It’s a long way from swinging 1969 London, but over the past few months at Earthling studios in El Cajon, publisher/musician Mike Stax and producer Mike Kamoo have been working on an album of 12 vintage unreleased songs from British R&B legends the Pretty Things on Stax’s UT Records.

As Stax explains it, the Pretty Things album fell through the cracks nearly 40 years ago due to unusual circumstances.

“In 1969, a French millionaire playboy and Pretty Things super-fan called Philippe Debarge commissioned the group to write and record an album for him. They agreed to do this, so they booked time at one of London’s first eight-track facilities, Nova, and made this album.”

All the songs were written and produced by Phil May and Wally Waller of the Pretty Things. The band performed all the music and background vocals with DeBarge singing the lead, learned verbatim from their demos.

“They were able to take time and experiment with a lot of new sounds. There’s lots of backwards guitars, Mellotron, and layered harmonies.”

When the album was completed, Debarge took the master tapes and tried to find a record label in France to release them, but nothing ever happened. Debarge died about ten years ago, and the whereabouts of the master tapes are unknown, so the material Stax and Kamoo worked with was taken from one of only two acetates (an aluminum disc coated with a plastic lacquer used for studio reference) known to exist.

Stax was approached by the private collector who owned the disc. Afraid of possible damage that might take place to the rare disc in transit, the acetate was digitized in the owner’s home country of Finland.

After 39 years of being in limbo, the plan to press 1000 LPs (along with 1500 CDs) was delayed until Stax managed to put a rush on the job.

“Apparently vinyl is making a big comeback,” says Stax. “[The] pressing plant [was] so backed up with work, it [was] difficult to get jobs through quickly or even get a solid delivery date.”

— Bart Mendoza

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