Morgan Delt on The Pretty Things – Philippe DeBarge
The third installment of Hidden Gems is upon us. Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that got away. For this installment in the series, I asked Morgan Delt to take his pick at an essential piece of the past. He picked The Pretty Things’ lost album with French singer and socialite Philippe DeBarge. I asked Morgan how this psychedelic odyssey and true lost classic came into his life and what the record means to him.
Morgan explains, “Two years ago we were on tour, and Lisa Roe from Trouble in Mind was driving and playing this record that sounded like some kind of great, lost Pretty Things album with a different singer. I was in the back of the van and couldn’t get her attention so I listened to the whole thing puzzled by what it was and later found out that it was in fact a lost Pretty Things album that had been recorded in between S.F. Sorrow and Parachute. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was shocking, life changing information for me at the time.
When I was a teenager I had my mind blown by S.F. Sorrow and “Defecting Grey” for the first time, and they set the standard for what psych meant for me and what could be done with studio experimentation. Then, later I fell for their next album Parachute and eventually grew to love it more than S.F. Sorrow, so a missing link between those two albums is like a psychedelic holy grail to me.
Morgan elaborates, “Apparently Philippe DeBarge was a rich French guy who wanted to become a pop star and hired the Pretty Things to make this record for him but then never released it. They recorded some of these same songs on a series of library records they made under the name Electric Banana but the Philippe DeBarge versions are way better and it all flows like a real album in a way the Electric Banana stuff doesn’t.
The sequence of four songs, “Peace”, “Eagle’s Son”, “Graves of Grey”, and “New Day” is the peak here and captures the moody, mysterious quality that I love about this period of the Pretty Things. It doesn’t matter that there’s a different singer because the real highlights are the guitar solos, the drumming, and those signature Pretty Things haunting harmony vocals. If you’ve already worn out your copies of S.F. Sorrow and Parachute you owe it to yourself to seek this record out.
Incidentally, I have worn out my copies of S.F. Sorrow and Parachute and this comes as good news to me. I love when this feature brings up a gap in my own collection and I hope it does the same for any reader. Morgan’s spot on in assessing that this is a real missing link between the rather large jump between the band’s ’68 and ’70 output, and it lays out a lot of the process that brought the band to Parachute. Its always been a tragedy that due to a past riddled with drug arrests, The Pretty Things never found their footing in America. Its certainly possible that Parachute would be more of a staple of the early ’70s had they been allowed to tour in the US.
It doesn’t come as a real shock that Delt is a fan of The Pretty Things’ concept psych, its always felt a touchstone of his sound and he’s worked their influence well into some soaring modern psychedelia. Do yourself a favor and pick up The Pretty Things’ Philippe DeBarge and check out Delt’s psychedelic sojourn of a video for “Some Sunsick Day” from his album, Phase Zero out on Sub Pop now.
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