The Pretty Things

En 64, les Rolling Stones montent en selle et les Beatles sont sur la rampe de lancement. Les Pretty Things, eux, sont déjà le pied au plancher. Premiers adeptes tout terrain de la trash attitude, les « Dirty Stones » comme on les surnomme, trustent les gros titres des journaux. Menés tambour battant par le chanteur Phil May, l’ado le plus chevelu d’Angleterre, et un batteur aussi accro aux fûts de bière qu’à la batterie, les Pretty Things deviennent la bête à abattre.
Dans la catégorie groupe maudit, les Pretty Things remportent la palme. Les Londoniens avec une régularité qui force le respect accumulent tout au long de leur carrière les rendez-vous ratés et la malchance. Idolâtrés par les Stooges, le MC5 ou David Bowie, leur attitude « je-m’en-foutiste » et leur son toujours dans le rouge en font les pionniers du punk.
Taylor et Phil May montent en 64 les Pretty Things, en hommage au morceau du bluesman américain Bo Diddley. Leur premier tube « Don’t bring me down » entre au top 10 anglais tandis qu’aux États-unis, il est illico censuré pour ses paroles olé olé.

Le groupe s’oriente par la suite vers une musique plus élaborée, culminant en 1968-1970 avec S.F. Sorrow, considéré comme l’un des premiers opéras-rock/albums-concept, et son successeur Parachute, qui ne rencontrent pas de succès commercial. Les Pretty Things poursuivent, depuis, une carrière irrégulière, largement ignorée du grand public, continuant à enregistrer et à donner des concerts jusqu’à ce jour.

 

The Pretty Things were the also-rans of the British Invasion, a band that never got its due. Despite this lack of recognition, they were never quite ignored, cultivating a passionate cult that stuck with them through the decades — a cult that was drawn to either their vicious early records, where they sometimes seemed like a meaner version of the Rolling Stones, or to their 1968 psychedelic masterwork S.F. Sorrow. Some of their fans advocate for the entirety of their catalog, noting how the group adeptly shifted with the times. Despite these shifts in style, they rarely racked up hits on either side of the Atlantic. In the United States, they didn’t chart until 1975, a full decade after they released their rough-and-tumble debut. Back then, the Pretty Things seemed like rivals to the Rolling Stones and that was no great leap: guitarist Dick Taylor played bass in the first incarnation of the Stones, not long before he teamed up with Phil May to form the Pretty Things in 1963.

Taking their name from a Bo Diddley song, the Pretty Things were intentionally ugly: their sound was brutish, their hair longer than any of their contemporaries, their look unkempt. This nastiness was evident on their first pair of singles, « Rosalyn » and « Don’t Bring Me Down, » two 45s that charted in 1964, their success helping to get their eponymous debut into the U.K. Top Ten a year later, but that turned out to be the extent of their commercial success.

The Pretty Things may not have shown up on the charts but their cult proved to be influential: it’s been said Pete Townshend was influenced by S.F. Sorrow to write Tommy for the Who and David Bowie covered both « Rosalyn » and « Don’t Bring Me Down » for his 1973 album Pin Ups. Critics liked them too but that acclimation didn’t sell records. Nevertheless, the Pretty Things were survivors, soldiering on through the ’70s, turning into a harder, heavier outfit that was rewarded with marginal U.S. success — 1974’s. 

They decided to celebrate their 50th anniversary in style, touring Europe and the U.K. in 2013 and releasing the career-encompassing box Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky in 2015.

 

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8 juillet Blois La Guinguette

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