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British band back after 47-year ban

Monday 10 Dec 2012 11:48 p.m.

In 1965 when a British band toured New Zealand the ensuing two weeks of mayhem saw them banned from this country for 47 years.

Today The Pretty Things returned to New Zealand.

Back then, the band was judged so harmful to the moral sanctity of New Zealand they were banned from the country.

“We were getting done for playing rock and roll having girls screaming and throwing underwear at us, it was just very strange there was this sort of denial,” lead singer Phil May says.

“The image that had been presold to New Zealand was we were going to appear with pink beard and make strong men faint,” lead guitarist Dick Taylor says.

Well there might have been a bit more to it than that. The story goes the ban was imposed after their drummer Viv Prince set fire to a bag containing a crayfish on an internal flight.

Back in the day the Pretty Things were hot. May was stalked by a young fan who we all know now as David Bowie. Taylor played bass in an art school band we all know as the Rolling Stones. And they recorded the first rock opera well before The Who did Tommy.

But they made a series of bad career moves. Number one was instead of touring the United States, they came here.

“In those days your pubs and everything closed at six o’clock,” May says. “We were in this cattle shed with concrete tables - nothing you could pick up and you got a jug served out of a thing you'd get at a petrol station and we were in the middle of this farmers crowd who were getting more and more irate at how we looked.”

Today with the ban overturned, May and Taylor with a new young rhythm section returned to the scene of two infamous Auckland gigs, happy with their place in history.

“There's a spine and spirit that runs through his band that has been going for 49 years now,” May says. “It's a flag, it's a family, it's something you sign up for.”

As for tomorrow night's Auckland gig, they say they don't mind if there's a riot but are happy just to be still playing.

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