Tag Archives: Pink Floyd

Under The Radar: The Pretty Things

Yeah, I know. The Pretty Things aren’t exactly unknown.

Well, to you, maybe, if you’re feigning surprise at the title. Hell, they were The Rolling Stones before the Stones were, and although they never got the press that Mick and the boys got in later life, they were still a significant part of the transition of rock’n’roll way back when. They were unmistakeably cool. They probably created the first concept album, even though Tommy by The Who is what most people will nominate when asked that question.

But even many of those who nod approvingly about Dick Taylor and Phil May and the boys from the 60s assume that it all ended a long time ago. So I’m writing today for those people.

To the amazement of many, in 1999 they came off the mat with a new album almost a quarter century past their zenith. Eight years later they released another (Balboa Island), but I prefer Rage Before Beauty. Here are my words from eleven years ago as they appeared in Consumable Online (including references to cloth-covered speakers and an amazement that men can rock in their fifties!)

Rage Before Beauty. And if you think that’s a great title, consider that the original was Fuck Oasis, and Fuck You!

Yessirree, these geezers haven’t lost one iota of vinegar over thirty five years, and now there’s a recorded document to prove it. Snapper Music has recently released the classic older titles by The Pretty Things along with this collection of material recorded during the mid and late nineties. The original band is as intact as it possibly can be in 1999, and that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “boys to men” now, doesn’t it?

For those unfamiliar with the band, they were contemporaries of The Rolling Stones (guitarist Dick Taylor was an original Stone), but their behavior and attitude made the Stones look like decent lads. When your drummer is widely considered the inspiration for Keith Moon‘s loutish lifestyle, well…that’s saying a mouthful.

It’s also pretty widely accepted that their S.F.Sorrow was the first rock opera, although Tommy certainly got the accolades and the airplay. They were the first signing to Led Zeppelin‘s flagship label Swan Song, but snafus let Bad Company get theirs out first. Whatever! It seems that The Pretty Things were snakebitten from the start, so why not channel that aggression into your life as well as your music? And so they did.

Rage Before Beauty is a telegram from a shipload of survivors, serving notice that although they’re old, they’re not in the way. Shit, Phil May‘s voice has a rasp that only pain could season. On “Love Keeps Hanging On”, May’s autobiographical tale of a relationship that’s been battered over time, his heart almost bleeds through the speaker cloth. What starts like “Wild Horses” soon increases intensity and by the finish is a full blown Pink Floyd anthem, with David Gilmour providing the type of emotional guitar solo he has built a career upon. Listen to the intensity of “Not Givin’ In”, which dares to drape garage punk with acoustic guitars (!), and it’s hard to believe that this is a band of men in their fifties. Ditto the opening cut “Passion Of Love”, very uptempo (for the Pretties) and a challenge to bands half their age.

Listen to clips at Amazon.

Guitarists Dick Taylor and Frank Holland simply shine throughout the record, but perhaps these two are great examples of less being more. “Everlasting Flame” recalls “19th Nervous Breakdown”; Skip Alan‘s drumming and the keyboard’s duel with the guitar leaving May no choice but to use the same cadence. And speaking of Bo Diddley, the tribute to their loon of a drummer, “Vivian Prince”, is another winner.

Making the record was reportedly as easy as passing a stone, though, and in spots it shows. Songs like “Blue Turns To Red” and “Going Downhill” (their single from 1989) sound like unfinished ideas when compared to some of the others already mentioned. And although they were probably a gas to record, three covers (“Eve Of Destruction”, “Mony Mony” and “Play With Fire”) are a large percentage to have when you’ve had so much time on your hands. “Fire” does have an interestingly seamy arrangement, and “Mony Mony” does feature Ronnie Spector, but they would have been better saved for live shows or buried as bonus cuts. I’d rather have seen the band add more rave ups or even songs like the frail, acoustic “Fly Away” instead, but I say that just to amuse myself. I know that the band would just tell me to piss off if I really suggested it to them.

Had the band not issued Rage Before Beauty at all, their legacy would have still been assured. They just wanted you to know that they’re not going out quietly, and they just might kick a few more asses before they do. By all means grab their earlier works,  especially S.F. Sorrow and Silk Torpedo, and then savor the great moments captured here, which far outweigh the ordinary ones.

Pretty Things Wiki page

I played the snot out of “Come Home Momma” when I was a DJ

One of my favorite mags was inspired by the Pretties – Ugly Things

The great old days are much like the new ones

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New Album! Bobby Emmett

My #5 album from 2009

I’ll forgive you if you think you somehow slipped a Raspberries album in your player when the familiar staccato power chords come blasting out of your speakers on the opening track; I sure did. But quickly the bridge will reassure you that this is a different journey…and then the high octave harmony vocals sell the chorus, and the Todd-like guitar solo stutters and rips across the melodic ribbon…and your jaw, like mine, has dropped.

Bobby Emmett – you know him from The Sights – has stitched together a Frankenstein monster of a record that splashes the DNA of just about every powerpop touchstone you can name into an infectious, joyous blast. That he recorded it in a bedroom and played and sang the vast majority of it himself just makes it that much more amazing. Many albums start strong, an obvious single in the leadoff slot, but four, five tracks in you will find yourself hard pressed to settle upon a favorite.

“Still Wanna Be With You” borrows a line from “1-2-3 Red Light” for the chorus but dunks it into a modern framework not unlike Silver Sun or Farrah (and that vocal flourish at the end is spine-tingling). Sure, the haunted vocal in “Moving Ahn” suggests John Lennon, and the spelling of the song title correctly suggests a mix of Billy Joel and Big Star (think Chris Bell singing “Moving Out”) before the coda drifts into a mash-up of Pink Floyd‘s “Great Gig In The Sky” with “I Want You” (either The Beatles or the Elvis Costello song – your pick).

I say all this with reverence and a straight face. There are enough copycat bands of all genres exhuming the work of their predecessors and passing it off as their own sound, but Emmett has assembled a ten-track killer of a solo album here. Whether it’s the soulful mid-tempo “November” (a hipper “Everything I Own”), the sweet Harrison slide of “Never Waited So Long”, the psychedelic “Love Is Real” or the straight-ahead pop majesty of “Broken Hearted” and “Queen of Hearts”, Emmett is all hooks and harmonies and ear candy. Learning Love is a joyous and stunning effort. 

This review is from the brand spanking new issue of Bucketfull of Brains. Use the link on their page and sign up for a sweet three issue subscription.

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High Roads, Haiti and Grande Ballrooms

Class act, class exit.

Conan O’Brien proved last night that it is possible to walk away from an ugly situation by taking the high road. His last show was filled with fun, pranks, great music and a heartfelt message to his fans.  

Watch here.  

And in case NBC takes down the video, here’s a transcript of his comments, plus clips from his fellow talk-show hosts.  

I could write fifty pages on why people love Conan O’Brien and not touch that four minute speech.  

***  

If you’re the type of person who likes to contribute to worthwhile projects, here are a couple of opportunities on wildly different scales.  

  

I’ll Stand By You  

Hope For Haiti Now conducted a very successful telethon last night where millions of dollars were raised for the cause. I’m as skeptical as the next person about charity scams and how some organizations skim large percentages off the top for administration costs with little of the money actually going to the charity. But this project was set up with public transparency and a guarantee that one hundred percent of the donations will go to a handful of specific organizations who are on the ground in Haiti.  

Please beware of scam sites. This is the official one.  

Of course, you might be donating through work (with an employer match) or directly to an established organization you trust (i.e. The American Red Cross). Nothing wrong with that – charity comes from the heart, and whatever you do is greatly needed and surely appreciated. It could even be non-monetary, like volunteerism or prayer. But know that despite what some religious nutjobs and political wingnuts are saying, this is not reparation but a natural disaster that has flattened a helpless people.  

We take much for granted. There but for geography and fate go I.  

***  

Where rock'n'roll met its match in Detroit

On a whole different level, documentarian Tony D’Annunzio is completing a film project about the legendary Grande Ballroom in Detroit. The Grande was as critical to the development of the Detroit rock music scene as the Fillmore West was to San Francisco and the Fillmore East to New York. This is where every band from Detroit aspired to play, and where every band from out of town had to walk the gauntlet and prove themselves worthy.  

Check out this amazing trailer featuring several legendary musicians who fondly recall the place where magic happened.  

Here’s the official blurb from the project website:  

LOUDER THAN LOVE is the story of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit Michigan. The Grande Ballroom was the birthplace of the Detroit Rock Music Scene. Bands like MC5,Iggy & The Stooges,Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes,Alice Cooper and many more got their start here. The Grande not only influenced local Detroit musicians but inspired bands from all over the US & from Europe. Legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream, BB King, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and The Who graced the stage at the Grande on a regular basis. While the west coast was groovin’ to the sounds of the “Summer of Love” in 1967, Detroit was pumping out a hard driving,gritty and raw sound that was LOUDER THAN LOVE.  

Sounds like a worthy project and a great tribute to a landmark. Contact Tony D’Annunizio through that webpage if you need more information.  

Just don’t accidentally contact this guy.

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The Wall

Germany Wall Anniversary

And the wall...come tum-ba-lin down

The futher away we get from this, the more it will be taken for granted. As one of the generation who had daily air-raid drills I can attest to the weirdness that was the Cold War (Why we were any safer in the fetal position under our school desks, I dunno, but whatever…).

To witness this twenty years ago was astounding.

Orson Welles 3rd Man

So maybe you get that Pink Floyd album out today. Maybe you watch The Third Man. Maybe you go really out there and blast Hedwig and the Angry Inch out your windows (highly recommended, by the way). Or maybe you simply call your Dad or Grandpa and thank him for doing the same thing that our brave men and women do today – putting their lives on the line. Celebrate liberation…in whatever form you can savor it.

Hedwig Yankee go home

But if you think we learn from history, think again.

(This isn’t about political party lines – it’s about humanity. And tomorrow’s anniversary will be as well, albeit in a totally different way.)

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