Phill Bettany and Octopus have really pulled off something rather special tonight as the Legendary 60s outfit the Pretty Things are here to play in the basement lounge venue. If you imagine a scene reminiscent of any 60s underground club you’d observe a diverse and groovy crowd from mods to rockers to hippies and the local scenesters, this is who are here tonight defying all age groups from across the rock ‘n’ roll generations. Since the last time I was here the stage has been moved, and all the better for it allowing more visibility as it takes up the left hand side of the room.
Support tonight comes from the Black Apples who themselves are a popular local draw with their incendiary garage blues. Despite a plea from guitarist Alex for the crowd to move forward during their firey performance there seems to be some hesitancy. However this does not stop the lads from firing on all cylinders as they hit us with classic songs from their debut LP for the locally based Octopus records. As usual this is a tight performance as we hear “Hypnotised”, “Take me to the station” a couple of newys and, what was the highlight for me a cover of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s anthem “Oh well”. The Apples are the perfect opener for this evening representing the newer generation as they acknowledge the elderstatesman of the blues, soaking up their influence, having their own take and reinventing the sound for a younger crowd.
The Pretty Things are introduced as “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the history of the universe” immediately they storm into the mod classics “Roadrunner” and “Don’t bring me down”. Unlike their mates The Stones and The Who they never quite ascended in the dizzy heights of fame ,fortune, and success however, that does not diminish their importance and influence on a sixties music scene and beyond. Tonight we are treated to a heady mix of blues, r ‘n’ b and psychedelia as they mix up their musical potions in the cauldron. Vocalist, Phil May alongside guitarist Dick Taylor remain at the heart of the band as in the beginning when they formed in
Their classic 68 LP SF Sorrow is often regarded as one of the great lost classics of the psychedelic era recorded at the same time as Sgt Pepper and Piper at the Gates of Dawn, from that period we get all the magical whimsicalness of a selection of tracks live including ‘SF Sorrow’ and ‘Baron Saturday’. Phil May relates a tale of when they were starting out and would hook up with the Stones and play these intimate little blues clubs and with acoustic guitar in hand Dick Taylor treats us to a couple of blues numbers so we can imagine, take ourselves back in time and get a feel of what it must have been like back then. The performance is sublime a real treat for everyone, blues as it should be stripped to the bone and meaningful in delivery.
We are reminded from where the Pretty Things got their name from with reference to Bo Diddley and they start to build the momentum again powering through with R ‘n’ B stomp. With a superb ‘Judgement day’ with Taylor playing slide alongside guitarist Frank Holland they later move into psychedelic mode with a stretched out £.S.D which gets rapturous applause .Their cameo appearance in ‘What’s good for the goose’ is acknowledged and tribute played to the late Norman Wisdom - star of said film. As proceedings come to an end with a ‘bring it on home’ vibe Pretty Things have thoroughly enjoyed themselves so much so that Phil May says they want to come back! A nostalgic night for some and a rare treat for us all, a truly inspirational band and one which deserves more recognition alongside the more acknowledged greats who are indebted to them also. Well done to Phil and Octopus for getting this legendary band to Stoke here’s to getting more of the same in the future.
Black Apples : The Black Apples
Pretty Things : S.F. Sorrow
Pretty Things : Parachute