The Pretty Things in Scotland

When the Pretty Things miss their Elgin gig

From “Fit Like, New York?”. The London group, The Pretty Things gained a reputation for their unruly behavior. Even worse, their management missed an opportunity to book them on THE ED SULLIVAN Show in the States.
“In early 1964, the group signed with Fontana Records. The label proposed that they add Viv Prince (b. 1944) on drums. Although only 19, Prince was already something of a music business veteran, having played with the Dauphin Street Six and Carter Lewis and the Southerners. Earlier he had also been an income tax officer in Loughborough, Leicestershire. Executives at Fontana believed that Prince would bring a degree of stability and professionalism to the Pretty Things’ rather undisciplined sound. Their misread of Prince would emerge later, but in the meantime, Prince fit perfectly into the group-his skillful, energetic drumming giving their music a powerful drive. For their first single, the group recorded a track penned by Jimmy Duncan. ‘Rosalyn’ (backed with ‘Big Boss Man’) was released in June, and the screaming, hard-pounding A-side received encouraging reviews. ‘Not a great deal of melody,’ wrote New Musical Express, ‘but ample enthusiasm, sparkle and drive.’ Likewise, Record Mirror described it as a ‘Bo Diddley beat, wild vocal, good song, but maybe a little too confused for the charts.’ An appearance on the TV show Ready, Steady Go! followed, and the group’s long hair, frilly shirts and animalistic sound sparked sufficient press furore to propel the single into the lower regions of the charts. An American agent who had seen them on Ready, Steady Go! offered the group a US tour and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, an opportunity their management failed to take advantage of.[2]

Although together for less than a year, the Pretty Things were now touring extensively throughout the United Kingdom, creating mayhem both on and off stage. Such media headlines as ‘Adults Hate Us More Than the Stones'[3] and ‘Would You Take the Pretty Things into Your Local?'[4] became commonplace. Early articles dwelled incessantly on their appearance, particularly their long hair, with one newspaper observing, ‘Phil May must have the longest hair on the long-haired current pop scene.’ Ironically, while the group was being bashed for their fashion sense, they were making plans to open a woman’s boutique called the Penny Halfpenny near London’s Portobello Road. While outrage ‘Stones’ style was limited to schoolboy pranks, the Pretty Things were attacking grand pianos with axes, setting fire to stage sets, and being arrested for pulling out a sawn-off 12 bore shotgun to deal with some violent mob after a gig.

Finding a suitable follow-up single to ‘Rosalyn’ was not easy. They considered several titles, including a slow Jimmy Reed song called ‘The Moon Is Rising’. The group found the perfect number penned for them by Johnnie Dee, former lead singer of the Bulldogs. Dee travelled with the band to ‘soak up the atmosphere.’ ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ backed with ‘We’ll be Together’ was issued at the end of October 1964. The A-side’s crashing, wailing tempo changes and leering, sexually provocative vocals combined to ignite more controversy, and more sales. The single smashed into the UK Top Ten in November, and Fontana capitalized on the group’s success, recycling their first two singles on an EP by year’s end. To promote the single, the group embarked on an eight-day Scottish tour on 12 October, followed by television appearances on Ready, Steady Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars.


My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. Growing up a few miles from San Francisco, I would frequent the active music scene on weekends besides being a fan of British BEAT music and never missing Shindig! on television. When first visiting the small community of Elgin in 2007, I was surprise to learn how the Beatles and many other vocalist and musicians came to perform during the early days of their careers. In the early 1950s, Albert Bonici began promoting dances though it had been an ambition since his teenage years. When he and Henry Robertson co-organized a string of jazz dances in the north Scotland, they could not have predicted the enormous success of the venture. Albert Bonici became one of the most respected promoters in the UK having arranged a high volumn of music venues throughout the north of Scotland which delighted music lovers during the height of the jazz and beat music era. Whilst known for booking the Beatles at the beginning of their 1963 tours, Albert Bonici brought most of the top British acts to north-east Scotland besides working with Scottish musicians to boost their careers. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and also a tribute to a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Albert A Bonici hosted many up and coming bands who went on to gain international acclaim for their contributions. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music

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