Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Most people lie about their school days: no one wants to admit they were ordinary. Better to say you hung around behind the bike shed, that teachers and kids hated you for your music, clothes or whatever.
Oh, and you smoked.
makes you seem more cool and interesting -- and most people weren’t.
of the lies people who formed their musical taste in the mid Sixties
tell is that you were either a Beatles or a Stones fan. Those liars
will always say they were Stones’ fans.
them sound cooler, the rebel kind.
wasn’t my experience. In those days radio wasn’t balkanised into
white music, black music, MOR or whatever and you could hear Joe Tex
and Sam Cooke alongside Napoleon XIV, the Supremes, and Roger
Miller’s King of the Road. People listened to everything.
who by then was making shitty films, was another matter. But we all
bought A Hard Day’s Night and Get Off Of My Cloud as
well as singles by the Small Faces, the Kinks, Four Tops and Dave Clark
there did seem a line drawn at the Pretty Things who crashed into our
world in ‘64 with an ear-blistering slice of garageband pre-punk
noise, Don’t Bring Me Down.
mere 2.35, it opens with a thin guitar twang and then gets down to
serious business over a thumping, primitive Bo Diddley-style riff
before singer Phil May tears his vocal chords on “I’m on my own,
just wanna roam, I tell you girl, don’t wanna home . . .”
wailing harmonia sears through.
didn’t want to hold your hand or be your man: “I met this chick
the other day, and then to me, she said she’ll stay. I got this
pad, just like a cave, and then we’ll have our living made.”
[Which I always thought was “and then we have, a little rave“].
more: “Then I lead her/laid her [?] on the ground, my head is
spinning round, don’t bring me down . . .”
Jesus! Sex right then and there, and don’t fuck with me?
Pretty Things were raw and primal in a way even the Stones weren’t.
They were in fact the band the Stones might have been.
Dick Taylor had gone to the same art school as Jagger and Richards
and they’d formed an r’n’b band. When the superior player Brian
Jones turned up Taylor shifted to bass and they became the Rollin’
Stones, after the Muddy Waters song.
short time later Taylor quit, hooked up with May and after some
line-up changes the Pretty Things settled with Taylor, May, rhythm
guitarist Brian Pendleton, bassist John Stax and drummer Viv Prince
whose behaviour made Keith Moon look like a choir boy.
Pretty Things were also the hairiest band around and made no attempt
to embrace pop success. They unapologetically played direct’n’dirty
who’d loved the Stones recoiled at the sheer noisy intensity of
Don’t Bring Me Down. Even today the middle section is more
white noise than an instrumental passage: the guitars and the
harmonica collide brutally.
is thrilling -- and proved perfect parent-baiting music, which may
have been much of its appeal to 13-year olds like me. Garageband rock
-- although we didn’t know that’s what it was -- became part of
our musical landscape right then.
there it was on to the Downliners Sect and late Sixties metal
noise-merchants like Blue Cheer. When the Stooges rolled around they
seemed easy and logical, but when Bowie covered Don’t Bring Me
Down on Pin Ups he sounded like a pussy.
Pretty Things came to New Zealand in ‘65 and created chaos for two
weeks: fights, drunkenness, editorials and articles railing against
them, groupies, Prince ejected from the flight to the States (no
condition to travel) and lots of noise.
astonishing story is told in dirty detail in Don’t Bring Me Down
. . . Under by Mike Stax, Andy Neill and John Baker (Ugly Things
bands have matched the lecherous firepower and debauchery, the
gristle and sinew, of Don’t Bring Me Down, a behind-the-bike
loved it. I guess that made me too cool for school, huh?
This is lifted from my original 45 so has lovely surface noise. As Iggy Pop said of CDs, "Life has surface noise, get over it." For more oddities, one-offs or songs with a backstory see From the Vaults.