Dick Taylor - The Pretty Things
On the phone with David Lee Wilson - 1999
Sixty-one felony convictions. Banned for life from the continent of Australia. Original member of the Rolling Stones. These are credentials that take a musician from being simply a player to that of fully baptized rock and roller. Dick Taylor is the center of this band of English pranksters calling themselves The Pretty Things. A group who learned early on that trashing a hotel room could get far more press than any amount of peace and love babble.
The music is a bit on the incredible side as well if you can get past all of the piss and vinegar spewing from the guys who make it. Did you know that Pete Townsend got the idea for "Tommy" from what The Pretty Things had done on their own "rock-opera," "S.F. Sorrow?" This is a guy that I simply needed to speak with, so I did. Managing to call him Mick when he answered the phone I got this curt reply, "How 'bout trying Dick? Could you call me back when you have got it right?" Yeah, I needed to talk to this guy. Fucking incredible is all I can say.
DAVID LEE: You have obviously been a very busy man as of late, at least it would seem that way to me because I have received about eight or nine discs from The Pretty Things in just the last few months?
DICK TAYLOR: Yeah, well we just recorded a single, funnily enough.
K2K: Really!
DT: Yeah, so that is what we recorded two weeks ago and it is going to come out very shortly over there.
K2K: So, you are quite busy after, what was it, a twenty year layoff?
DT: No, no, we haven't had a twenty-year layoff. This is the curious thing, we have been doing an album, the album that has come out over the last few months, has been something that we have been doing for, goodness, who knows how many years. Meanwhile, Phil and I were working quite a bit in Europe with other personnel but for the last five years we have been working with the band from 1966. We got back together and we have been doing stuff in England and a few bits and pieces in Europe and what have you. We haven't exactly had a layoff of twenty years.
K2K: I was just reading from the liner notes of the "Rage Before Beauty" album and it said that it took nineteen years to get it out. . .
DT: Yeah, that is right. That is absolutely right. Certainly we have been doing that but it was in, sort of, drips and drabs and what have you.
K2K: I would have liked to have seen the original title for the album used, "Fuck Oasis And Fuck You!" Why did you pass on that gem?
DT: Yeah! Well, I thin k that was the original thing. I is alright because Oasis are managing to fuck themselves anyway so they don't need us to tell them to do that! (laughs)
K2K: You would have thought that somebody, at least from a publicity angle, would have thought that would have been a great title for the record given the stir it would cause.
DT: Yes, right. It certainly was a possibility at one point.
K2K: But, as they say, calmer heads prevailed?
DT: Yeah, whatever.
K2K: Speaking of calmer heads, the image of the band has never been one of calmness or restraint. Is this still the case?
DT: I don't know. This is a quest ion that I find difficult to deal with, I must say, because we are who we are and the sort of Things that go on are what happens. (laughs)
K2K: You are not putting much stock in the observations of others about you?
DT: No, I don't think so really. We are a reasonably unique collection of people in the fact that we can still get on with one another after all of these years.
K2K: Is that something that was not always the case?
DT: Certainly not while I have been in the band. It has always been a reasonable level of tolerance of one another. Certainly people have dropped out and lineups have changed and what have you but we generally remain friends, which is, I think, a very good thing. Most of the people who have been in the band we could call and say, "Hey would you like to do some gigs?" and most of them would say, "Yeah, I would go for that." Even amongst those who are no longer with us. That is another good thing, we have all managed to remain alive! (laughs) I think that is a miracle!
K2K: That is something because there are a great many who have fallen by the wayside since those days when you all first came out.
DT: Yes, that is true. there are so many people, when you think about it, that are missing.
K2K: So, this is not a reformation in the true sense of the word but. . .
DT: Well. It is a reformation in the fact that the band of the 1960's has joined together again and we have done that over the last couple of years and because we have now got access to all of our old material and Snapper (the bands current record label) has done such a great job in re-releasing it that it really is like a reformation, a renaissance. You could say that it is a reformation in that respect but I have been working with Phil right along.
K2K: You are only going to be in the States for about three weeks, right?
DT: Yeah, three weeks.
K2K: When you were sitting down to consider what it is you would put into the live show how did you manage to wade through all of the material to make a set list? I mean, there is so much to choose from and there will be those who want to hear whole pieces of music like the "S.F. Sorrow" record, how are you going to please everybody in the few hours that you have on stage?
DT: Oh, right. That is something that we did do because we did it from Abbey Road but it was definitely a one off. We do a segment from it so that we do try and satisfy people in that regard but it is a very, very difficult task. You can never make everyone happy, there is always someone who really wants to hear the most obscure track and gets really upset if you don't do it. Also, you have to leave out some of the stuff that isn't so obscure simply because there is just not time to do everything and, sometimes, Things don't work quite as well with the rest of the set. But, as I say, there is always someone who comes along and says "Why didn't you do. . ." and you go "Oh Christ, well, we would have not done something else in order to do that and then someone else would come up and ask why we didn't do that one!" We do try and get a good spread of stuff from the sixties, from the seventies, from the eighties and from the nineties. It is probably the eighties that are least represented because the band was least active.
K2K: Are there Things that either have been reissued already or are yet to be reissued that you are not quite as proud of in deference to some others?
DT: there hasn't been anything that has really been out yet which I feel like that about, I must say. I don't think that The Pretty Things are a band that have done huge amounts of stuff to be ashamed of. What was that one, "Over the Moon," I could definitely live without that. then there was a thing called, "Tonight", which was absolutely dreadful so only those two which I would definitely like to say no to. Happily, I had nothing to do with those two anyway! (laughs)
K2K: What period were they from?
DT: That was sometime in the seventies, when I left the band for a while.
K2K: Conversely, what would you say were the essential Pretty Things
DT: Eek! Well, several off of "S.F. Sorrow" and some of the very early stuff. Did you ever hear an album that we did called "Cross Talk?"
K2K: No, I've never heard one.
DT: That is one that we did in the late seventies and early eighties that had some brilliant tracks. there was one called "No Future" which I loved. I don't know, this is tonight that I am talking, tomorrow I might have a different choice! (laughs) That would be a difficult task. Let me think what else, it is a terrible recording but "L.S.D." I love. It got us into a lot of trouble but I quite like the actually song. It is funny because it is very garage-y and that I like.
K2K: On the original version, did you use the pound symbol for the "L" in L.S.D?
DT: Yes we did and it was absolutely done in the way that it should have been because money, at that time, was pound, shilling and pence. It hadn't been decriminalized yet and L.S.D. simply meant, in England, money. Yes, of course it meant acid as well but if you listen to the words it truly could be referring to money. Unlike "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" which was a purely trippy song, we got into trouble for our one.
K2K: Well, with the Beatles, there was this very heartwarming story involving Julian and a picture that he drew so maybe the story held off the authorities in their case.
DT: Oh, yes I know and what a load of bulls***! (laughs)
K2K: I can just imagine the brainstorming session to come up with that one. I wonder who did come up with it?
DT: I don't know but someone with their tongue firmly planted in their cheek I would say.
K2K: there have been a god number of your contemporaries who have gone on to do big Things and a whole lot more who have not, what would you credit as having the most effect on your longevity as a group?
DT: I think, possibly, the fact that we are still a little hungry! (laughs) I think that if we had been mega-successful, that could have really made us fall apart later on. I think that if we had continued on, and as Mark refers to it, the "chicken in the basket circuit," that would have been an awful fate. Chiefly, I think that it is actually the personalities of the people involved. We have managed, somehow, to get along with one another still and we are not totally just mercenary. We don't just do it, well, we would be stupid if we did it just for the money (laughs), we would have given up years ago if we were just doing it for the money!
K2K: Maybe it is a blessing because if you had been hugely successful you would have been bedding all these Brazilian teenagers and be having the same problems as your friend Mick [Jagger]. (laughs)
DT: Yeah, so we would probably all be dead. We would have all died of obscure sexual diseases or whatever.
K2K: Are there many people from that camp that you have kept in contact with through the years?
DT: Sort of. I am regularly in touch with the Stones management and although I haven't spoken face to face with any of the Stones lately there is definitely, that is just pure chance, it is not for any other reason. We are aware of one another's existence if you know what I mean. (laughs)
K2K: Mick doesn't pop down to the show to see if he can get in free then?
DT: No, no not generally. I have popped to a few of his shows though. It is very difficult to go and even chat really because they have to just get out of the place. They just come whizzing in and whizzing out. Hopefully, he will come to a show soon. We will give him a free ticket because we know it is hard for him these days with all of these divorce bills! (laughs)
K2K: As long as the royalties from "Bitch" keep rolling in I think he will be all right.
DT: Yeah, right.
K2K: Is there material that you worked on back then that was recorded and may see release?
DT: there is not a huge deal of it. there are a few songs but I am not going to tell you what they are because we will just unleash them on the world at some time. there is not that much I must admit unfortunately. Although, having said that, there are enough bits and pieces that would probably make and album but whether it would be an album that we would want to do, I don't know.
K2K: The material that is on the new record, "Rage Before Beauty," is that the final word for today?
DT: No, no we are starting again soon hopefully. No, certainly not, there is loads of stuff that we would like to get recorded very shortly. We just have done a single and that will be out so there you go.
K2K: So, you will be playing for about three weeks in the States and then where are you off to after that?
DT: Going home and to bed! (laughs) I am not sure. We will probably do some stuff in Europe and there are people in Japan and New Zealand and Australia that are interested in doing some stuff with us. Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and then we will go home and go to bed! (laughs)
Written by David Lee Wilson

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