Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Viv Prince

Viv Prince after a night out in Denmark.
The Pretty Things 1965:Viv Prince front and center
Feelin' down? Me too, maybe it's the rain, but here's something that might cheer you up, it worked for me. It's footage of the Pretty Things with maniac drummer Viv Prince. If don't have a smile on your face by the very thought of Vivian Prince and the Pretty Things circa 1964-6 then you need to re-evaluate your entire life. Viv was the original wild man of British rock'n'roll. It's like he took all the uptight suppression of British society at the time and channeled it all into an explosive force that was himself. He is often sited as an influence on, and precursor to (and a few times fill-in for) Keith Moon. But Viv didn't need a gong. You rarely see anything written about Viv Prince that doesn't include the word lunatic. He was a perfect fit for the Pretty Things who hired him after burning through two other drummers (Pete Kitley and Viv Brougham, session man Bobby Graham played on their first recordings). Every rock'n'roll fan should own at least the first two Pretty Things albums (The Pretty Things and Get The Picture). In fact, put the Live On The BBC onto the must have list. If you don't have 'em, a good way to get the best early songs is via the Norton Records Pretty Things EP series (great covers and R&R sounds best at 45 rpm), or their entire catolog was re-issued by Snapper Records, these CD's all have bonus tracks and the first LP has some great CD-Rom video footage (although it no longer plays on my computer since they were released before Mac OS X). There's plenty of great early television clips of the Pretties on YouTube, most of it never shown in U.S (I do remember seeing the Honey I Need clip above as a tyke) although the best quality clips have Skip Allen on drums, so since they were not pertinent to today's posting, I didn't include them. Don't get me wrong, Skip was a great drummer (I love his fills on Midnight To Six Man), but Viv Prince was truly one of a kind. Viv doesn't play on that many of the Pretty Things recordings, if fact I'm not even sure which ones he does play on, no matter, they made many great records-- Don't Bring Me Down, Honey I Need, Get The Picture, Can't Stand The Pain, Come and See Me, Midnight To Six Man, LSD, killer renditions of Bo Diddley's Road Runner and Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, just off the top of my noggin', I'd say are right up there with the best of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and Yardbirds. Anyway, getting back to today's subject, the above footage all features Viv Prince on drums. If you're interested in the subject, and how can you not be? I highly recommend the book- Don't Bring Me Down....Under (The Pretty Things In New Zealand, 1965) (UT Publishing, 2006) by Mike Stax, Andy Neill and John Baker, one of the greatest tales of rock'n'roll debauchery, mayhem and crustaceans ever told. The story of perhaps the most legendary rock'n'roll tour of all time. It was certainly the funniest. I swear, I just about shit my pants laughing while reading this book, you can find it here. The photos and newsclippings alone would be worth the price, the story itself, I could not possibly do justice to here, treat yourself and get this one.
After getting the boot from the Pretties, Prince went on to record this solo single-- Light Of The Charge Brigade b/w Minuet For Ringo (Columbia, U.K. the b-side is bad so I'm not including it, only Cathy on the Patty Duke Show likes minuets). The Pretty Things went off the track on their third LP Emotions, changed directions and became a great psychedelic pop combo with the single Deflecting Grey and the concept album S.F. Sorrow, then Dick Taylor quit and they were never quite the same although they made some good records, it wasn't until he returned in the early 90's that they truly reclaimed their original sound. The Pretty Things are still around, God love 'em, they came through New York about ten years ago (seems like yesterday)and were incredible, I've gotta dig out the Lakeside photo booth pix of the drunken night I spent hanging with Phil May and Dick Taylor and post 'em one of these day. Those guys know how to have fun! BTW did anyone notice at the Royal Wedding back in '81 when Princess Di came down the aisle, Phil May sitting in an aisle seat? I thought I was imagining things, but it really was him.
Viv Prince is still alive, living somewhere in Portugal, and evidently as crazy as ever. God bless Viv Prince, the Pretty Things, and everything they ever demolished.

22 comments:

roscoe said...

Bravo!

trey said...

cool post about viv prince. you're right, he isn't mentioned much when it comes to wild rock n' rollers. kudos!

Anonymous said...

This picture of Viv P are from DENMARK,
emil
Denmark
I'm a big Pretty Thing fan,and saw Viv MANY times in Denmark

The Hound said...

"This picture of Viv P are from DENMARK,
emil
Denmark
I'm a big Pretty Thing fan,and saw Viv MANY times in Denmark"
I'll change the caption, it came from a book about the Star Club so I assumed it was taken in Hamburg.

RichardSibello said...

I really hate it how the self-appointed rock and roll "historians" (i. e. The Rock and Roll Hall of Folks Who Kissed Wenner's Ass and Rolling Stonehenge) fawn all over the Rolling Stones as the "bad boys" of Rock and Roll, but never mention the Pretties (who, of course, aren't in the Hall of Fame, and they probably don't care). I love to play "Come See Me" or "Don't Bring Me Down" or "Judgement Day" or "Rosalyn" for Stones fans and always preface it by saying, "here's one of the records that make the Stones look like the pussies that they are."

Anonymous said...

Yeah would love to see those pics from the lakeside photo booth. Viv was the wild man in his day and a super great drummer. Total original style. Didn't have that backbeat style of Ringo or Charlie. He was much more expressive. Wonder if he stills plays? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I DJed for the Pretties in Bristol the other week and they're still f-ing awesome! A pal I went to school with said that his mum usedta go to an R&B club on the top floor of a pub next to the hospital in Leicester, my hometown, which is just 20 miles or so away from Loughbrough, Viv's birthplace. She once saw him fall backwards down the flight of steps to the street, restart the conversation he was having and wander off, none the worse for falling down a 50ft staircase! When I worked in Chelsea reference library on the Kings Rd in London, I usedta go thru the back issues of the local newspapers from the 60s and, without fail, every month's worth of issues would feature at least one report of Viv getting caught with pills, girls or even a gas pistol!

Joss

The Hound said...

" every month's worth of issues would feature at least one report of Viv getting caught with pills, girls or even a gas pistol!"

I hope you made copies of all the first hand reports of Viv-mania. You should post 'em somewhere.

RichardSibello said...

According to the liner notes in the 2 LP Pretties set on Sire, Viv Prince joined the Hell's Angels after leaving the Pretty Things, then later "According to Phil May, he achieved the singular honor of being the only man ever thrown OUT of the Hell's Angels."

Anonymous said...

"hope you made copies of all the first hand reports of Viv-mania. You should post 'em somewhere."

Sad to say, I didn't get a chance to take copies, the bound volumes were just too bulky to get to the copier without anyone looking.

Do I regret that? Yup. But they'll still be there, in the basement of Ch*ls*a library for anyone who wants to request a look at 'em. I figure that, when the time is right, Viv will return, like some Leopardskin-clad, crustacean-toting, pussy-smelling, pill-popping prophet, soaked from head to foot in a mixture of whiskey and virgin's wee. Suffice to say, we need him more than ever...

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to second the Hound's recommendation of Don't Bring Me Down... Under. A top read.

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

I once had the pleasure of supporting the pretties at a gig in Portsmouth U.K in the 90's.
they really are fantastic people as well.
Very down to earth.
And on the Viv front, my brother's neighbour knew Viv Prince, apparently he got short of fire wood so he gradually chopped pieces off his staircase to burn leaving very little of it left to walk up.
( probably nothing to walk up)
Great blog!

Mr Crowbar

Mikhail said...

Thanks for posting about Viv. I wish somebody had made some good pics or video of him as he is nowadays in Portugal; or collected all the publicity and/or rumours about him in one place. That would be a gas of reading - and an epitome of the early British rock phenomenon, indeed. Long Live the King of the World (68 next month).
On Come and See Mee it is not him drumming, though. It's Skipper.

Mike

Anonymous said...

Spent last christmas but one with Viv in Uk - he's gone back to Portugal now. Speak to him regularly by phone (when he's sober enough to find it!!) He doesn't play much now "'cept in me 'ead". Last christmas he lined up for a gig at a local bar in Portugal but never quite made it due to him over-celebrating the festive season and peaking too soon!! I am looking after his drum kits etc etc etc. in the UK tho' somehow I don't think he'll ever come back to collect them - he's not much of a traveller. He doesn't breed Alsations anymore and quite frankly the oranges struggle to survive - but that's our Viv. He doesn't do computers or email so if you have any messages I'll be happy to pass them on.

Mikhail said...

I wish the Anonimous would leave any sort of a contact under this generous encouragement! :)

Mikhail

Dan said...

I know someone who would be very interested in getting back in touch with Viv from when they knew him back in the 80's (they're not much of a computer person either). You should be able to contact me direct if this message works out. If you could, so that a message could be passed on, that would be great. :)

tattoo said...

I have spoken to viv he says its ok to pass on his phone No to you dan e mail me at themcloughlins@yahoo.co.ukand ill give you it laters Tattoo

tattoo said...

PS just finished talking to him hes got russian royalty tonight for diner

Mona said...

Does Russian Royalty taste good? I too knew Viv back in Highgate in the early 80's. I used to get invited back on occasion for some of his lethal home brew. I remember once extolling some disco record or other and Viv was appalled. Anyway I passed out and on my way to work next day after walking about a mile I glanced in a shop window and had something written on my forehead...reading it slowly in my hungover state backwards the bastard had written 'I LOVE DISCO' in big letters...had to laugh, but I think my punk crediblity went out the window for a while LOL!
PS: His Jagger impersonation was the best! AT Tattoo...next time you speak to Viv say that Tim (who went out with Louise for a while) says hello!
Regards/

Mikhail said...

To Tim: Spoke to Viv just today and read him your note. He laughed and laughed, said Hello back to you, he remembers you living just a couple of doors away from him... and as for the writings, he said Serves you right, ha ha!
Best wishes from Mikhail, one of the "Russian Royalty". And yes, that day we and Viv dined in very good taste. ;)

Mona said...

Good stuff! Thank you Mikhai.
Regards/

comprar yate said...

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