The Pretty Things

S.F. Sorrow Is Born

Composed by John Alder / Phil May / John Povey / Dick Taylor / Wally Allen Waller

Song Review by

Often called the world's first rock opera -- although while it certainly beat the Who's Tommy to the shops, Nirvana's 1967 debut, The Story of Simon Simopath, has an equally valid claim on the title -- the Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow is confusing to follow logically, though it rarely stoops to the plain goofiness of Tommy. And as opening tracks go, "S.F. Sorrow Is Born" has it all over Tommy's "Overture." A glorious bit of orchestrated psychedelic pop produced by Norman Smith (Pink Floyd, etc.), "S.F. Sorrow Is Born" opens with a strangely tuned acoustic guitar flourish that leads into a driving rocker of a verse. Far from the blues-rock brashness of the early Pretty Things, but considerably meatier than the sometimes twee, Kinks-lite pop of the Emotions album, "S.F. Sorrow Is Born" occupies a sonic place similar to contemporaneous singles by the Creation or the Small Faces (not to mention pre-Tommy Who, somewhat ironic considering how much Pete Townshend admitted to being directly inspired by S.F. Sorrow in the writing of Tommy): churning acoustic rhythm guitars, slide guitar fills, and a prominent rhythm section, all building to an impressively anthemic chorus. Surprisingly, considering its role as a prologue to a longer piece, "S.F. Sorrow Is Born" has been covered several times, perhaps most effectively by Barbara Manning's S.F. Seals on 1996's Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
S.F. Sorrow 1968 Snapper / Original Masters 3:12
Psychedelic Years, 1966-1970 2002 Recall (UK) 3:14