Standing, or collapsing in some cases, seamlessly more primal and dirtier than The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things in the mid sixties were the ultimate band for scaring not just the parents, but also shocking the entire fabric of British society. In later weeks, we will of course be visiting The Pretty Things self-titled debut in 1965, but today it is to the follow up, Get The Picture? released on Fontana Records in December 1965.
The Pretty Things had already established themselves at Fontana for being totally uncontrollable and mercilessly unapproachable in the recording studio, The Pretties therefore found themselves having the freedom to sound pretty much as they saw fit, a luxury that many of their peers at the time could only dream of.
The Pretty Things' self-titled debut in 1965 was an extremely raw outing, the musical equivalent of carpet-bombing. With Get The Picture? we begin to see a real development of the band towards control and using their arsenal for to-the-bone R&B in a more humane way, if such a thing could ever exist.
The album begins with the soft and gentle-ish You Don't Believe Me, which is actually quite timid for this band but with the snarling vocals of Phil May, its unquestionably a Pretty Things attempt to try and at least be tender, but by Track Two the true nature of the beast is unveiled with Buzz The Jerk with its dirty bass riff, the filthy guitar of Taylor and almost sinister vocals, proper!
The title track then follows in a similar vein, and should set you up nicely for what else is contained within the vast majority of this album. We'll Play House, Rainin' In My Heart and LSD (That's right, in 1965) all have that hard edged aggresive approach not matched by many British bands at the time.
Other highlights include Cant Stand The Pain, which undoubtedly shows hints of the promise that this band will fulfil in later releases. This is further exemplified with London Town, with the vocal style of May definitely having an impact on Peter Doherty of Libertines fame in later life.
As is the way, in later years there have been extended reissues of this album to include the glorious singles and rarities The Pretty Things were also recording at the time this album was made, the best of which is the pure filth of Come See Me, this really is an outstanding version.
I don't think I am alone, but since my first listen, I have always loved the way The Pretty Things produced their early stuff, particularly here with this album, there is no over production if any, there is no thrills, no tricks and no conning of the audience, its just proper Rhythm and Blues in its purest form, and for me, that's all you can ask for really.
This was the first album I ever bought - way back in 1966. It was a killer then and it still is now. While the Stones were still making cover versions or hiding their own compositions behind silly names, the Pretty Things were out there doing their own thing. This is music ahead of its time. A sixties album that you can listen to without embarrassment. (Apart from the sleeve notes - but you can't blame the band for them.) Loved it then - still love it now.
The first album I ever bought, way back in the mid sixties - and it still sounds good. While the Stones were still making pale copies of Chuck Berry and early Tamla Motown, the Pretty Things were already ploughing their own furrow - there is some seriously weird stuff on this album (Can't Stand the Pain) as well as some very dirty guitar (Gonna Find a Substitute) a little proto-Brit soul (Get the Picture) a little swamp blues (Raining in my Heart)and even a drop of folk rock (London Town) - not forgetting the classic cover of Cry To Me. This has not dated - it's a classic - buy it, if you know what's good for you.
The good cop/bad cop image that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had in the 1960s may have been a tad contrived. The Beatles weren't the clean cut lads they might have seemed and the Stones certainly played up to the Bad Boys Of Pop reputation they had that oiled the publicity machine so well. They had risen from a pool of bands playing blues and Bo Diddley covers, bands like the Downliners Sect, the Cops 'n' Robbers, the Bo Street Runners and the Pretty Things, and when it came to bad publicity, the Pretty Things had it in spades, and were rarely out of the headlines for their rock 'n' roll crimes. They were badder than the others and their music was rawer, wilder, bluesier and more crudely recorded. Most of them shared a house and lived the rock lifestyle of excess to the full.
Their second album, Get The Picture?, came out only a few months after their self-titled debut, and showed a laudable unwillingness to compromise, though it also showed they had not stood still musically in the intervening months of grueling round-world touring (they seemed to have left the drummer behind in New Zealand) as there was now a light and shade to the group sound and signs of experimentation. It also featured more of their own material, which included not only ravers like Buzz The Jerk, but also lighter folk-influenced songs like London Town and the excellent Can't Stand The Pain, on which Dick Taylor's guitar stands out. The covers include a great rough and ready rendition of Slim Harpo's Rainin' In My Heart, Ray Charles' version of I Had A Dream and the Cops 'n' Robbers' own But You'll Never Do It Babe. Their hit version of Cry To Me, written by Bert Berns for Betty Harris but best known at the time in Solomon Burke's cover is also featured. The Stones had recorded the song around the same time for Out Of Our Heads, so a direct comparison can be made.
This reissue has been given the re-master treatment, and now includes all the extra tracks added to the contemporary EPs Rainin' In My Heart and The Pretty Things On Film, plus the raw soul power 1966 single Come See Me, adapted from the northern soul version by JJ Jackson.
The Pretty Things On Film EP featured 4 songs from the soundtrack of LSD, a Chaplinesque short directed by Caterina Arvat and Anthony West, described on the EP sleeve as "sixteen minutes of chase, laughter and many brilliant club scenes". It included their all-stops-out recent classic single Midnight To Six Man ("he might be gone first but is he going anywhere?"), recorded apparently between midnight and six at IBC Studios, and featuring the tinkling piano of Nicky Hopkins and Margo from Goldie and the Gingerbreads on organ. It stalled surprisingly at number 46 in the UK charts but was included on Nuggets II.
If you want one Pretty Things album in your collection, this is probably the one to go for
this album,their second has some great tunes.they really started to grow here.some great covers and a couple of very worthy origionals.stand outs for me are:come see me (on the snapper release),buzz the jerk,cant stand the pain and midnight to six man.very 1965 especially the atmospheric,late night feel of cant stand the pain. the real surprize is how much they grew musically from this to their next album.amazing!!!
Having fond memories of seeing The Pretties at Leeds Silver Blades ice-rink waaaaaaaaaay back - and getting the ep for Xmas I saw this and couldn't resist it. Yes, it's still an awesome album and with the added material an absolute must for any 60's RnB fan.