Phil May, frontman of the Pretty Things, passed away on Friday at King’s Lynn, Norfolk. The singer was 75 years old and died due to complications following a recent hip surgery after a cycling accident, his passing unrelated to the coronavirus.
May formed the pretty things in 1963 with guitarist Dick Taylor, an early member of the Rolling Stones. John Stax, Brian Pendleton and Viv Andrews all eventually joined the band and became a key part of the London blues-rock scene.
The band pulled their names from Willie Dixon’s 1955 song “Pretty Thing,” and saw a career spanning from the early ‘60s to the present day. Beginning with blues and moving into psychedelic rock, hard rock and new wave, the band managed to stay on top of each generation and rock movement. While failing to reach the top charts in the United States, The Pretty Things saw success in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands.
The Pretty Things created the first rock opera with SF Sorrow. The album described the fictional life of Sebastian F Sorrow as May created lyrics utilizing psychedelic imagery he gained from various acid trips. SF Sorrow was recorded at Abbey Road Studios the same time the Beatles were creating The White Album and Pink Floyd were making A Saucerful of Secrets. May came out as bisexual during the late ‘60s and became a prominent counterculture figure.
David Bowie had covered the band’s songs “Rosalyn” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” on his Pinups album in 1973. The band were one of the first acts to be signed onto Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records, where they released their albums Silk Torpedo and Savage Eye. In the ’90s the band joined with former Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty to create the Pretty Things/Yardbird Blues Band. May and Taylor stuck together throughout the bands history, various members flowing in and out over the decades. The band eventually split up at the end of 2018 following a farewell tour.
May is survived by his son Paris, daughter Sorrel and partner Colin Graham.
Listen to The Pretty Things blues-inspired “Don’t Bring Me Down” below.
Listen to The Pretty Things psychedelic “Cry To Me” below.