971 – 1974

Maggie Bell and Stone the Crows in concert 1971 – 1974
I saw Stone the Crows in concert three times in 1971 and 1972. The first time was in late 1971 at Sunderland Locarno. This was the original band with Maggie Bell on vocals, and her partner Les Harvey (Alex’s younger brother) on guitar, before he was sadly electrocuted and killed on stage at Swansea Top Rank, by touching a live mike. They also had James Dewar on bass, who went on to have great success with Robin Trower. Maggie was often, and not unfairly, compared to Janis Joplin at the time, and the band were a great blues rock act. Although they were a great live act, they still weren’t that well known, and I recall standing near the front in a pretty small crowd watching Maggie, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans, tearing her way through the set. There was a hard edge about Maggie and her singing, and you felt that her blues matched the tough street image that Glasgow had at the time. I next saw Stone The Crows at the Lincoln Festival, which was their first performance after Les’ death, and Steve Howe from Yes stood in on guitar. The Lincoln performance was highly emotional and the crowd gave Maggie the strongest reception of the day, sensing how real the blues was to her that night, coming only a few weeks after she had lost her boyfriend. By September 1972, the band had a permanent new member in ex-Thunderclap Newman young guitar prodigy Jimmy McCulloch, a new album Ontinuous Performance, and a UK tour which called at the City Hall. Support at the City Hall came from Tennent and Morrison (mis-splet on the ticket), although I don’t pretend to remember much about them. Stand out gig tracks throughout those days were Penicillin Blues (I can picture Maggie now singing “You got the needle in me baby”) and a 20 minute version of Dylan’s Hollis Brown, and Niagara. They were a pretty incredible live act, and played some great blues at the time. By 1973, Stone The Crows had split, and Maggie had gone solo. I saw her twice in 1974. The first time was on the bill of The Who’s excellent Charlton gig, and the second was at The City Hall, with the wonderful Pretty Things as support. The Petty Things were now label mates, both appearing on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. Her set featured largely new material from her Queen of the Night and Suicide Sal lps. She put on a great rock show, but some of the raw power, and blues, of Stone The Crows had been lost. She’d moved to a more traditional heavy rock format (as had label-mates The Pretty Things), and in my mind, it didn’t suit her as well as the blues that she had grown up with. Maggie went on to have a hit with “Hold Me” which she sang with B A Robertson, and she also sang the theme tunes to the TV shows Hazell and Taggart. She moved to Holland and all but disappeared from the music scene, returning to the UK a few years ago. She is now playing solo, sometimes with blues singer Dave Kelly and sometimes in the British Blues Quartet, in the UK, Germany and mainland Europe. I haven’t caught up with her yet, and really must do so; it would be great to attend a Maggie Bell gig again.

The Pretty Things Brudenell Social Club Leeds 23 Sep

The Pretty Things The Brudenell Social Club Leeds 23rd Sep 2011
Chances to see the legendary Pretty Things come few and far between, particularly here in the cold north. So David, Laura and I made the trip down to Leeds on Friday night to see the R&B / Psych legends play at the Brudenell Social Club. David and Laura had both been to the Brudenell before, but this was my first visit to the club which has been voted the best small club in the north, and has a history of hosting pretty fab and cool events. The Club itself is what it says on the tin, an old social club which now holds rock nights. On Friday the concert room was packed with young sixties freaks wearing some of the trendiest vintage clothes I’ve seen, and sporting haircuts straight out of the Monkees in 1966 (think Steve Marriott meets John Fogerty meets Peter Tork), mixing with a smattering of old guys like me. I guess The Pretty Things are seeing some sort of revival with new mods and 60s / psych fans. A good proportion of the Emmerdale cast (Cain Dingle, Katie and a few others) were also in attendance.
The Pretty Things came on stage around 9.30pn and started with some R&B classics. It was clear from the start that the crowd were out to party, with much 60s dancing in evidence (at one point I thought I’d wandered into a 1967 episode of Top of the Pops). After a few songs we were treated to a sequence from the epic, much under-rated, classic album S F Sorrow, including my own particular favourite Loneliest Person. At around the halfway mark original singer Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor performed a couple of acoustic blues, with some amazing guitar from Dick and some bluesy mouth harp from guitarist Frank Holland. Then it was back to the raw R&B tunes, closing with a medley of LSD and Old Man Going. The band themselves seemed pretty knocked out by the reception and returned for a couple more songs, finishing with their early hit single Rosalyn. Views on the way out seemed unanimously positive; everyone realising that we’d just witnessed true legends at their best. I managed to pick up a poster (see below) on the way out, then it was back home via Newcastle to drop Laura off back at her flat. Phil May is still my hero (but fraid I don’t think the dark shades look cool Phil).
Set included (but not in this order): Road Runner; Don’t Bring Me Down; S.F. Sorrow Is Born; She said Good Morning; Baron Saturday; Loneliest Person; Midnight To Six Man; Mona; L.S.D. / Old Man Going; Honey I Need; Rosalyn
Brudenell Social Club website
Pretty Things website


The Pretty Things at Colne R&B Festival 30 August 2010

The Pretty Things at the Colne R&B Festival 30 August 2010
The Pretty Things were one of my favourite bands in the late 60s and early 70s. I bought a copy of S F Sorrow for a few shillings in a second hand shop in Sunderland shortly after it came out and played and played it. I couldn’t believe how good it was and yet it seemed that no-one else had heard it at the time. I then saw the band several times in the early to mid 70s. Everything was great about them; Phil May’s hair was longer than mine (made me so jealous) and the mix of R&B, rock and psych in their music was unlike any other band at the time. Its been around 10 years since I last saw the Pretty Things; time to see them again.
I arrived late in Colne on Sunday night having driven across via Harrogate. The Trevor Burton band were taking the stage as I picked up my wrist band for the International Stage and ventured into the Municipal Hall where the action was. Trevor had taken the place of Peter Green who is sadly unwell. His set was a healthy mix of blues and 60s rock; he closed with Traffic’s Mr Fantasy and Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love. After a short break our compere (wearing a fetching sombrero!) introduced The Pretty Things. The time was now 11pm (a bit on the late side for me!). The current line up comprises Phil May and Dick Taylor from the original band alongside Frank Holland who has been with the band for some years and relative new comers George Perez, Mark St John and Jack Greenwood. Didn’t recognise the first number, but they were soon playing songs that I knew, largely drawn from their early 60s hit singles and their 60s and 70s albums. So we got Don’t Bring me Down and Havana Bound early on in the set. The power is still there and Phil May’s voice sounds as strong as ever. The band are all dressed in black suits, white shirts and blakc ties; ala The Blue Brothers (!). After a few songs Phil introduces a couple of songs from S F Sorrow: S F Sorrow is Born and Baron Saturday, for which Dick Taylor takes the vocals. About half way through the set Phil tells us how he used to look up to Dick and Keith Richard at school and how they used to sing together during lunch breaks. This leads into a great short acoustic blues set with Phil on vocals and Dick sitting down playing slide guitar. Frank joins for a couple of the songs on blues harp. Then we are back to the hard edged R&B that the early 60s Pretty Things were known for: Midnight to Six Man, Mona (in tirbute to “their mentor” Bo Diddley), and Buzz the Jerk. On Hoochie Coochie Man Phil tells us that he usually sings the song with his mate Arthur Brown. LSD (is it innappropriate for 65+ men to sing of drugs like this?) leads into the great Old Man Going from S F Sorrow. The encore is Rosalyn which takes us back to the early 60s again. Lots of people dancing and even though it is 12.45am no-one seems to want to go. Great stuff. These guys can still do it and show no sign of stopping now.
So I go out and brave the windy rounds across the moors. Get home about 3am, tired but pleased that I made the trip.

Setlist included (but not in this order):
Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
Buzz the Jerk
Raining in my heart
The Beat Goes On 
Don’t Bring Me Down 
Havana Bound 
S.F. Sorrow Is Born 
Baron Saturday 
Midnight To Six Man 
Hoochie Coochie Man
Come See Me 
L.S.D. / Old Man Going 

Blues festival website: