The Pretty Things would seem at first glance to be an epitome of 60s also-rans. Coming from a background of proper dirty R&B belters like 1965’s “Rosalyn”, they’re a band that doesn’t show up very much in the grand histories told of rock (no, I hadn’t really heard of them either), and they featured members like guitarist Dick Taylor, The Rolling Stones’ very own Pete Best, who dropped out just before the boys got big. Add to that their first live performance of this album where they tried to mime the whole thing and their sound man was too mashed on LSD to play the background tracks, and you get a band that neatly ballsed up their chance at greatness.
In a way that’s a shame, because this “SF Sorrow”, which they designed as their ‘comeback’, certainly has all the ingredients for greatness. It’s been described as the first concept album, and Pete Townshend cited it as a big influence on “Tommy”, which given the similarity of the opening guitar of “Old Man Going” to “Pinball Wizard” might not be something he’d want to draw too much attention to.
There’s loads of fascinating, exciting and exquisitely produced tracks on here, from the opening track “SF Sorrow is Born” through the ferocious “Baron Saturday” to the painful “Loneliest Person”. In fact it’s so well done, with so much creative psychedelic sound and imagination, and a wonderful Britishness about it, that I feel bad that I couldn’t engage with it more.
It’s a concept album, yes, but unless you’ve got the sleeve notes to explain it all, it’s not a concept that you can get your head around or even really notice clearly, and when you do check it up on Wikipedia it’s a pretty depressing story anyway.
When it got its US release, it was slated as (ironically) ripping off “Tommy”, and on its UK release it came out the same week as “The White Album” and “Beggars Banquet”. Clearly Lady Luck had a grudge with these boys.
Oh yeah, and they sound like Daleks at the end of “I See You”.