Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Pretty Things On Film!

THE PRETTY THINGS- On Film E.P.: Midnight To Six/Can't Stand The Pain/£. s. d/Me Needing You U.K. Fontana TE17472 1966

When we last left our pals The Pretty Things (see Anorak Thing October 13, 2010 ) they were en route to ditching the whole Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry/Jimmy Reed thing and getting freaky. It was now January 1966 and raving mad drummer Viv Prince was gone and replaced by Skip Allen. The band had embraced a more "mod" feel to their music that resembled, in parts , The Who and a slew of other "power pop" style bands on the scene in '65-'66 and their first offering of 1966 was this E.P(which was incidentally their third and final E.P. for Fontana). What's more interesting is the band were finally finding their feet and writing their own material with all four tracks on the E.P. being composed by lead singer Phil May and lead guitarist Dick Taylor (with help from session drummer extraordinaire Bobby Graham on "Can't Stand The Pain"). I was first hipped to "Can't Stand The Pain" on a cassette in 1984 by Bob from Mod Fun and in 1986 a then girlfriend turned me onto their '66-'67 sounds via Bam Caruso's brilliant LP compilation "Closed Restaurant Blues" which featured all four tracks from this E.P.(by then I'd come in through the back door and was already familiar with their later LP's "SF Sorrow" and "The Electric Banana"). But the '66 Pretty Things were onto something great!

This is no better exemplified than their "night people" anthem "Midnight To Six Man" (though "Man" was left off the title on this E.P. and just called "Midnight to Six").  Previously released in December 1965 as a single (Fontana TF 647) it perfectly encapsulates their brief "mod" sound flirtation with a Who styled rave-up, call and response backing vocals, Nicky Hopkins style piano boogie woogie, ringing power chords and above all angst!  "Can't Stand The Pain" ("Midnight's.." flipside) is probably the earliest indication of The Pretties getting "trippy".  From it's wiggy guitar vibrato intro to Phil May's "out of sorts"/hushed vocals to it's pace which speeds up to a Pretty Thing's '64 vintage style rave up then falls back down to weirdness the whole thing is a sonic acid trip. And speaking of...on side two we have "£. s. d" , a double intendre of sorts.  The number's got nothing to do with lysergic acid diethylamide but concerns the original English currency denotation for pounds, shillings and pence, but it didn't hurt to give a little controversy, nudge nudge, wink wink. The track is a musically similar vein as many other mid-tempo Prettie's numbers that fall somewhere between their r&b era and this new short lived mod/freakbeat spell before the went whole hog on the psychedelia thing like "Buzz The Jerk" . "£. s. d" later popped up on the flipside of their next 45 "Come Se Me" (Fontana TF688 April 1966). "Me Needing You" follows a similar tempo, though the "mod" roots are still there with the intro nicked lock stock and barrel from Alvin Cash and The Crawler's 1964 gas "Twine Time" with a lick that resembles "Midnight To Six Man" a bit as well.  The band made a really groovy promo film for the E.P. ("Pretties On Film" get it?) that you can watch below.

All four cuts can be found as bonus cuts on the CD reissue of their classic second LP "Get The Picture".

The '66 mark Pretty Things rave it up in Germany.

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