# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Pretty Things - Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 22 / 2 / 2015

Pretty Things - Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky
Label: Snapper Music
Format: CD Box


Extraordinary career-defining box set from durable 60s innovators, the Pretty Things

It is hard to describe the effect seeing and hearing the Pretty Things for the first time had way back in the early to mid-sixties, especially for us pre-teens. The arrival of the beat boom bands at the start of that decade changed music forever, but it didn’t take long before most bands could be neatly placed somewhere between the Beatles (the nice, poppy boys) at one end of the spectrum and the Rolling Stones (the dangerous R&B guys) at the other. One band though certainly didn’t fit in. Those who thought that the Rolling Stones were uncouth, scruffy ruffians (and there were more than a few) must have locked their doors and put bars on the windows when they heard the Pretty Things were coming to their town. In their early days the Pretty Things peddled the same R&B that the Stones and countless other hopefuls did, but the Pretties delivered it with more menace, attitude and bravado than any other band. They were constantly compared to the Stones. The fact that guitarist Dick Taylor was the Stones bassist before Bill Wyman was but one reason. Another was that in Phil May the Pretty Things had a front- man who was even more fascinating to watch than the then outrageous Mick Jagger. May had all the moves, the hair (he was once labeled as being the longest haired male in the UK), looks that matched the intensity of the music the band made and a voice that made Jagger’s R&B snarl (and that of any other R&B singer) sound like a choirboy. Through 1964 until 1966 the Pretty Things took their brash brand of R&B into the all important charts a number of times; although only their second (‘Don’t Bring Me Down’) and third (‘Honey I Need’) 45s made the top twenty. All of their Fontana label singles deserved higher placings than they achieved. They all reached the top 50, but lesser songs and bands were reaping bigger rewards. The band also released two albums in 1965. Their self-titled debut actually made the top ten album charts, but by the time the band’s second effort, ‘Get the Picture’, was released towards the end of that year the first of the many personnel changes that would litter the band’s lengthy career (the band are still active today) had taken place and the Pretty Things would trouble the charts no more until ‘Parachute’ in 1970. Why the Pretty Things fell out of favour with the British record buying public is a mystery. The band certainly moved with the times more effectively than most of their contemporaries. They embraced psychedelia more successfully than the Kinks, the Stones and the Who. In ‘S.F. Sorrow’ they produced a concept album that reportedly influenced the Who’s ‘Tommy’, and they also had a hand in establishing both prog and hard rock with later albums. Recent years have seen the band finally being hailed as the innovators they were. It’s just a shame that not many hands were put in pockets at the time. The Pretty Things’ back catalogue has been quite well served through the years. Both Snapper Music and Repertoire Records have kept the music available, with some neat compilations, straight reissues of the original albums and some interesting expanded editions. Now Madfish Music (part of Snapper), the label responsible for the excellent Family box set ‘Once Upon A Time’ from a couple of years back, have assembled just about everything the most devoted Pretty Things fan should ever need in another well thought out box set, limited to just 2,000 copies. Note ‘just about everything’; it would seem that the background music that the band made for films under the ‘Electric Banana’ name in the 60s and 70s is absent from this collection, although a few songs appear on one of the ‘rarities’ discs from the sessions the band did with Phillippe Debarges (another album that the Pretty Things made which has never been given the praise it deserves). But what you do get is the following: all eleven studio albums on CD from the self-titled debut in 1965 right through to 2007’s ‘Balboa Island’, the majority of which feature a bunch of related bonus tracks; two extra CDs of ‘rarities’ which include alternative versions, demos, live recordings and outtakes; and two DVDs featuring a new documentary titled ‘Midnight To Six 1965-1970’, a live recording of the ‘S.F. Sorrow’ album at Abbey Road and a brace of promo videos and interviews. There is also a 10” replica acetate of the ‘Defecting Grey’ demo plus three other tracks. That’s it for the music but there’s also a hundred page illustrated hardback book with a history of the band by Mike Stax (Ugly Things), family tree and testimonial posters, excerpts from the legal files pertaining to the band’s constant battles over ownership of their work and a new art print by Phil May. As box sets go, it’s up there with the best, lovingly put together and although the current price is high given the time and quality of the set it’s worth every penny. So you can still buy many of the albums on CD in perfectly acceptable (and at times, stunning) sound quality at extremely reasonable prices but really, if you are a Pretty Things fan, you need this collection. Hopefully the interest surrounding this box set will inspire those yet to discover the Pretty Things to check out their back catalogue; there’s a lot to admire there. The band were simply like no other. They took on every musical shift and won. Many 60s bands started as R&B outfits and dabbled half-heartedly in the changes as they came along before moving on to the next new thing, but the Pretties seamlessly adjusted with the mood. More often than not they were at the forefront of any major musical developments, but they never received recognition for this. There is the history of British music contained in this box set. From the early 60s right up until today, the band barely put a foot wrong musically and listening to the music with fresh ears proves just what a talented bunch of musicians they were and still are. For those who rightly believe that punk music was more about an attitude than the actual music then forget those 70s bands you thought invented it and check out the true originators, the Pretty Things.

Track Listing:-

Band Links:-

Label Links:-

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit


Interview (2015)
Pretty Things - Interview
Mark St John, the former drummer with 60's act the Pretty Things, talks to Nick Dent-Robinson about the group's influence and notoriety
Interview (2015)


Profile (2015)
Pretty Things - Profile
Lisa Torem finds that several new reissues and remasters by 60's act the Pretty Things speaks volumes about their versatility and progressive attitude towards rock


The Sweet Pretty Things (Are in Bed Now, Of Course…) (2015)
Stunning first album in seven years from the Pretty Things, who, after an over fifty year career, sound as contemporary and cohesive as ever

most viewed articles

most viewed reviews

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors