Tuesday, January 18, 2011

All The Pretty Things

In 1965 the baddest thing to come into New Zealand was rock band The Pretty Things. So bad that after their tour here and in Australia they were banned for life from returning by both countries. In their Wellington concert drummer Viv Prince attempted to set fire to the curtains of the Opera House and the group trashed (in the manner of the day - an overturned chair, the mirror left on a crazy angle, a broken ash tray) their hotel room. The PTs stayed at the Grand on Willis Street and it was there that the shock rock group became part of the history of the New Zealand studio potters movement.

The Grand, as part of its sophisticated d├ęcor, had installed a large Len Castle pot on the reception desk in the foyer. As The Pretty Things booked out Vince (it was almost certainly him) liberated the Castle and took it with him to the airport. Arriving at Rongotai the band (who were without their manager at this stage as he had succumbed to a stomach ulcer and had to stay behind) realised they had left a suitcase behind but on calling the hotel they were told they were in a Check Point Charlie situation. It was Len-for-luggage. No negotiation.

Len Castle’s pot was popped in a taxi and dispatched to the hotel no doubt passing the lost suitcase travelling in the opposite direction. Given that the Grand and the St James were rock group central for visiting stars, the management of the Grand sensibly then glued the work onto the reception desk where it remained until the hotel was demolished in 1981. The Castle was then chipped off the desk with hammer and chisel and, although it suffered a small hole in the base as a result, put up for auction in early 2009. It is now in the collection of the Wellington Museum City & Sea
Watch The Pretty Things in action around 1965. 
Image: The liberated Len Castle pot c.1965. 
Nice story S. Thanks.

COMMENT: A reader (Thanks A) tells us that, "The incident gets a mention in the book Don’t Bring Me Down… Under: the Pretty Things in New Zealand By Mike Stax, Andy Neill & John Baker on page 50-52 but [the vase] is only referred to by the nickname Viv gave it, The Jub-Jub Bird Egg."