16/9/15 – The Pretty Things – Private Sorrow – French TV – 1968

Song Of The Day


Beat group gets arty, Psychedelic, theatrical call it what you will, but it’s the era of experimentation and The Pretty Things were most definitely branching out. Who is that in mime? It’s Twink, The Pretty Things drummer, keyboard player Jon Povey is playing drums. This little fantasy comes from the groundbreaking album SF Sorrow and with Twink in this mode it’s seems rather appropriate being aired on French TV (you know Marcel Marceau and all that).

I met Twink once, he came backstage in LA with Ricky from Brian Jonestown Massacre and introduced himself, “Hello, I’m Twink” – lovely man. One wonders what planet he was on here but it seems like a happy place, a thoughtful place, a colourful place even though the clip is in black and white. At this point Dick Taylor is still there, as is bassist Wally Allen and of course the freaky Phil May.

The SF Sorrow album is essential to any record collection and oddly it’s a concept album that whilst by definition should be swallowed whole, each song deserves individual attention. Private Sorrow is the fourth track on side 1 and might be re-examined in the context of the record, but stands strong on its own, both here on TV as well as with the personal experience of herbs, tea and big old fashioned armchairs in raggedy Victorian rooms overrun with the keen and adventurous new generation of the day for whom at the nerve centre of any happening house worth its salt (or sugarcube) – is the stereo.

One must mention the producer – Norman Smith is quite unacceptably unsung in musical history, his legend lives on with those that know his work but he should be heralded, knighted, made a duke- anything. He should be acknowledged as one of the greats of the era. One suspects that it was simply that everyone was in the shadow of The Beatles but what The Pretty Things were doing was a conglomeration that incorporated The Beatles, The Pink Floyd and pre-empted The Who’s Tommy. (Smith was engineer on all The Beatles albums up to Rubber Soul). He produced, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, A Saucerful Of Secrets and Ummagumma. He produced Once Again for Barclay James Harvest and even had two solo hits in the seventies, Don’t Let It Die and Oh Babe What Would You Say.  He died at the age of 85 in 2008 – he was 45 years old when he produced SF Sorrow.

The Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow is part of Norman Smith’s legacy but the band somehow slipped through the cracks in the wake of their contemporaries, Floyd, The Who and The Beatles history taking over the world. But SF Sorrow is still there, languishing in the racks, a total gem waiting for that new generation of retro vinyl buyers to get over Dark Side Of The Moon, Led Zep 4 and Sgt. Pepper’s and dig a little deeper.

Heaven’s rain falls upon
Faces of the children who look skyward
Twisting metal through the air
Scars and screams so you might know his fury

Sea shells whistle
Let your mind drift away
Sea shells whistle
Let yourself hide away

Men walking tall, looking so small
Green trees of life disappearing
Mouthing the sounds, face clowning the frowns
Black the lips of command

Torn in the heart, you’re playing the part
Courage, it is so demanding
Loud brass in bands, marching through lands
Life snatching hand is near

Heaven’s army falls upon
The skirts of Mother Earth and then flies skywards
Twisting wings through the air
Lift the souls so you might know his fury

Sea shells whistle
Let your mind drift away
Sea shells whistle
Let yourself hide away

Dressed in white silk of rain, you marry the pain
As you kneel in a church of bright steel
A new morning arrives, you share the same skies
Umbrella ring a land full of peace

As the memory fades on the edge of a blade
You’ll return you ‘re sure that you will
From the frame in your hand, a smile expands
Hangs from a thread of glass tears



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