Rock Opera article - The Courier-Mail, Queensland, Australia. July 31, 1998

A Night at the Opera
The Courier-Mail, Queensland, Australia. July 31, 1998

Veteran English rockers The Pretty Things haven't been nearly as assiduous in flogging their catalogue as some of their contemporaries. But it's better late than never.

They plan to play their pioneering rock opera, S. F. Sorrow, in full for the first time - more than three decades after it was written.

The Pretty Things were one of those English art school bands who discovered the delights of rhythm and blues, but while you can hear oldies by the Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks on the radio any day of the week, commercial success seems to allude The Pretty Things.

Their biggest claim to fame is that their 1968 "rock opera" album S. F. Sorrow predated The Who's Tommy, which most people think of as the world's first rock opera.

For the one-off performance they will be joined by Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour and an unnamed guest narrator.

The September 6 concert is at London's Abbey Road Studios, where the album was recorded, and will be broadcast on the Internet.

The hard-to-get album also will be reissued but the eXpress desk's tattered vinyl copy with the gatefold sleeve is definitely not for sale.

The rock opera is a close cousin to the rock musical, although these (Jesus Christ Superstar, The rocky Horror Picture Show and so on) are usually penned by theatrical types looking to make a dollar or 10 million from the youth market.

The rock musical is still thriving, although most rock operas - written by flesh- and-blood rockers - seem to be out of fashion. Unless you happen to be Pete Townshend and The Who, who have happily trotted out Tommy and Quadrophenia to large audiences in the '90s.

With David Bowie reworking his 1972 Ziggy Stardust album for a movie, perhaps the time has come for a rock opera revival.

Although not in Boston, where the Boston Rock Opera Company has been doing good business for years with its revivals.

Among their productions: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Kinks' Preservation Act II and The Who's A Quick One While He's Away, the band's earlier attempt at a connected suite of songs.

The BRO's next production will be another Kinks "opera", Preservation. Good choice.

We wouldn't want to see Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth resuscitated, would we?

Another rock opera rarity is Marc Bolan's The Children of Rarn, recorded in acoustic demo form by him in the early '70s and unfinished at the time of his death.

According to the Marc Bolan Children of Rarn Suite Web site - we kid you not - the opera starts: "In a universe unfathomable/ A legendary world was bearing from the wombs of a fantastic creativity?"

Cripes. We should be thankful Jeepster was a hit instead.