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Friday on my Mind 190: RIP Phil May

The Pretty Things (whose member Phil May died last week) were a presence in and around my consciousness in the 1960s. I caught them on TV once and my father of course remarked they were far from pretty. Chart success mostly eluded them, though. However, I do recall vaguely that they were the first British band to sign to Tamla Motown in the US.

Like most early 1960s bands they started out playing the blues but they soon evolved. The were the first to produce a rock opera in the concept album (one of the first of those) S. F. Sorrow where they indulged psychedelic tendencies, but its release was messed up and it therefore appeared after The Who’s Tommy.

Below is an appearance from French TV in which they play a song from S. F. Sorrow. The introduction to this has pre-echoes of Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas and the visual styling and antics of the guy in the tricorne hat could have inspired The Alex Harvey Band.

The Pretty Things: Private Sorrow

Philip Dennis Arthur Wadey/Kattner (Phil May:) 9 /11/1944 – 15/5/2020. So it goes.

Not Friday On My Mind 27: Happy Jack

Somewhat surprisingly the appearance of this song on the radio and in the charts in my schooldays didn’t lead to much poking of fun at me.

The Who: Happy Jack

Friday on my Mind 112: Painter Man

A small hit in the UK (no 36) but a no 8 in Germany. The track has echoes of The Troggs and The Who of I’m a Boy and prefigures the Roy Wood era Electric Light Orchestra. The video features “guitarist” Eddie Phillips playing his instrument with a violin bow – reputedly the first to do so – a major contributor to the record’s sound. Another antecedent of Prog Rock?

Phillips had also used this technique on their previous single, Making Time.

The Creation: Painter Man

Not Friday On My Mind 21: Pictures Of Lily

Another admonitory tale.

I remember this single being advertised on the NME – complete with pictures of Lily.

There is a video of this on You Tube showing pictures of various Lilies. Not quite the thing for the blog though.

The Who: Pictures Of Lily

Old Men’s Music: (We’re Gonna Change The World)

Way back in the day there was a book published – I forget its name and author – that had photographs of rock/pop stars of the 1960s (or early 70s) appearing above a line from a song lyric that was vaguely appropriate. This was an attempt of sorts to sum up the late 1960s zeitgeist.

The image/line combination that most struck me – it has remained in my mind all those years – was the last one in the book.

The line was, “Hope I die before I get old,” from, of course, The Who’s My Generation.

And the star whose image it illustrated?

Frank Sinatra.

That sentiment is doubly ironic now that The Rolling Stones have celebrated 50 years in “the business” and The Who themselves continue to tour. Not their fault, of course, that the line was used in such a way. It did reflect though the disregard – even contempt – in which “old men’s music” was held by the generation that grew up in the long shadow of World War 2; a generation whose 1960s efforts were partly an attempt to shuffle off the stifling shackles of that conflict and define a future for themselves. In Britain too there was the nagging sense of loss that the disappearance of the Empire caused – something no-one, quite rightly, gives a stuff about now.*

I could never understand Sinatra’s appeal myself. I still can’t. The man could not hold a note. He always, always, sang flat and could ruin a song’s rhythm and meaning by eccentric phrasing.

One of the purveyors of old men’s music, indeed he was said to be Sinatra’s favourite other singer, was Matt Monro. Matt Monro was an English singer who made his name in the 1950s and 60s before moving to the US, from where, because his wife was homesick he later came back.

Monro was one of the first singers to perform a Bond movie theme in From Russia With Love and also had a biggish hit with another song from a film, Born Free. A couple of years ago I happened to catch a TV documentary about his life and came to a deeper appreciation of his gifts as a singer. His voice has a crystal clarity with great diction and he can carry a note, or a phrase, seemingly effortlessly. The good lady heard him on the radio recently and wondered when he actually took a breath!

His image in the 60s though was deeply uncool; early LPs merely had his photo and a list of some songs as a cover design, a practice pop and rock abandoned even before the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper. I would not normally have listened to him at the time. There was one song he performed, however, which really stuck with me.

It was released in 1970 and more or less topped and tailed that attitude of the 1960s I described earlier, that intuition of something different (which, naturally enough, never came to pass; it never does.)

The song was called We’re Gonna Change The World and considering who sang it was quite a counter-intuitive choice to be put out as a single.

Judge for yourselves.

Matt Monro: Were Gonna Change The World

*Edited to add:- well the Brexit vote showed how wrong that perception was.

Not Friday On My Mind 11: Pinball Wizard

For some reason I had remembered this as being from 1970 but it was actually 1969.

According to Wikipedia Pete Townshend called it a “clumsy piece of writing.” Whether that comment relates to the music or lyric is not entirely clear.

I tend to the lyric as the intro (in a style much imitated later by U2) is a classic bit of rock guitar; and the booming out of that first loud note made the song instantly unforgettable.

The Who: Pinball Wizard

Friday On My Mind 26: I Can See For Miles

I’ve already featured The Who’s I’m A Boy but that was before I started this category.

It was a toss up between this and Pinball Wizard for the single from The Who that is my next favourite from the 60s. I Can See For Miles just shades it.

The Who: I Can See For Miles

Friday On My Mind 1. Friday On My Mind

The Branch Manager at my workplace had the thought that we workers weren’t having enough fun (thank you David Brent) and came up with the glorious idea of having a competition. We were to name our favourite 1960s hit – that is no purely album tracks were allowed – and pay £1 for the privilege of entering it.* A committee was formed to adjudicate the results. The winner was announced and played over the tannoy – wait for it – after work on the day we broke up for Easter. Some fun!

Runner-up was the now ubiquitous but at the time relatively ignored Hi-Ho Silver Lining as by The Jeff Beck Group. It came second to Daydream Believer by the Monkees. You’ll have guessed I wasn’t on the committee. I will admit to a softish spot for the Monkees but Daydream Believer is a bit twee.

Anyway this all got me to thinking which song I would have considered. I soon realised that choosing just one is impossible but if I had to it would probably be Rupert’s People’s Reflections of Charles Brown but really it depends on the mood I’m in.

I’ve already featured a lot of 1960s songs here and any of them could have been contenders. So pick one from Rainbow Chaser, Tiny Goddess or Pentecost Hotel by the true Nirvana, the real Nirvana (see my category and scroll down.)
Or there’s America by The Nice, with which I started off my prog rock musings, plus their The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon – even if it was a B-side – and The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack,
The Electric Prunes’ I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and Get Me To The World On Time (both here,)
The Small Faces’ Tin Soldier,
The Who’s I’m A Boy,
Python Lee Jackson’s In A Broken Dream,
Procol Harum’s Homburg,
R Dean Taylor’s Gotta See Jane and Indiana Wants Me.
I would also have included Nights In White Satin by The Moody Blues if it hadn’t been turned into a cliché by excessive re-releasing and overplay.

That’s most, but not all, of the 1960s songs I’ve mentioned before.

But there is a host more, of which I have fond memories and which I might have chosen.

So to start what may be a regular series this is The Easybeats and Friday On My Mind.

*Edited to add:- The money collected was to be split two to one between the respective submitters of the winner and the runner-up.

I’m A Boy

It wasn’t till I caught this clip on You Tube that I realised how much this song resembles punk.

Or should that be how much punk owed to the Who?

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