Friday 26th October 2018 – Psychedelic rock in Hailsham (and an old favourite restaurant reinvented)

To the Hailsham Pavilion for what turned out the be the last ever “solo” concert (as opposed to an event where other acts are also on the bill) by rock legends The Pretty Things. If you read this and think yourself accurs’d you were not there (I know, the concert was a day late for this reference) then fear not, they are playing a “final bow” at the O2 on 13th December, with guests including Van Morrison and David Gilmour.

But music on an empty stomach will not sit comfortably, so Mrs. M.A.E. and I repaired to the Chapter 12 Wine Bar. We had been there several times in the past for reliable light meals of the cured meat and cheese board, baked camembert kind but the concept has changed recently, and, on this showing, it has become a very promising restaurant. It was full at 6.15 on a Friday. Some, but by no means al,l were concert goers. I much enjoyed my crisply fried chicken croquettes while Mrs. M. had citrus cured salmon. I then had perfectly medium lamb cutlets with Hasselback potato. I’ve always been curious as to the name. Thanks to Google I can now inform you that they were invented at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm. Mrs. M’s “Hailsham herd” burger met with approval. They are very proud of the local produce they use. We shared a dessert involving pineapple, rum and excellent vegan ice cream. Interesting wines are available by the glass including a delicious Sussex Bacchus white. Staff were friendly and efficient. Highly recommended (4.5 stars).

The Hailsham Pavilion is a cinema dating from 1921, when it opened with a showing of The Kid by Charlie Chaplin. From 1965 onwards it had a chequered history of closure and decay, including a period as a bingo hall. However in 1993 the Hailsham Old Pavilion Society (HOPS) was formed to raise funds for its restoration, which was completed in 2000. It still operates as a cinema, as well as holding events such as the excellent folk, jazz, blues and rock concerts promoted by Spyboy. It is well worth looking at their website if you like these kinds of music and live in East Sussex.

The first half of the concert I thought was far too loud in such a small hall. Phil May, their lead vocalist from the start in 1963, realised this too, saying “if you’re on this side you’ll get deafened by Dick (Taylor) and on this side you’ll be deafened by Frank (Holland).” Fortunately for the second half the amps were turned down a little (perhaps from 11 to 10) – enough to fully appreciate the wide variety of their repertoire. In the early 60s Taylor was in a band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, with, among others, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Brian Jones recruited them for a band he was forming called the Rollin’ Stones (sic), with Taylor switching to bass guitar. Taylor quit the band after 5 months (a major career miscalculation?) and went to art school, but soon found himself back on guitar in a band with May on vocals and harmonica called the Pretty Things, and they have remained at the heart of the group ever since (though Taylor left from 1969 until the band briefly disbanded in the late 70s, then re-joined when it was re-founded.

The set they played reflected different periods of the Pretties’ long history. The first half was mostly from their psychedelic period, including two songs from their seminal S.F. Sorrows album (one of the first rock concept LPs) and also included some recent material. In the second half there was an acoustic blues section with Robert Johnson numbers, followed by a section dedicated to Bo Diddley, both showing their rhythm and blues roots. Among many other favourites I particularly enjoyed Mama keep your big mouth shut and You can’t judge a book by its cover. They finished with a short encore which included their hit Rosalyn. Dick Taylor (looking a bit like an emeritus professor) still plays very impressive guitar. Phil May, resembling a somewhat tubby and unkempt schoolboy with his white shirt untucked and tie awry, delivered vocals that aren’t what they were but are still effective (despite serious lung disease problems in 2014). The rest of the band, George Woosey (bass), Frank Holland (guitar) and the superb young drummer Jack Greenwood are all worth watching in their future careers. Mrs. M.A.E, who has seen many of the greats live (Moon, Baker, Watts etc.) described Greenwood as “a real rock drummer”.

All in all a memorable concert. I caught them just in time. (****)

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