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INTERVIEW: DICK TAYLOR, THE PRETTY THINGS – October 2018

| 9 October 2018 | Reply

INTERVIEW: DICK TAYLOR, THE PRETTY THINGS – October 2018
By Shane Pinnegar

At the start of the ‘60s Dick Taylor was playing with Little Boy Blue and The Blue Boys. Never heard of them? They featured a couple of chaps with the surnames Jagger and Richards, and in 1962 merged with Brian Jones and Ian Stewart’s outfit Rollin’ Stones (the ‘g’ came later). Taylor switched to bass at this point, but by December of that year he had left the nascent Rolling Stones to concentrate on this studies at Sidcup Art College in Kent, but was soon convinced by Phil May to pick up his guitar again and form The Pretty Things.

The Pretty Things never achieved the fame or fortune of The Rolling Stones, but on the phone from Melbourne Taylor has no regrets about his decision. After all, the band gave him a fifty year musical career, and this month they return to Australia for their second ever visit – their first to towns such as Perth – on their farewell tour.

The Pretty Things play Perth’s Charles Hotel on Sunday, 14 October, 2018.

 

Dick: Hello. This is Dick Taylor here from The Pretty Things.

100% ROCK: Hello Dick. Thank you so much for your time today, mate. How are you?

Dick: I’m good, thank you.

100% ROCK: Excellent. So, let’s start, if we can, with the obvious question. Is this really the last chance we’ll get to see The Pretty Things live in Perth in all your glory?

Dick: I think it probably is to be honest, yeah.

100% ROCK: After 55 years on and off, why retire The Pretty Things from touring now?

Dick: Well, principally, really because of Phil’s health, because he’s finding it hard to tour. I mean, hopefully, we would do things like the occasional big festival and things like this. This is what we discussed and when it was suggested that we quit, we realised that, you know, this is what we do. It’s certainly what I do, and I will continue playing – that’s absolutely sure, but we typically won’t be doing intensive touring and I can imagine that unless some big festival comes up in Australia where they would really like us to be on the bill, then I guess apart from that, it’s probably quite doubtful that we’d ever come back, unfortunately.

100% ROCK: It’ll be your first time over to Perth, so better late than never, I guess.

Dick: A unique opportunity.

100% ROCK: Yes, definitely. It’s unmissable from where I’m sittiing! Phil’s hinted that there might still be more new music to come from the two of you, whether that’s as The Pretty Things or some other entity…

Dick: Yes, I certainly hope so, yeah.

100% ROCK: Apparently you’ve worked on some material already and got something happening?

Dick: Yep, that’s right.

100% ROCK: Excellent. That’s exciting…

Dick: I’m going to draw a small veil over that, so it’s not completely out into the open, but yeah.

100% ROCK: Well, there’s very exciting stuff there. Will you miss the touring do you think?

Dick: Yeah, hugely, yes. I really like seeing other places. I mean, to me, people say, “Wasn’t it tough touring?” And I think, “Well I don’t know…” You know, you get driven around and you go and play in front of a load of people who hopefully make a load of noise and cheer you on. You get fed. You get to stay in hotels. Unfortunately, while I find it relatively easy, Phil isn’t any more, so, there you go.

100% ROCK: Emphysema, I believe, he’s struggling with?

Dick: Yeah.

100% ROCK: Yeah. Which must be very difficult, something like that obviously, running around on stage.

Dick: The funny thing is, he’s in such fine voice – so it’s a weird thing and it’s actually pretty therapeutic. You know, one of the treatments for emphysema is actually singing therapy.

100% ROCK: Oh, wow.

Dick: So, it’s like, you know, it’s almost therapy for him.

100% ROCK: Take your medicine. Get up on stage. There you go.

Dick: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s it, yeah.

100% ROCK: Let’s go back to the very start of your career. You joined the precursors to the Rolling Stones in, I think it was ’62. They must have been quite exciting days?

Dick: Well actually I joined the precursors to the Rolling Stones quite a few years before that, in effect, because when I was at school, every weekend some guys used to come round my house and we’d do Chuck Berry and other songs and what have you. And then through school I met up with Keith [Richards] and he started coming and joining our rehearsals. And then us and Brian Jones – the two things sort of merged together with Jones’ band and our little band and that actually did become The Rolling Stones.

100% ROCK: It must have been very rebellious playing that sort of music back then in England.

Dick: Yeah, I guess so, yeah. I mean, when we were sitting in my parents’ back room it didn’t seem that rebellious at the time, if you know what I mean! But then when we, particularly when The Prettys started, then we got onto the proper music scene, so then, yeah, it kind of was.

100% ROCK: Is it right that art colleges in England back then were very much hotbeds of musicians and so many great bands?

Dick: Exactly – Hotbeds. I mean, it really was. The people who were going to art school, a lot of them had an interest in music. We played guitars – particularly at art school – at every opportunity, when we were meant to be studying and what have you. And the same thing with others – you got people like The Kinks and quite a few other bands.

100% ROCK: Art and music seemed to be a lot more intertwined back then, I think.

Dick: Yeah I guess so, yeah… in lots of ways. And also because when we started The Pretty Things we were playing at the art school dances which is a really good, because there are quite a lot of art schools in the London area. So we played at quite a few of those, and it gave us a good grounding to start off with.

100% ROCK: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, so please tolerate me. Have you ever regretted quitting The Stones early on?

Dick: Ahhhhhhhh, I knew it – the question, the interminable “Did you regret leaving The Stones” question…

100% ROCK: Yes it’s gotta be in there unfortunately, sorry to be boring.

Dick: Yeah, yeah you gotta do it.

100% ROCK: Tick the boxes and then we’ll get onto more interesting stuff…

Dick: Yeah, yeah, yeah thank you. And the answer is no… well, the easy answer is no. The real answer is, “can I actually imagine my life as a different person?”

100% ROCK: Yeah, right.

Dick: It’s impossible. It’s a question you can’t answer. I’m happy with the life I’ve had, so far. And I wouldn’t want to live under the magnifying glass The Stones live under.

100% ROCK: Yeah, it’s certainly a very different lifestyle to most people, that’s for sure.

Dick: Yep, yep.

100% ROCK: The Pretty Things made some music which was just staggeringly ahead of its time, I think. Did you or do you relish the position of being out there on the edge of what was mainstream and commercial?

Dick: Yeah, I guess so. Yes. Although of course the answer to that one is, “Did we really realise what we were up to was so groundbreaking?” and what have you. I think what it was, you know, we started off doing the R&B stuff and then needed to develop out of that. A lot of times on stage we’d be doing sort of long bits of improvisation, and be kind of experimenting a bit, before we started recording the more psychedelic things which we did.

So, when we were with Fontana records, they wanted us to be a pop band, which… we really didn’t fit into that bag at all. And then when we had a break, after our contract had run out with Fontana we didn’t want to sign up with them again and they probably didn’t want us anymore. And we could do exactly what we wanted.

We recorded some demos and then Norman Smith at EMI heard the demos, and was quite interested in what we were doing – one of which was Defecting Grey, which was released as a single, which is sort of like a bit different most of the songs of that time. So that’s kind of how it worked out, in a way.

100% ROCK: The band has a reputation for being dangerous – I think John Peel called the band “frightening” at one point. Was that deserved?

Dick: [Laughing] I don’t know. Maybe… Maybe.

100% ROCK: I’m not sure if I should ask you to elaborate on that or not…

Dick: [Laughing] Well, no – no I don’t think you should! I don’t think I’m very frightening to be honest.

100% ROCK: The Pretty Things must be one of the most influential cult bands of all time. I’m sure that means a lot to you, but does it mean more than having had a slew of big hits and loads of cash?

Dick: Yes it does actually, and actually in lots of ways I think it’s kind of helped us in some ways. Because now, particularly when we’ve been playing in places in Europe like Spain and Italy, we get a lot of young people coming to the gigs. And also in Britain, we get quite a youngish audience, because they’re intrigued. And we kind of got the label of being a bit more cool than a lot of the bands that were around in that era. The ones that still operate. And I think we got a bit of a culty – cool thing going which is, uh, yeah I relish that actually. I’m more proud to be that than anything else I think.

100% ROCK: Certainly better than being one of many we shall not name here, that completely sold out and made a whole lot of dribble after a promising start.

Dick: I’m sure we have played some dribble!

100% ROCK: Well 50 years on I think you’re allowed a couple of little bits here and there.

Dick: A couple, yeah.

100% ROCK: It must have been a relief to win your legal case against EMI in the ‘90s and get your master tapes and a payout for royalties at that stage. Did that help keep the band going?

Dick: Yes, basically, certainly did. I mean, yeah, a lot of people never got paid their rightful due, I must say. And our manager, Mark St. John, who was very instrumental in dealing with the record companies, managed to actually get our royalties back, and also get the rights back. So, now we’re with a company called Snapper Records and almost all of our catalogue is with them – which is a really good thing, because it’s all under one roof, which is very unique for almost any band of that time.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Over the years, there were a fair few members come and go through the band but also you’ve managed to amass quite an impressive back catalogue, especially if you consider the Electric Banana material. In hindsight, were there missed opportunities? Did you do everything you wanted to do?

Dick: Obviously not. There’s masses of stuff we probably should have done and yeah, who hasn’t missed an opportunity. Having said that, there’s plenty of stuff we’ve done that I’m really happy with.

100% ROCK: Excellent. So if this is the last tour for The Pretty Things, are you going out on a high note – is the band still as vital and incendiary live as your reputation suggests?

Dick: I actually really love the band at the moment. The band we’ve got at the moment is probably one of the best incarnations. I’m being waved down at the moment to wrap this one up.

100% ROCK: That was my last question so that’s all good, we’ve timed it nicely.

Dick: Okay. Cheers, nice to talk to you.

100% ROCK: Thanks very much, Dick, we’ll see you when you hit Perth, mate.

Dick: Alright, see you in Perth.

Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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