The ’70s was awash with great bands like Led Zeppelin—but then there was prog rock. And with it came garish colours and gargantuan guitar solos.
But one prog rock band took it to the logical extreme—PretenShush.
You know them. We know them. The whole world knows them! With 256 million records sold, and one flamboyant award-winning stage adaptation of Macbeth, they were the biggest band of the ’70s. Here is their story.
PretenShush’s Lofty Beginnings
The six band members of PretenShush all studied philosophy at Oxford University, England, and became skilled in their knowledge of pontifications.
Lead guitarist, singer, and band figurehead Cyril Jenkins, boasting an IQ of 174, mastered classical guitar at the age of 10 and would astonish (to the point of extreme boredom) his friends by playing Scarlatti’s Sonata in E Minor K11 (L352) relentlessly.
After forming PretenShush, the band played several gigs in London whilst Jenkins singlehandedly penned the band’s 1972 debut album: Meretricious Space Haddock. He said of this landmark work:
“The space haddock in question is the superannuated notion of specificity pertaining to tendentious propinquity in terms of obsequious forbearance. And yet, alas, the average listener did not see the emendations, nor multivariates, within the meliorative and invidious nature of the haddock; animadversions. These are everywhere, amongst all that is disputatious and hebdomary. It was my utmost desire to inform the listener of such incommodious realities. And yet, alas, the average listener, the layman, only heard the music of a genius. This was not my goal and, yet, alas, I must take some solace in the recognition of that; success. Panoply; welcome. Joy.”
The album stormed to #1 in the UK charts and smashed all known records, previously set by The Beatles. Jenkins said of this meteoric rise:
“It is not expectorate.”
But along with success came tragedy. The band’s original drummer, Archibald Rupertson III, was killed in a jousting competition at the end of 1972.
PretenShush needed a new sticksman.
Out went the adverts. Auditions began. One individual stood out—American drummer Bombastic McBeatnik.
Boasting an IQ of 80 and with a fondness for burgers and beer, he didn’t seem like an ideal candidate. When quizzed about his recruitment by the BBC in early 1973, Jenkins issued this statement:
“He can hold a beat and has a mediocre intellect, thus ensuring we only need to pay him a minor wage and no royalties. I have three children I need to put through Oxford university circa 1990 and, with inflation in mind, that is going to be exorbitant in expenditure. I am NOT having some skin hitting savage procuring excessive resources in favour of my children.”
McBeatnik soon became famous for his basic beats that knitted the band together like a meretricious space haddock, but initially struggled with the extended drum solos he was expected to play.
He told The Trundling Pebbles Magazine in mid-1973:
“That pompous twat Jenkins wants me to do drum solos that go on for days. I’ve told him he’s out of his goddamn mind, but then he just says these big words and I’m like… whatever. I’ll do it. But I still want to smash his goddamn face in.”
Despite tensions between Jenkins and McBeatnik, the band’s second album was in the works. The former penned all 45 songs on the tetralogy vinyl album Spatula.
The album merely cemented the band as the smartest in the world. Jenkins informed the BBC in early 1974:
“Spatula saw me nominated for, and win, the Nobel Prize in Physics for my detailed lyrics on matter, motion, space-time, and spatulas. My knowledge of optics and solid-state physics alongside electromagnetism ameliorated within the spheres of ideational synchronicity of Jung’s machinations pertaining to improbability.
Howbeit, nae, withal, I did not agree these were mere ‘lyrics’. I saw my locution in verse as the linguistical projection of the very nature of being; that is, I am not so much in appellation or designation; I am conversing with the Universe. These words connect me to God; time; the Big Bang itself; I am the very essence of what is reality. It is up to the rest of mankind to understand this and disseminate my message as is necessitated.”
However, his comments were taken negatively by some. Critics and fans suggested fame had gone to Jenkins’ head somewhat.
He provided a rebuttal to this “defamation” with multiple libel cases (all of which failed), after which he issued a press release in mid-1974 stating:
“Criticism does not but confer with my abnegation. The words of indifference? They are but those of troglodytes.”
Thusly, with fame and success achieved, PretenShush fine-tuned its live act in search of a reputation beyond that of its peers. The results were astonishing.
The PretenShush Live Experience
PretenShush became famous for enormously protracted guitar, drum, keyboard, and bass solos.
This methodology was based in space, time, physics, and haddock. Jenkins told the BBC in early 1975:
“Time is infinite. Space is God. I am sandwiches. A live performance must not be contained within the social confines of society; employ; employer; invoices; if an audience member must abdicate his or her position as a witness to the Almighty Act of Saviour then they will be banished to the State of Hell for the rest of eternity.”
In 1975 at the Isle of Wight Festival, Jenkins steeled himself and began a guitar solo.
17 days later he was still going, without sleep, and in a bout of demented mania. The festivalgoers who’d hung around to see it (and who hadn’t died from dehydration or starvation) looked on as he fouled himself continuously and frothed at the mouth as scurvy kicked in.
It was the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll legend. His guitar solo may have faded into a collection of distorted, ear-piercing wailing… but he was in the moment.
And the crowd loved him for it (except for the ones who hated him for it and accused him of being a pretentious bore).
Jenkins cared not a jot, as he was rich and could now sue anyone he wanted without fear of winning or losing.
The Ultimate Tragedy of PretenShush
When asked by the BBC in 1976 why his guitar solos were so vast, Jenkins said:
“As they are superb. And superbity demands Brobdingnagian.”
As if to defy his critics, the next PretenShush album landed in 1977 and was called Brobdingnagian.
However, most critics are in agreement this marked a major musical decline, with the album having only one song. And that was aimed at insulting people the band didn’t like.
The Trundling Pebbles Magazine’s famed journalist Johnson Horseradish wrote in his review:
“Over yet another protracted guitar solo, this time lasting for some thirteen bloody hours (and, truly, I am beginning to tire of this), Jenkins wails and whines about people he views as inferior. In particular, he has an issue with poor people, stupid people, and proletariats. It makes for strange listening.
I must now say… there’s something a bit pretentious about this band I once loved. I would have travelled to the Isle of Wight thrice over to hear that seventeen day guitar solo again and again. But now? PretenShush is starting to sound like a stick in the mud.”
Jenkins was outraged by the review and pressed charges for defamation.
By 1977, records indicate Jenkins had filed for 3,451 cases of libel in pursuit of the slightest hint of criticism.
However, and tragically, with 345 cases of defamation awaiting retrial the sad fate of PretenShush was met on a summers day.
On 14th August, 1977, the band decamped from the studio to bask in the sunshine and enjoy a bout of joyous jousting.
Tragically, all were slain that day.
Jenkins’ final words were reported to be, “Meretricious Space Haddock is… my magnum opus…” He then gurgled, frothed at the mouth, and died.
Thus went to the grave the greatest human being ever to have existed.