Guide to British Music of the 1960s


The Pretty Things

Biography | Discography | Web Links | Books


Dick Taylor - guitar/vocals, Phil May - guitar/vocals, John Stax - bass, Brian Pendleton - guitar, Viv Prince - drums

The Rolling Stones were not the only R&B band to come out of Kent in the early 1960s. Formed at Sidcup Art College in 1963 when Phil and Dick met up. Dick Taylor had already played bass in an early version of The Rolling Stones and had been part of the line-up during the band's debut in July 1962. Taylor had previously been in a band called Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys which also included Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Taylor was replaced by Bill Wyman as the Stones bass player when he went to art school, preferring this option to turning professional with the Rolling Stones.

Back on guitar and with Phil May on vocals and harmonica they were joined by Brian Pendleton, John Stax and original drummer Pete Kitley who was quickly replaced by Viv Andrews and Viv Prince by the time they signed with Fontana at the end of 1963. Their first manager was Brian Morrison, a fellow art student, who went on to a major managerial and promotional career in the music business. The band played hard-edged R&B. The name was indeed taken from a Bo Diddley song Pretty Thing. While the Rolling Stones were developing a reputation for wild behaviour, the Pretty Things were actually much worse and their hair was even longer!

The second single Don't Bring Me Down made the top ten and was the band's biggest hit. The debut album The Pretty Things was full of R&B classics. After a disastrous tour of Australasia Viv Prince was fired to be replaced briefly by Mitch Mitchell (later of the Jimi Hendrix Experience). Skip Alan then joined on drums. He had previously led the Skip Alan Trio. the band had a number of further minor hits during 1965 and 1966 including the superb Cry To Me and Midnight to Six Man.

However, the "British R&B explosion" had run its course. Twink from the Pink Fairies replaced Skip Alan on drums. The group made a major style change with the Emotions album taking the Pretty Things in a more psychedelic direction. This was the last album on Fontana and, afterwards, both Stax and Pendleton left the group. Wally Allen and John Povey joined from Bern Elliott & the Fenman and the band signed with the more progressive label Harvest. The Pretty Things then released what is widely considered to be the first rock opera SF Sorrow which was a major influence on Pete Townshend writing Tommy. While this was undoubtedly a great album it had little impact on the general public and sales were poor.

Skip Alan returned for the rockier Parachute following the departure of Twink and Dick Taylor.

Rock St. Trop was a collaboration between the French singer Philipe Debarge and the Pretty Things.

The group split in 1971 although there have been a number of reunions since.

Phil May died 15 May 2020 aged 75 following a cycling accident.

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