Most likely, the first thing you think of when you hear the words “rock opera” is Tommy. The Who’s 1969 classic is popularly thought of as the first rock opera, an extra-long concept album with characters, a consistent storyline, and a slight bit of pomposity. Actually, the often overlooked Pretty Things beat The Who to the punch in 1968 with S.F. Sorrow, as did the Small Faces with Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (rating: 10), which, while much shorter than most rock operas, is for my money the best rock concept album ever.
Meanwhile, S.F. Sorrow mixes the story of the protagonist Sebastian and his journey towards learning to trust people and ultimate disillusionment with a psychedelic pop score that fittingly captured the mood of 1960s Swinging London. Shortly after S.F. Sorrow, founding member Dick Taylor left the group and the Pretty Things regretfully became mainly a prog/hard rock band.