THE PRETTY THINGS – A Personal Selection

Over 51 years, this great British group has recorded some fabulous tracks – here are my very subjective favourites at this moment in time …

MY TIME (Emotions)

Set to a springheeled tempo unlike any other song I have heard, this emotional song seems to be a plea for forbearance. As Phil May puts out a yearning vocal performance, an eerie five-note brass riff builds behind the song

ROADRUNNER (The Pretty Things)

Perhaps the ultimate beat group performance of the time, the Things drive Bo Diddley’s tune along with dotty breaks from all instruments and a grinding guitar riff that is as addictive as it is relentless


A nasty, bitter blues rock gem from a wonderful and haunting album. The vocal is spat out against saturnine guitar phrases which hint at jazz. The only other cut with such atmosphere is The Byrds’ Gathering of Tribe, also about motorcyclists


Surely a song which evokes night-time Soho better than any other. May tells of the band going down to Soho after gigs, chatting to the hookers and realising that every person on the planet has a story to tell. The hook riff is a measured churn that even Blue Oyster Cult would struggle to match. The beat is deliberately splintered with accents that will not leave your brain

ME NEEDING YOU (B side of House In The Country)

Lurking on the flip of the Things’ great performance of a Ray Davies song, Me Needing You is the moodiest track the band have recorded. A heavy bass run is topped with bittersweet electric piano. Phil almost dismisses this as a John Stax bass exercise that came together quickly. Buts its sardonic lyric and delivery make it for me a vital component of The Pretty Things’ deserved status

RENAISSANCE FAIR (The Sweet Pretty Things )

Yes, the Byrds’ song delivered with an English touch on the group’s latest outing. Down at their last gig in Cranleigh, I gently reminded May that they used to play this song sometimes. He just nodded. The regal guitar intro is striking and the words paint a picture of medieval times and a celebration

CAN’T STAND THE PAIN (Get The Picture)

From an album stuffed with gems, this track is so unusual in form it still stuns. A Spanish flavour guitar motif sets the scene, with the song then plunging into a faster tempo and back again. Blues..but not as we know it

SHE’S FINE, SHE’S MINE ( The Pretty Things)

The Bo Diddley love song, swinging like a bitch with great Viv Prince snare rolls and a clever guitar arrangement. Phil’s vocal here is excellent and the band still play this song today. On Bo’s original, the drummer gets lost and never quite catches up again…..


Beating Tommy to the punch as a rock libretto release, this album’s story in song has many great moments, many of them sombre. This exercise in tension is a highlight, the urgency crystallised and the guitars edgy as ****. It still sounds exciting and mysterious, decades later


Bass and drum arrangements don’t come better than this – an exercise in dynamics with proud guitars and a Bohemian lifestyle tale. The choppy beat only adds to the impact

RELIGION’S DEAD (Freeway Madness)

Almost a Johnny Winter riff used on this one, May sounds at his most anguished as a bluesy lope rolls along. One of the band’s best guitar weaves here and from an album full of ‘growers’

ALEXANDER ( Phillippe Debarge)

Hypnotic song and performance as the Things back French singer Phillippe Debarge for a 1969 set of album recordings not released til many years later. Lots of May/Waller songs and all high quality. Tremendous drumming on this and spooky guitar runs.

EDGE OF THE NIGHT ( Cross Talk )

From a somewhat overlooked album which has a punky snarl upfront and which May really likes. This bluesy chugger really swings and the Skip Alan drums are right on the money. A touch of John Hiatt in the delivery but more likely Phil influenced him!

The dark Bitter End also shows the band at their edgiest, up there with The Stranglers’ Straighten Out.

DREAM /JOEY (Silk Torpedo)

Rock doesn’t get moodier than this pulsing, eerie pairing. Insanely catchy, May and crew sing over a stomping beat with regal chord changes and a rich group sound, keys neatly integrated and a harpsichord-tinged Povey solo which sounds so very English. This is probably the nearest The Things have come to Kinks territory in song construction. Plus one of those biting guitar solo’s that fade too early…

CRY TO ME (Get The Picture)

Also a single, it was a great feeling hearing this May reading of a soul gem booming bluesily from the boutique jukebox in a coastal town in 1966 where my crumbling family had been relocated pre implosion. The group makes this song breathe and sound so effective with no overkill, just apposite handling.The little girls understood

Pete Sargeant

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Thanks Phil and thanks Alan at INDISCREET