The Pretty Things - Greatest Hits album review

Underground stalwarts’ 60s encapsulated

Cover art for The Pretty Things - Greatest Hits album

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In many ways the Pretty Things really were what Andrew Loog Oldham sold the Rolling Stones as. Founding guitarist Dick Taylor actually was a Stone until he ducked out of the fledgling combo in ‘62 to study art, but the quintet he formed with futuristically hirsute fellow student Phil May had so much antisocial attitude, feral rhythm ‘n’ blues brutality and argumentatively shaggy hair that they never actually enjoyed any of the hits that this double-disc’s title idly boasts.

The ironically branded Pretties were malchicks to a man. Sullen and aggressive, their take on the R&B that the Stones had recently ushered into the mainstream (then quickly abandoned) was raw, it ramped up the keening sexuality at the core of the genre, and its influence was broad and enduring. David Bowie covered both Rosalyn and Don’t Bring Me Down on Pin Ups (his address book listed Phil May under ‘G’ for God). Aside from The Dame’s patronage, generations of testosterone-packed adolescent males found release in replicating the 12-bar assault the Pretties pioneered (Dr Feelgood, Nine Below Zero, Thee Headcoats, The Strypes, Eight Rounds Rapid). Elsewhere, latter PTs define other 60s aspects (Defecting Grey’s dark psych; pioneering concept work S.F. Sorrow’s proto-metal Old Man Going). But it’s the desperately driven early material corralled here – and coupled with a live 2010, 100 Club revisit to the band’s eponymous debut – that’s sure to ensnare and inspire most new converts.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.