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The Digital Music News Podcast

Nov 20, 2019

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Phil May from the band, The Pretty Things. One of the most influential people in rock history, and you’ve probably never heard of him.

Phil May founded The Pretty Things with Dick Taylor in 1963. He founded the group with Dick Taylor who had previously been in Little Boy Blue And The Blue Boys with Mick Jagger. That group would eventually become The Rolling Stones and the group that Taylor and May started, The Pretty Things.

The Pretty Things were born in an era in which rock music was still something risqué.  This would pose a problem for the band as they became the first British band to get busted for drug possession.  In an era in which parents were already weary about letting their kids listen to The Beatles, The Pretty Things were something parents definitely didn’t want their kids to listen to.

The band would undergo numerous changes throughout their history.  They had 33 members over the years and the band went through numerous artistic changes as rock music evolved between 1963 and 2019. They evolved from rhythm-and-blues to psychedelic to a more traditional ‘classic rock’. Interestingly, the band was banned from New Zealand for their corrupting influence on youths, according to May.

Their first foray into psychedelic was with the world's first rock opera, S. F. Sorrow. An album that clearly influenced The Who's Pete Townsend, although he will refute that, there is a clear influence if you listen to both albums. I often remark on their influence as even superstars such as David Bowie was a huge Pretty Things fan, covering two of their songs on his album Pin Ups.

When you look at The Pretty Things' catalog of work, you may start to wonder why you haven’t heard of them — especially if you're savvy in classic rock.  There are a few reasons why, and we delve into those in this podcast, but it boils down to the industry focusing on commerce over innovation.  This is a natural byproduct of business as it intersects with art. 

The band wanted to try new things, make great music, and not be confined to making albums that sounded like their previous releases.  This presented a problem for labels, who were focused intently on their ROI.

The band remained strong and continued to release albums, even despite this.  The band did recently put on a farewell show, The Final Bow, with special guests like David Gilmour and Van Morrison. You can purchase the vinyl and DVD combo from Burning Shed.

Check out the podcast to learn more about the band and one of rock-and-roll’s most interesting stories!