Oy! What you lookin’ at??
Listen/Download -Pretty Things – Don’t Bring Me Down
The 45 I bring you this week is one of my all-time favorite finds.
Back in the day (way back in the day) I took a little trip to a local antique mall on account of I’d heard there were records to be pawed over.
At first, aside from a very expensive copy of the Rajput and the Sipoy Mutiny LP (way too rich for my blood) there didn’t seem to be much there, until that is I stumbled upon a table full of 45s.
Even when I got into that mess, it didn’t seem too promising.
Then, while flipping through a stack of sevens I happened upon the familiar, blue Fontana label.
My first assumption was that I had happened upon yet another copy of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s ‘Je T’aime…’, so imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw that what I was holding was a Pretty Things 45!
It was shocking because outside of the rarefied air of record shows it was the first (and last) time I ever encountered one of their records in the wild.
During those heady, mid-80s garage/mod days the Pretties loomed large, first and foremost because of their bad-assery, which was compounded by the fact that they had the cache of obscurity here in the states (practically unheard of aside from their much later Swan Song LPs junking up flea market stalls).
Amongst the British R&Beat scene, the Pretty Things were a very big deal, scoring in the UK, on the Continent and pretty much everywhere else aside from the US of A, where in 1964 they were way too long-haired, mean and freaky for the time.
Mickie Most could stuff the Animals into matching suits and they’d pass on American TV, but I can’t imagine Ed Sullivan taking a shine to Phil May and Dick Taylor with their ratty thrift store sweaters and vomit-flecked boots, not to mention their unspeakably long hair and general bad attitude.
Though the Pretty Things would later add a touch of pop and jangle to their barbed wire, in the early days they were among the most faithful devotees of the US electric blues sound, presaging US-style garage punk with their snarl.
Written by Johnnie Dee (lead singer of a group called the Bulldogs, I’m not sure if this is the same Johnnie Dee who recorded for Sonet) and released in 1964 (it was the group’s follow-up to ‘Rosalyn’) ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ was a UK Top 10 hit. It’s rawer than most of similar contemporary efforts from that side of the pond, with wailing guitar and harmonica and of course Phil May’s snotty vocals.
The opening guitar line, moving into the tambourine hits is one of the great openings of the Beat era.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back next week.