21 May 2012 6 Comments
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MC5, One of the guys
The Stratfords, Throw stones
Morning Dew, No more
More-tishans, Nowhere to run
Weeds, It’s your time
Brogues, But now I find
Sir Raleigh and the Cupons, Tomorrow’s gonna be another day
MC5, Just don’t know
Buddhas, Lost innocence
Split Ends, Rich with nothin’
Marauders, Bad girl
Pied Pipers, Hey Joe
Barons, Now you’re mine
Human Expression, Readin’ your will
Barracudas, Babe get lost
Avengers, Be a caveman
Troyes, I don’t need you
20 Apr 2012 Leave a Comment
Sir Winston & the Commons, We’re gonna love
Red Shepard and the Flock, She’s a grabber
The Plagues, I’ve been through it before
Huns, Destination lonely
Bad Roads, Too bad
Hushpuppies, Look for another love
Rouges, You better look now
Grim Reepers, Two souls
Amberjacks, Hey Eriq!
Fantastic Dee Jays, Get away girl
Hallmarks, I know why
Travel Agency, Jailbait
Syndicate of Sound, Little Girl
The Tree, No-good woman
The Nomads, From zero down
Retreds, Black Mona Lisa
Leather Boy, On the go
The Rehabilitation Cruise, Mini-skirts
18 Apr 2012 Leave a Comment
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17 Apr 2012 Leave a Comment
by Charles Lamey
(Monday, August 10, 2009)
The following is an article I’ve scanned in, from a copy of Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll (Issue 10 – Dec 1983). It was written by the anthologist Charles Lamey and the copyright remains with him. This article is published on this site in the knowledge that it is for reference only and that this is a non-profit making site. Any reproduction of this article for financial gain would have to be cleared with Charles Lamey. If anyone has a problem with copyright issues then please email me and the offending item shall be removed.
This article is published in its entirety (approx. 20 pages of A4). Addresses given in this article are almost 20 years old. Please be aware of the fact should you choose to contact them, they may now be obsolete.
References to ‘new’ records being released refer to releases circa 1983. I’ve chose to leave these in as they’re still good points of reference for fans and collectors alike.
Lastly, all opinions expressed are Charles Lamey’s personal opinions and don’t necessarily concur with mine.
In the mid-sixties, the entire world had succumbed to the overwhelming impact of Beatlemania. If you had your hair cut in a neatly trimmed mop, talked with a cute Cockney accent and were in a band you stood an amazingly good chance of becoming a star. So it was in ‘64-‘65.
Almost overnight, in just about every town, America responded to the British invasion. Hundreds of teenagers picked up guitars and drums, grew their hair long, and bought clothes that reeked of Carnaby Street – except for the fact that they were purchased at the local Penny’s. These kids had seen the fame, fortune, fun, and girls their British counterparts had, and they wanted their fair share.
For the most part, this new breed played blues inspired rock. Of course, they never heard the originals; they learned from the new masters, such as the Rolling Stones, Pretty Things, Animals, etc. Willie Dixon? Muddy Waters? Oh yeah, those guys write for the Stones. Image was what it was all about and while these kids might not have been the smartest, they knew Muddy Waters didn’t wear Beatle boots and strum a Vox Phantom.
By learning the blues via white Englishmen and often singing in fake English accents, the whole thing accidentally enough became a genre unto itself. As sixties punk evolved, the R&B/merseybeat influences faded and the groups went off on different tangents like folk-rock (Leaves), street punk (Standells), psychedelia (Chocolate Watch Band), and pop (Cryan Shames).The best of all the different offshoots retained their raw punk edge, simply because they were rebels from start to finish. It’s unfortunate that many of today’s punks regard everything from the sixties as part of the Woodstock hippie generation, because the bands we’re going to talk about were basically teenage and full of frustration and contempt for the rules they were forced to live under.
There was plenty to be angry about, too. America was very conservative and didn’t respond well to the new youth rebellion of long hair and colourful clothes. As most of the garage punk scene emerged from the suburbs, there were still scores of greasers leftover from the fifties who got their kicks from ganging up on a kid with a “Beatle” haircut, beat the shit out of him and then cut his hair off. On top of that, every school had dress codes, which meant no long hair (guys had to slick their hair back and comb it down after school was over), no jeans, no t-shirts, no Beatle boots and for girls no mini-skirts. The future looked bleak, as one could either go to college or Vietnam.
Music was a good way to get rid of frustration. What started out as pure imitation rapidly became unique. The garage punks had a biting, tension-filled sound few British groups ever equaled; Other countries, most notably Canada and Australia, had healthy punk scenes but they were no match for what was going on in the States.
It’s highly unlikely those who were involved in all of this had any idea they were creating what might end up being the most vital and imaginative time in American pop music. But, through one-off singles, scattered albums, blurbs in teen magazines, and memories of those who lived through it, we can piece this history together. Unlike today, where there’s a critic on every block, the mid-sixties lacked music writers who wanted to document what was going on.
In 1972, musician / historian Lenny Kaye (later of Patti Smith Group fame) collected some barely remembered one-shot gems from sixties American punk bands onto a 2-record set. This seminal release was titled Nuggets, and its importance can not be overstated. In. the liner notes he named the genre, Punk Rock. Here for the first time since rock criticism started to snuff out the innocence of rock and roll, artists like the Seeds, Shadows Of Knight, Leaves, Mouse And The Traps, etc., were given the respect that was due them.
Nuggets had rock fans who were sick of the bland, sensitive, singer songwriters or pretentious progressive rock bands, running to every bargain bin, flea market, and garage sale to find those wild sixties sounds. What was truly amazing about all this was how little we all knew about sixties punk. After picking up the obvious, such as the Music Machine’s “Talk Talk”, “? & The Mysterians’ “96 Tears”, Leaves’ “Hey, Joe”, etc., we were soon flipping out over the non-hit bands like the Del-Vetts, Chocolate Watch Band, The E-Types, The Mourning Reign, and literally thousands of others. It’s been a labor of love for punk collectors to piece together its story. It would be foolish to attempt in a magazine article to write the complete history of punk. The subject is crying out for a book, which noted garage punk enthusiast Greg Shaw is hard at work on. No, this will basically be an overview of a genre that has a rabid following but little printed documentation. Fortunately, with the glut of reissues, now is the perfect time to start collecting sixties’ punk. Through the hard work of labels like Voxx, A.I.P, Rhino, Edsel, Line, Star-Rhythm, Bona-Fide, and lots of others it seems as if every sixties punk record of merit will soon be back in circulation.
But I hope this article will do more than have some readers pick up reissues. One of the reasons Maximum R&R decided to run this feature is the fact that sixties punk and present-day punk have a lot in common. Musically, groups like RF 7, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and others are the logical extension of the Sonics, Standells, and Shadows Of Knight. Considered misfits by a cruel society, today’s punks like those before them play music to rise above the idiots who continue to try to stomp them out. Hopefully, when reading this, those who are involved in today’s scene will learn from the mistakes that killed the garage punks of the sixties.
Though the music is close to being twenty years old, garage punk still sounds fresh and exciting. Lack of communication between different cities kept everything from being totally organized, yet the vinyl that was left behind shows that every section of the States was contributing to the garage punk revolution. Let’s go on a trip back to another era.
THE CONDENSED HISTORY OF PUNK Who started the punk movement? I’m not sure if there’s an answer. A group like the Wailers were having hits in 1959, and the Standells were around, making records, in the early sixties. Probably the greatest punk of all-time is Jerry Lee Lewis, who continues to be one of the most celebrated bad boys of rock and roll. Yet these early attempts weren’t part of a total scene just proof that the best rockers are punks deep down inside. A scene didn’t take form until the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Kinks, and millions of others invaded our shores. Then, every town had dozens of working bands. A good example is where I grew up. Its population was under five hundred, yet there were five punk bands. It was the same all over.
American garage punk lasted several years, but its main period of success took place in 1966. Records were finding their way onto radio playlists and a large number of singles were actually slipping into America’s top ten. It was a thrilling experience to turn on the radio (AM only) and hear Sam The Sham’s “Wooly Bully”, the Standells’ “Dirty Water”, or the Blues Magoos “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet.” The youth market was huge and radio, unlike today, knew its audience and quickly capitalized on it.
Although 1966 was a stellar year, garage punk was doomed to be destroyed. It wasn’t one factor that killed it off, but instead, many. As can be expected, the major labels helped to ruin things. They signed bands that were raw and rockin’, made them cut ballads, stuck strings on, and in many cases had session men play the instruments and just allowed the guys to sing. A few groups like the American Breed, had hits, but this watered-down punk sound never amounted to much. It was quite sad to hear how some groups ended up.
Another thing that brought about its premature end was rock criticism. Journalists like Crawdaddy and especially Rolling Stone avoided garage punk like the plague. “The Jefferson Airplane are serious artists, but the Electric Prunes are a bad joke, so they’ll never grace our pages.” That kind of logic stunk. Those two magazines were the backbone of the hippie movement spreading across the country and in its wake were left punk groups who couldn’t change with the new trend or punk bands who tried to change but sounded so stupid they only hurt their own cause. Everyone was so geared to having actual hits that it never occurred to them they could continue to survive on their cult followings. The final nail in punk’s coffin was the demise of good rock and roll AM radio. FM was touting the new underground and AM’s format was no longer top 100 but more like top-fifteen. There was enough room for the major labels to continue having hits, but the tiny independents, who were the ones who really brought garage punk to the masses, were driven to bankruptcy. It was fun while it lasted.
INDIE LABELS Just like today, major labels in the sixties were scared to take chances. So it was up to the brave independents to nurture and develop the garage punk scene. Small businessmen looking for their own “Beatles” formed labels, signed and recorded bands and found it was rather easy to attain regional success, even if the record didn’t catch on nationwide. A few, like Original Sound with the Music Machine, GNP Crescendo with the Seeds, Dunwich with the Shadows Of Knight, and Cameo Parkway with ? & The Mysterians, were fortunate enough to go all the way into the national charts.
Indie labels in the sixties were plagued with the same problems that haunt those operating today. Payment from regional distributors was always slow and in some cases they were lucky to get any money at all. One might have a huge hit and not even get paid for it .With cash flow problems, the little guy found it nearly impossible to promote his current record, let alone fully develop the careers of those on his label. Consequently, the sixties were full of huge hits that were never properly followed up.
Though the indies were the foundation of garage punk, the majors did contribute. There were plenty of fine hits. Paul Revere & The Raiders had a string of classics like “Steppin’ Out”, “Just Like Me”, “Hungry”, and “Kicks” before Columbia turned them into wimps and made Mark Lindsay a teen idol as opposed to a teen punk. Mercury had the fantastic Blues Magoos, whose vision of psychedelic-punk is only starting to be recognized by historians and fans as some of the finest of its period.
Still, the majors were usually dumb. The Remains toured with The Beatles, blowing them off the stage several times, yet Epic couldn’t get their album out in timer to capitalize on the publicity. Capitol safe with the Beach Boys/ Beatles/ Peter & Gordon, didn’t know how to sell Boston’s the Lost, so they issued a couple of single and quickly forgot about them. To this day they’re sitting on an unreleased album that punk fanatics would love to hear.
There are plenty of other stories. Nothing ever changes, either, as today indie labels often work hard to build an artist only to have them devoured by the corporate monster and made to go limp in order to appeal to program directors.
MEDIA Prior to Stone and Crawdaddy there wasn’t much of a rock press only national exposure one could hope for was through teen magazines that were usually aimed at girls. Rarely was there talk about influences, equipment, recording techniques, and so on. Instead, we could learn things like Ronnie Magoo’s fave colour or where Jim Sohns likes to go on a date. Cute but these guys weren’t the dorks the teen magazines made them seem like.
But it wasn’t as bad as I’m making it sound. There were a couple of dynamite local publications. KRLA’s The Beat was a great place to read about the Los Angeles punk scene. The station later published editions in other cities. The record chart might not have been the most accurate – with countless punk records getting in the top forty but it was the most fun. The Beat lacked strong critical stance but captured the spirit of the time nicely. In Boston, there was the New England Teen Scene, a rag that had-great interviews little knowns like the Rockin Ramrods, Lost, Flat Earth Society, and the Ones. Vox instruments published a ewsletter / catalogue that not only promoted their instruments but also the groups who endorsed them. Now that might not seem like much but everyone from the Stones / Beatles to the Chocolate Watch Band / Seeds used Vox so there were plenty of cool stories to read.
Hit Parader was the best national zine for garage punk, but even they didn’t fully understand it. Their hearts were mostly in England’s R&B scene and American folk-rock (they worshipped the Lovin’ Spoonful and Jim Kweskin Jug Band). One group they did support were the Blues Magoos but they constantly put down ? & The Mysterians and the Count Five. Nevertheless, Hit Parader in the sixties was a great magazine.
Radio was really cool. Stations weren’t programmed into tight playlists, so DJ’s could spin stuff they actually believed in. This resulted in countless hits that no one else ever heard of. A band like Richard & The Young Lions could have a smash in North Jersey / New York with “Open Your Door”, but in nearby Philly not even get played once DJ’s seemed to know something about the music they were playing which made it even better. By encouraging local success, AM radio was one of the prime reasons this was a creative time in American rock. When the scene lost its support, it quickly faded.
Believe it or not television was extremely important to garage rock. Long before anyone thought of MTV, punkers were given national exposure via the tube. A few of the early punkers made it onto both Shindig and Hullaballoo (two shows MTV should have the decency to rerun). After that, Dick Clark had his two biggies, American Bandstand (for the big hits) and, more importantly for us, Where The Action Is. The latter show had great performances each weekday from some of the best sixties rockers – punks as well as British bands, folk-rock, soul, etc… It was an amazing show. Later on, Dick gave Paul Revere & The Raiders their own program, Happening ‘68, but despite some brilliant performances and televised ‘Battle of the Bands,’ time has passed this program by. Dick Clark has all these shows and should make them available to the public either on video cassette or cable TV. It’s a crime these shows are collecting dust.
Saving the best for last was a show syndicated out of Cleveland called Upbeat. This was a garage punk enthusiast’s dream come true, as all the greats performed on this one. I can remember seeing The Shadows Of Knight, Magicians, and The Choir. The program was hosted by Don Webster and I’d love to see them again.
Every city had its own dance programs that usually featured big name guests, as well as local faves. Some like Lloyd Thaxton’s, Jerry Blavat’s, hy Hit’s and Clay Cole’s even had brief flings with syndication
Movies also used garage punks for party scenes. Some of the many who can be found during a late night beach or drug picture are the Leaves, Beau Brummels, Standells, Seeds, Chocalate Watch Band, Barbarians, etc. Also, don’t miss the legendary flick Riot On Sunset, which was based on the sunset strip’s garage punk movement. The T.A.M.I. Show Movie (Teen Age Music Incorporated) is another great one.
TOURING/CLUB SCENE This was an early stage of rock, so this wasn’t very well organized. Many groups had singles on the charts, yet were playing high school gyms and county fairs. Others got to open shows for bigger bands. When groups like the Byrds, Stones or Paul Revere & Raiders toured they often used local punks like The Lost, Zakary Thaks, or The Remains to open the shows. Dick Clark had his “Caravan of Stars” tours that featured lots of great punk bands as well as the regular Raiders, Don & The Goodtimes, The Robbs, and The Hardtimes.
There were clubs for teens as well as nightclubs for the older set. Just about every major band played the Whiskey, and add to that Ciro’s (home of the Byrds / Leaves) and It’s Boss, and one can see why the Los Angeles scene was so active. Boston had the Tea Party and The Rat, and New York had the Cafe Au Go Go and The Night Owl. Every city seemed to have at least one spot to hang out and catch good bands.
For the groups that didn’t break out nationally or even very big locally, there were the “battle of the bands”. Here, young groups would fight for top honors against other locals. The prize was usually a recording contract with a local indie label. Kids would pack halls that would feature a dozen or more bands who aspired to be the next Stones. Many of these shows were recorded and today are some of the most sought after artifacts of the garage era. Listening to these records, one thing is obvious, most of the groups were terrible. Yet, there was such a fresh enthusiasm to their playing, they’re usually worth whatever effort it takes to locate them. Not only was this an opportunity to see and hear undiscovered garage punkers, but it also gave a big boost to the local music community. For a day or two kids could be stars at their school, which was a great way to escape the reality of homework and tests.
FASHION This was equally as important as the music which is probably true of any musical change. For guys it meant growing your hair into the mop-style. Rolling Stone Brian Jones was considered to have the best, so those who came the closest to copying his were usually very popular. Of the American punks, Joe Kelley, bassist of the Shadows Of Knight, and all of the Blues Magoos had great mops. It was nearly impossible to see their eyes. Those who didn’t have long bangs and hair over their collar usually grew the front of their hair until it reached their chin, then they combed it to the side, allowing it to fall in their face as they played. Later on, as styles changed from punks to hippies, guys started parting their hair in the middle and growing it past their shoulders. But that’s another story.
Girls weren’t active participants in garage punk, as this was male dominated as far as bands were concerned. However, the audience was mostly female. A lot of guys were offended by the hair and dress of the bands but the girls adored these guys who looked like their British idols. So, the girls who followed the scene tried to please the bands and they worked hard at dressing like English girls, or “birds”, as they were called then. Hair was worn long and straight. If you had some natural curl, just iron it out. Instructions for this complicated operation could be found published in teen magazines. Dresses were worn as short as possible (or as short as school officials would allow) and boots were a must. Optional, but no less important, were belts with wide buckles and corduroy “mod” hats (and ii). If you were told you resembled Marianne Faithful, then you knew you’d succeeded .
Other than the previously mentioned hairstyles, guys usually wore wide-whale corduroy pants, unless they wanted to look truly sinister – then it had to be black jeans. Shirts were colorful (stripes, polka-dots, or paisley) and they sometimes had puffy sleeves. Like the girls, guys often had wide belt buckles and corduroy caps. For the feet, it had to be imported “Beatle boots” ( and ii) with their high heels and pointed toes. If you were in a prep school band then desert boots were fine.
Instruments were also a major part of fashion. As mentioned before, many groups were sponsored by Vox instruments, so these were the tools of trade for the garage punks. Vox instruments might not have had the best sound or were not the easiest to play (the action on the necks of the guitars and basses were horrible), but they were, by far, the coolest looking. Remember, image was always a key factor. Other guitars that were popular were Rickenbacker (especially 12-string for folk-rock), Fender (Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jaguars), and Sears’ Silvertones. For compact organs, it was either Vox (Jaguar / Continental) or Farfisas. Amps were either Fender (Twin Reverb / Super Reverb / Bandmaster) or Vox (Super Beatle / Buckingham).
There doesn’t seem to be anything left to add, except it’s time to talk about the various local scenes and meet the groups who created garage punk. Remember, this is an overview, so I hope seasoned collectors won’t complain that I left out a hopelessly obscure band with one terrible single that they might personally like. With that in mind, let’s visit…
PACIFIC NORTHWEST It’s quite possible the first punk groups emerged from this region. Instead of battling the British, in the late ‘50’s strong, rough instrumental groups like the Wailers (“Tall Cool One”) were providing an alternative to the pop that briefly seemed to have replaced rock. Live bands ruled the area, and dances were packed to hear these bands.
By the time garage punk swept the country, the Northwest had plenty of veteran musicians who were ready to combat the English invasion. Northwest groups such as the Sonics, Wailers, Paul Revere And The Raiders, The Kingsmen, and Don And The Goodtimes were the finest as they took the harder-edge approach, like Britain’s Kinks, Yardbirds, and Pretty Things.
Tacoma, Washington’s The Sonics were fronted by a wildman by the name of Gerry Roslie. They had several albums, and with classic tracks such as “Psycho”, “The Witch”, “Strychnine”, and “Boss Hoss”, they’re still a major influence (check out the Cramps). Roslie was a moody vocalist who could shout with the best of them, and the band gave him a solid, no nonsense support. They just blasted away. The Sonics’ music wasn’t pretty, but it was essential.
The Wailers, who were also from Tacoma, had their big hit, “Tall Cool One”, in ‘59, but they adjusted to the punk revolution very nicely with several strong albums. Three of their tracks you should hear were recorded for the prosperous Etiquette label, and they are “Dirty Robber”, “Bama Lama Loo”, and “Out Of Our Tree”. Maybe they weren’t as vicious as the Sonics, but the Wailers had plenty to offer. In case you’re wondering, these Wailers pre-dated Bob Marley’s band.
Portland’s Kingsmen are of course remembered for having the hit version of the most covered garage punk song “Louie Louie”. This simple, three chord exercise of sexual arrogance is what the punk scene was all about. This little song was the subject of an F.B.I. investigation for lewdness, and was banned by numerous radio stations. But the teens bought it despite what their parents told them, and it was a huge hit. Although other bands had finer versions of Richard Berry’s classic R&B number, the Kingsmen deserved to have the most success with it (that is until Black Flag cut it). The Kingsmen had lots of killer tracks, like “Night Train”, “That’s Cool That’s Trash”, and “Long Green”. A good non-hit re-issue of theirs is “A Quarter To ‘Three”, where you can hear the Kingsmen blast away on punk standards such as “Satisfaction”, “Hang On Sloopy”, and “Poison Ivy”.
For my money though, the greatest from the Northwest were Paul Revere & The Raiders. Though they had their greatest success while on Columbia records, their early singles and albums on a variety of small labels were stark rockers. Their finest moments came after Paul Revere convinced his young saxophonist, Mark Lindsay, to put down the horn and start singing. For several years there was no stopping them, as “Steppin’ Out”“,Just Like Me”, “Hungry”, “Great Airplane Strike”, “Ups And Downs”, and of course “Kicks” were brilliant punk hits. Then something weird happened. One by one, members started leaving the band and Columbia saw fit to bill them as Paul Revere And The Raiders With Mark Lindsay. Earlier, he had been the voice of punks, but now his sole purpose was to play up to the sexual fantasies of 12 year old girls. The music got wimpier with each release, and this great punk group became about as relevant as Jay & The Americans. One of the biggest crimes in punk was the slow painful decline of Paul Revere The Raiders.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA Northern California had a healthy garage punk scene too. Maybe there weren’t as many bands, as say L.A., but the records that did emerge were of high quality. In commercial terms, the most successful Bay Area group were The Beau Brummels (remember, this was preceding the flower power era of The Jefferson Airplane, Greatful Dead, Moby Grape, and Country Joe & The Fish). Recording for the local Autumn label (who put out a great S.F. punk compilation called San Francisco Roots that featured the Brummels, along with other local classics like The Vejtables, Great Society, etc), they chalked up several hits; “Laugh Laugh”, “Just A Little”, and “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. Their sound was an eerie hybrid of Merseybeat, folk-rock, and simple pop that highlighted the unique vocals of Sal Valentino. A recently released collection, From The Vaults (Rhino), shows the Beau Brummels to be capable of rocking out, but during their reign they decided to stick to their haunting pop tracks.
Hardcore collectors would probably say the best of the area came from San Jose, where The Chocolate Watch Band held court. The Watch Band could produce some of the best Stones-copy garage punk ever, as “Let’s Talk About Girls and “Sitting There Standing” attest. They could also deliver some nice, pleasant folk-rock like “Baby Blue”. But their albums are only near-perfect as The Watch Band also used to do longish, boring psychedelic jams. The Best Of (Rhino) is a good starting place and shows why collectors speak so fondly of the CWB. Having tasted their music, I’m sure many of you will hunt down their 3 LPs (actually, skip their third, One Step Beyond) and non-LP singles.
San Jose had lots going for it, as there were a number of killer bands giving garage punk a good name. The E-Types had plenty of local success with “I Can’t Do It”, “Big City”, and the fab “Put The Clock Back On The Wall”, but they couldn’t spread their magic outside thearea. The same can be said about William Penn, who put out several great records, including “Blow My Mind”, which is long overdue for being re-issued. The Mourning Reign were great with “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Evil Hearted You”. The Brogues are best remembered for being the breeding ground for some future members of Quicksilver, but their singles, especially “Don’t Shoot Me Down” and “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker” show them to be worthy of praise in their own right .
Two San Jose bands who didn’t have national success were Yardbirds-clones the Count Five, with their rough, heavy guitar riff-laden “Psychotic Reaction” and one decent album; and The Syndicate Of Sound with their frantic folk-rocker “Hey Little Girl” (covered in the seventies by the Dead Boys). Both seemed to have the drive and talent to become potent forces but, sadly, neither could live up to the potential.
Judging from the records, San Jose was a fun scene with plenty of dynamic personable groups. When listening to all this stuff, it’s clear teenagers there had a lot of excellent music to hear at teen clubs/dances. Someone should do a San Jose compilation to document this music.
The Bay Area had other hot spots besides San Jose. In Sacramento there was Oxford Circle, whose “Foolish Woman” was a punk classic. Drummer Paul Whale ended up in Blue Cheer, and other members recording engineers – including the recent 12” by True West. The New Breed seemed to have hit potential with “Green Eyed Woman” and “Want Ad Reader”, but no dice.
The East Bay had, of course, the Golliwogs, who later changed their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and had a whole slew of hits. Their early Beatle-inspired singles were collected on a Fantasy label album. It’s good stuff. In 1965, The Harbinger Complex started recording and playing. They later became ballroom regulars, but couldn’t expand much further. Their releases have stood the test of time. Other groups that had their moments in the sun were the Daily Flash, The Mystery Trend, and The Mojo Men.
LOS ANGELES Although every section of the States has its fanatical collectors followers, Los Angeles has to be, in my eyes, the best city for sixties punk. It had such a vibrant scene that was constantly fueled by the media, large number of clubs, and dozens of indie labels. There were literally hundreds of bands in the L.A. region, making records, getting press, making cameo appearances in drive-in films, and living the life of stars. Of course, few made much of an impression outside the city limits, but there’s plenty of promo vinyl waiting for us to discover what we missed the first time around. The excellent collector label A.I.P. is doing a series of L.A. 60’s punk compilations. The first three volumes are now out, showing the evolution from R&B inspired dance punk to teenage punk to flower power punk. It’s a fine series that is well worth buying.
Los Angeles had more than its share of national success. Although not completely accepted by collectors as part of the scene the Byrds and Love were, nevertheless, very important. The Byrds invented folk-rock and instantly became a major influence – equal to the Rolling Stones / Pretty Things – on all the younger garage bands. Listen to their early demo tapes, which were released as Preflight on Together Records, and the Byrds were a pretty fair garage band themselves (especially “You Movin’”), but this quality was drowned in Terry Melcher’s sophisticated production. The Byrds also caused bands to lean towards psychedelic punk when they issued their two classics, “5D” and “Eight Miles High”. Love had some minor chart success, but it seemed most of the people who bought their records were other bands, because there were lots of covers of Love songs. Like the Byrds, Love helped encourage folk-punk and psychedelic punk. Unlike the Byrds, Love could have a nasty, cutting edge, which was the result of leader Arthur Lee’s fascination with early Mick Jagger.
On the street level, L.A. had three killer garage punk groups that found limited national success. The three were The Music Machine, The Standells, and The Seeds.
The Music Machine were a moody bunch that were the epitome of cool. Wearing all black and their hair neatly trimmed into a bowl shape, their “gimmick” was each one wore one black leather glove. Sounds kinda silly now, but this did give people like Dick Clark something to talk about during interviews on Bandstand. As for vinyl, the Music Machine were superb when they did their originals, and on covers just so-so. Their sound featured the frantic interplay of guitar and organ. The original material, which was composed by guitarist/vocalist Sean Bonniwell, was tough and aggressive. Several tracks, “People In Me”, “Wrong”, “Double Yellow Line”, were truly awesome, but their classic “Talk Talk” was the absolute ultimate in punk greatness. Sean could barely keep his vocal under control as he angrily spat out each word. Few records have ever matched the intensity of this gem. Unfortunately, their choice of covers was rather lame, keeping their debut LP from being perfect. Still, most of that album comes highly recommended, as do several tracks on their second album and some non-LP sides.
The Standells got an early start. They were playing R&B-styled dance rock in ‘63/’64, making records and doing guest shots in films and TV (Munsters – check reruns). But it was in ‘65, when they hooked up with producer Ed Cobb, that things started falling into place. Cobb composed “Dirty Water” for the Standells and, as the cliche goes, the rest was history. By the summer of ‘66, it was near impossible to listen to the radio for an hour and not hear “Dirty Water” at least once. Ed Cobb gave the Standells a meatier sound and beefed up the vocals. More importantly, he gave what all great garage punkers had – a fuzz sound, courtesy of a fuzz box. This little invention was used more by punk groups than anyone else. The lead guitarist would plug his guitar into this magical box, which in turn was connected to his amp. When turned off the sound would be normal, but when he turned it on (by stepping on a switch), he got a distorted, “fuzzy” sound that was the basis of all guitar riffs in punk. If you listen to all the records I’ll talk about in this article, I bet most, if not all, had a guitarist who used a fuzzbox. When the Standells picked up this sound and left their dance-rock behind, they became an important force.
After the success of “Dirty Water”, they had a few smaller hits, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”, and the arrogant minor classic “Why Pick On Me”, and toured with the Rolling Stones. But then they blew all credibility when they issued The Hot Ones, an abysmal collection of then-current hits. Many considered The Standells to be L.A.’s equivalent to The Stones, but hearing them play crap like “Eleanor Rigby” was like getting a knife in the back.
History proved this to be a major mistake for them. They released some solid punk singles after this, “Try It” and “Barracuda”, but no one cared. Rhino has just released a Best Of album that belongs in every collection of garage rock.
The Seeds were so basic people often mistook them for being dumb. Granted, the music on all their songs sounds the same, but that doesn’t erase the style and class the Seeds possessed. Lead singer Sky Saxon has become a huge cult figure. Though he hasn’t done much in recent years, people regularly trade stories about him, and if only half of these stories are true, Saxon more than lived up to the cryptic promise he showed on the various Seeds albums.
Surprisingly enough, The Seeds albums (all on GNP) have never gone out of print, so it’s easy for us to see why Sky became a legend and what led to the group’s eventual downfall. Their first LP came out in early 1966 – and it was an explosive start. The line-up of Vox organ, guitar, drums and vocal (later “borrowed” by the Doors, whose singer Jim Morrison was an avid Seeds fan) gave them a sound that instantly set them apart from the usual two guitar, bass, drum line-ups. All the tracks seem to have the same organ and guitar breaks, which only enhance the primitive charm.
Actually, the arrangements were secondary. The Seeds survived on their taut, angry anthems like “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” and the obvious classic “Pushin’ Too Hard” that were sung in Sky’s animalistic voice. He would snarl, and mumble so much that half the time he sounded like a wounded animal and not the vocalist of a popular rock and roll band. His carefree attitude and loose approach only added to the mystique of The Seeds. They didn’t care either, ‘cause “Pushin’ Too Hard” was a legit hit.
Their second LP, Web Of Sound is also worth picking up, but after that things started to crumble. Sky became obsessed with flower power and the resulting album, “Future”, was a confused, jumbled mess. Saxon added horns, strings, and sitars to his now patented “Pushin’” riff, but it never came close to working. After that failure, he continued to dig a deeper grave by trying to cash in on the “white blues band” craze that was sweeping the nation “A Full Spoon Of Seedy Blues” is about as phony an album as one will ever hear. It really is insipid. The Seeds did end on a high note with a strong live album and some interesting singles for MGM, but The Seeds’ audience had long vanished.
The also-rans on the L.A. turf were no less impressive. One has to feel, with a few breaks, we’d be praising The Sons Of Adam, The Lyrics, The Bees, etc., as collectors do with the above mentioned triumvirate. The Sons Of Adam released several fine singles that were heavily inspired by the Yardbirds. They also had a cool, crude version of the Monkees’ “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day”. The Sons Of Adam grew into the also worth seeking out Other Half, who were regulars on the San Francisco ballroom circuit. The Lyrics were equally as great, but being on GNP they didn’t get nearly as much attention as the Seeds. Still, between ‘65-‘68 they put out a handful of folk-punk singles that rank with the best of the city’s offerings. They probably got the most attention with the tight, fuzzy, folk-punk number “So What”.
The Leaves have gone down in history for having the hit version of the often covered “Hey Joe”. They also had a local hit with the intense folk-punk track “Too Many People”. The Leaves never seemed to have a strong grip on what they wanted to accomplish, as the group went back and forth between being inspired by the Byrds and Rolllng Stones. Despite confusion and never being able to follow up the success of “Hey Joe” in ‘66, they did record some worthwhile songs, which hold up nicely. If you can’t find the originals, Line re-issued their debut, and Panda has a well-balanced compilation.
The Rain were produced by Brian Ross, who did the Music Machine, and their sound was heavily inspired by English R&B although they gave it a frantic edge. “ESP” was their closest to finding fame, and it closely resembled the Pretty Things’ “LSD”. It would be nice if more of their material would surface on re-issues. There are probably some great unreleased tracks by The Rain welting to be discovered.
The Electric Prunes were originally from Seattle, but they settled in L.A. They had some great singles, but their albums were rather shallow. Only a jerk would pass up their fuzz-filled smash “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night”. It’s too bad they couldn’t live up to the potential of this track, although “Get Me To The World On Time” came close.
There were also a whole batch of fine Mexican-American punk groups that were putting out some wild R &B oriented records. The Premiers struck gold with ‘Farmer John”, Cannibal & The Headhunters with “Land Of 1000 Dances”, and The Midnighters with “Whittier Blvd”. These records really cooked, giving the feeling they were cut live at a drunken party. More of this deserves to be re-issued. There’s got to be a substantial audience for this.
Other demented goodies from L.A. were The Satans’ “Makin’ Deals”, The Roosers’ “One Of These Days”, The Grim Reapers’ “Two Souls”, Hamilton Streetcar’s “Invisible People”, The Avengers’ “Be A Cave Man”, The Robbs’ “Race With The Wind”, The Bees’ “Voices Green And Purple”, The Lollipop Shoppe’s “You Must Be A Witch”, The Cindermen’s “Don’t Do It Some More”, The Jagged Edge’s “Midnight To Six”, and literally hundreds of other bands/records.
SOUTHWEST Arizona had a bustling scene. In Tucson, the Quinstrels, who were later also called The Intruders and The Dearly Beloved, put out some good garage records. They moved to L.A. and were all set to record an album when their singer was killed in a car accident. The big group from Tucson were The Grodes, (who also recorded under the name of The Tongues Of Truth).They had a strong punk base with controlled vocals and solid material. In fact, it was The Grodes’ Manny Fraser who wrote “Let’s Talk About Girls”. They recorded it as The Tongues Of Truth, but it found more fame when The Chocolate Watch Band issued it. Phoenix had a bigger, more active scene due to the fact that several important recording studios were located there. Not only was Phoenix the original turf of Alice Cooper (as garage band the Nazz – not to be confused with Philly’s Nazz) and The Tubes, but it also had Superfine Dandelion, The Velairs, and the fantastic Phil And The Frantics (great Zombies sound).
New Mexico had the crazed punk beat too. Albuquerque’s The Plague did a truly inspired “Go Away”, The Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2 had the classic” I Wanna Come Back From The World Of LSD”, and The Cellar Dwellers (still another great name) remain in obscurity, despite the brilliance of “Working Man”. Apparently, Voxx has uncovered a lot of vintage Arizona punk bands and will be releasing them soon (they’ve already re-issued the Grodes and Phil & The Frantics). I only hope more information surfaces concerning New Mexico as, from what I’ve heard, they had a lot of great punk there.
TEXAS Texas’ garage punk scene has excited collectors for quite some time and, along with Los Angeles, it probably produced the largest number of high calibre groups. The sounds that emerged from Texas were as wide-eyed crazy as you could get. The national media focused its attention on the psychedelic revolution in San Francisco but, in all actuality, the most demented psychedelia came from the Lone Star State. Maybe it was the peyote or mushrooms, but no matter what the reasons, it produced a healthy scene and some off-the-wall records.
The most infamous of all the Texas punk bands were The 13th Floor Elevators. Led by talented Roky Erickson, The Elevators had a weird sound that was partly influenced by The Rolling Stones, but yet sounded more off-the-wall (the result of Tommy Hall’s electric jug!). Towards the end of ‘66, when The Elevators started to make noise, groups were just starting to move from punk to psychedelia. Like the best of those, they kept a raw, urgent teen punk sound yet they freely experimented on top of it. All four of their LPs are worth owning. There’s also a nice live boot from S.F.’s Avalon Ballroom that’s fairly easy to locate, and captures their insanity nicely. Drug busts brought a premature end to The Elevators, but Roky has emerged again in the 80’s with a new band and album. The Elevators were the pride of Austin’s and Houston’s undergrounds.
The Moving Sidewalks are another highly “collectable” group, yet much of their music was progressive psychedelia, as opposed to psychedelic punk. However, The Moving Sidewalks first single, “99th Floor”, is a masterpiece beyond belief. It’s got weird lyrics, a strong fuzz riff, a relentless beat, and a gripping melody. It’s unfortunate they didn’t continue in this direction. Guitarist Billy Gibbons later formed ZZ Top, and Jimi Hendrix gave them his endorsement, which are two reasons why people continue to over-rate The Moving Sidewalks. They were, for one single, great, and the rest of the time merely good.
A better, more versatile band were Mouse And The Traps, who recorded numerous singles. They’re probably best remembered for lead vocalist (Mouse) Ronnie Weiss’ uncanny ability to sound like Bob Dylan on “A Public Execution”. But they could also rock hard. Their compilation on Eva is one of the best re-issues to be found.
The Elevators, Moving Sidewalks, and Mouse & The Traps are the three main bands of interest to collectors, but there were plenty of Texas punk bands that made the charts. Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs had a small string of hits that, on the surface, might seem more novelty than punk. Nevertheless, beneath the inane, cute lyrics of “Wooly Bully”, “Ju Ju Hand”, “Ring Dang Doo”, and “Little Red Riding Hood” was exciting rock. Sam’s music was full of fifties references – especially his use of saxophone and R& B leanings – but that throbbing beat, Vox organ, and strained vocals were pure teen punk. Sam The Sham had a great sense of humour that worked well on vinyl and in concert. I miss him.
Another biggie from Texas was The Sir Douglas Quintet. Producer Harvey Meaux wanted to be part of the English Invasion, so he coerced the seasoned Doug Sahm to front The Sir Douglas Quintet. Well, Meaux got a few hits, but with Sahm’s slow drawl and the influence of the Mexicans in the band, they ended up not sounding British at all. But it was different and with “She’s About A Mover”, and “The Rains Came”, it was also commercial. Very little of their recorded output could be classified as punk as the guys were equally adept at R&B and Country, but when they played rock they were hard to beat. The Sir Douglas Quintet were very fortunate to feature the talents of keyboardist Augie Myer. His use of the Vox organ is still being copied to this day. A true genius of simplicity.
One of the groups Augie inspired were the youthful Five Americans. Forget their corny name, as this Dallas lot (((actually from Oklahoma))) were a hot little punk band. They had the knack for infectious melodies, so a batch of their twenty-plus singles dented the charts. Who could forget the joyous, yet hard-hitting “I See The Light”, “Western Union”, and “Zip Code”. The Five Americans proved you could tackle pop without being wimps. Back to the non-hit bands, Kenny And The Kasuals were a popular club attraction and their “phony” live album indicates why. They did revved-up reworkings of mostly primitive British beat material. Their singles saw them slowly change into a viable psychedelic-punk group, especially the masterful “Journey To Tyme”.
There are hundreds of other Texas groups worthy of your time. One could devote an entire article/book to the subject. Briefly, here are some goodies you shouldn’t pass by: The Things’ “I Don’t Believe It” (El Paso group with great fuzz guitar /farfisa), The Bad Roads’ “Blue Girl” (fast rocker), Scotty McKay Quintet’s “The Train Kept A Rollin’” (Yardbirds-like w/Jimmy Page on guitar), Zakary Thaks’ “Bad Girl” and “I Need You” (hard driving, yet most of their stuff was melodic), Knights Bridge Quintet’s “Sorrow In C Major” (odd, mesmerizing melody/ fuzz guitar/ raga-styled solo), Exotics’ “Come With Me” (bright, catchy punker), The Outcasts’ “I’m In Pittsburgh And It’s Raining” (Stones-like with wild harmonica backing), and Satori’s “Time Machine” (perfect cross between Elevators and Seeds). Seriously, this is just a fraction of the great music that came out of Texas.
(((KANSAS had the incredible Blue Things from the Lawrence area. Gorgeous folk-punk/psychedelic originals and twisted covers. Essential songs: “Orange Rooftop of Your Mind”, “Twist and Shout”, “Dollhouse”, and “You Can Live In Our Tree”.)))
CHICAGO The big success out of the Windy City was the Shadows Of Knight. These five brash teens took R&B chestnuts and hopped them up with a punchy rhythm section. Maybe lead vocalist Jim Sohns claimed to have learned from the originals, but his attitude and phrasing were directly linked to the Mick Jagger / Phil May / Eric Burdon school of British blues.
The Shadows Of Knight were already a fave in Chicago’s teen clubs when the producer and owner of Dunwich Records took them into the studio to cover Them’s “Gloria”, a record that had been banned in much of the country. The final outcome was a magical experience and one the group would never commercially equal. The tune was a natural for Sohns’ snotty voice. Soon the single was a local smash that rapidly spread across the States.
The first album was a non-stop sampling of teenage blues, with simple but effective guitar breaks. The follow-up LP, “Back Door Men”, was more diverse as the Shadows’ tried instrumentals (“The Behemoth” ) pop (“Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day”}, and folk-rock (“Hey Joe”), along with their bastardization of the blues. “Bad Little Woman” was a great tune, but it couldn’t match the success of “Gloria”, and did little to sell the album. Personnel changes resulted in Sohns being the lone original member when their third LP was eventually issues. A single, “Shake”, was pulled and was a minor hit but the bubblegum approach of the new Shadows was flat when compared to what the original batch had done. Sohns kept the group actively working in Chicago until the late ‘70”s, when he became the road manager for Skafish.At least the Shadows Of Knight had their moment with “Gloria”. The Del-Vetts were equally as brilliant and might have proven to be superior to the Shadows, judging from their few singles. “The Last Time Around” shines as being one of the best punk tracks to reach vinyl. For mysterious reasons, the song bombed. The Del-Vetts did have some local success, and were fairly popular, but the commercial failure of that single was the final straw. Prophetic indeed.
One of the problems with Chicago was the preoccupation for hits. Bands like The Buckinghams, Cryan Shames, and American Breed might have been really good garage bands but the overproduced, sterile, sound of their records eliminated that potential. What they’ve left behind are so-so period pieces and nothing more.
There were some other good punkers. The Naves had some decent folk-punk singles. They were sort of a tough version of The Byrds. The New Colony Six had two strong teen punk albums before turning into a MOR, wimpy pop group. The Mauds played white soul and while their LP drags a bit, I’m sure they drove their audiences crazy. The Flock and Little Boy Blues both made fine singles early on in their careers, only to turn pretentious and boring when they got around to making albums.
DETROIT Michigan was yet another goldmine of talent. The Detroit area had good studios, well-run clubs, and organized indie labels such as Hideout and A Square. The kids just ate up the soul inspired white garage punks. Enough so that there were hits. The Fugitives had a decent live album that should eventually be re-issued. The Nationals were quite possibly more adept at blue-eyed soul than the Young Rascals, and they deserved to break out big. Their lone album doesn’t come close to matching the drive and intensity of their hard-to-find singles. Cherry Slush was an early Dick Wagner (later in Frost and sideman for Lou Reed / Alice Cooper) band. Scott Richard Case, that later became the more metalish SRC, were good, and Case was a singer who probably should have gone further. Terry Knight got a couple of albums out, but listening to them one wonders why. They were really limp. His group, The Pack, became Grand Funk, and Terry thankfully gave up singing to manage them. The Wanted did a credible punk version of “In The Midnight Hour”, and of course there were the early singles by the MC 5 and the youthful punk Bob Seger (don’t laugh) who belted out tunes like “East Side Story” and “Persecution Smith”.Other releases of interest include the Tidal Waves’ “Farmer John”, Underdogs’ “Love’s Gone Bad”, Unrelated Segments’ “Where You Gonna Go”, The Woolies’ “Who do You Love”, and the first couple of Amboy Dukes’ albums. Yes, even Ted Nugent once was a punk.
At the time, the biggest Detroit star had to be Mitch Ryder with his Detroit Wheels, who really rocked hard with punk classics like “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Jenny Take A Ride”, and “Sock It To Me Baby”. Sure he listened to the real thing, but his shouting was more white punk than white soul and he left behind a healthy string of memorable smashes.
What might easily be the best song out of Detroit area is often mentioned in Texas articles. Confusing? Well, “96 Tears” with its repetitious Augie Myer-style organ riff and monotone vocal was done by ? And The Mysterians, while the Mexican-Americans were still living in Texas. For some unknown reason they moved to Detroit, reissued the record on Cameo and had a hit. A few minor hits, which all sounded like remakes of “96 Tears”, followed. Both their album’s are worth spinning. This group was so simple they were brilliant (like the Seeds). Iggy Pop still considers them to be a major influence.
MINNEAPOLIS This region had some wild stuff happening. The Trashmen had their bizarre “Surfin’ Bird” reach the charts, as did the Castaways with “Liar, Liar”. But there were plenty of other dynamite sounds like the Gestures’ “Run, Run, Run”. The first two albums by the Litter (grungy anglo-rock), and many singles and album by T.C. Atlantic. There were lots of other really good bands, most of whom recorded for local labels like Garrett and Soma.
OHIO Like Chicago, Ohio punkers seemed to be more in the pop mold, but they approached it like the English groups. They didn’t clutter the tracks with strings end horns, they just wrote clear, cohesive melodies and backed them with a big, powerful beat. The best example of this would be Cleveland’s the Choir, whose “It’s Cold Outside” is an exhilarating piece of work. The McCoys, featuring a teenege Rick Derringer, were another melodic outfit. They had smashes with “Hang On Sloopy” (garage punk classic) and “Fever”, plus they put out two nice albums before growing up and getting serious (i.e. dull). The Outsiders were linked to Capitol, but that didn’t keep them from putting out a couple of cool singles, “Time Won’t Let Me” and “Respectable”. The Music Explosion had a huge hit with “Little Bit of Soul” (recently covered by the Ramones). They later made some pleasant bubblegum singles, but “Little Bit of Soul” was their only moment in the spotlight. For pure teen punk, obscure groups such as the Alarm Clocks and the Rats offer a twisted alternative to the poppier bands.
BOSTON Top punks here were, by far, the Remains. This fabulous group really seemed destined for great things – they were signed to a major label, toured with the Beatles, were on the Ed Sullivan Show, and had a hell of a lot of talent. Most of their material had a strong influence of British Beat, and by often using minor keys they came off like an American version of the Zombies. A series of bad breaks, beyond the control of the Remains, kept them from finding the success they deserved. Nevertheless, their recordings, now available again still sound sharp and exciting today.
The Remains were closely followed by the Barbarians who recorded the syrupy ballad “Moulty” (a tale about how their one arm drummer had to learn to adjust to society and now he wanted a girl) and the great sarcastic “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl”. Their album was uneven but there were a few tracks worth hearing.
Like the Remains, the Lost seemed to have the talent to go further than New England. They had good material that they performed loosely but with spirit. Willie Alexander was a member, which is one of the main reasons collectors today seem interested. But, in all actuality, they’re worth the attention because the Lost were pretty good. An unreleased album sits on the shelf at Capitol Records.
The Rockin’ Ramrods were big local stars, but their there singles are much softer than their name implies. The Improper Bostonians idolized the Byrds, but didn’t have the vocal chops to perfectly copy them. The Vikings were a teenage version of the Rolling Stones, Teddy& The Pandas made some nice pop-punk singles before releasing a horrendous album on Tower, and Faine Jade had a wild “It Ain’t True” just to follow it with a mediocre folk-psychedelic album.
Other bands from Boston who are worth hearing and searching for are the What Fours, the Rouges, the New Breeds, The Cobras, The Ones, and prep school punkers the Rising Storm, whose album “Calm Before” is considered to be one of the finer prep school albums. This sub-genre is known for inept covers of the hits of the day. The Rising Storm were far better when they played folk-punk, as their blues tracks are somewhat out-of-place.
What might be the most exciting punk record from Boston is the Psychopaths “Till the Stroke of Dawn” b/w “See the Girl”. Very little seems to be known about this band. The vocalist seems to be on the verge of exploding. Is there unreleased material? Live tapes? I’ve got to hear more.
NEW YORK One would naturally think New York would have a punk scene that would rival Los Angeles and Texas, but I’m sorry to say it didn’t. There were a few solid groups, but the city was more a melting pot of various genres. There was probably more authentic blues fresh from Chicago (Paul Butterfield), adventurous psychedelia (Lothar & Hand People), and folk-rock (Lovin’ Spoonful / Youngbloods) than teen punk. Nevertheless there are some groups worth mentioning.
The kings of New York City punk were the Blues Magoos. Looking back at their comic book approach, sharing the last name Magoo, their lack of critical support from their home base and one is instantly reminded of the Ramones. Unlike the Ramones, The Blues Magoos found some decent chart success with “Pipe Dream” and “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet”. They also made three albums, “Psychedelic Lollipop”, “Electric Comic Book”, and “Basic” that are full of well written songs, plenty of fuzz guitar, sheets of Vox organ, and off-the-wall lyrics. Musically, the Blues Magoos often sounded like a traffic jam at rush hour with the guitar and organ creating total chaos. The Blues Magoos were a lot of fun, got little credit for using sound effects within the punk context, and had the talent and material to make three albums still worth hearing. The Blues Magoos were great.
The Magicians often played the legendary Night Owl and were on Columbia records, yet their polished recordings left little impression on record buyers. The Vagrants were on Atco and sounded like a crude Young Rascals (also local faves), but they weren’t able to break out of the Long Island dance club scene. Two groups who showed great punk potential were the Shapes Of Things with a wonderful, sloppy rendition of “So Mystifying” and the Groupies, whose “Primitive” is a record every punk fanatic should own. In his Nuggets collection Lenny Kaye also lumped the Blues Project into the punk scene. Their lame treatment of the blues coupled with their interest in folk-rock make them fit somewhat, but I hesitate to include them because they always seemed like “serious” musicians slumming in the rock world.
There was another band of “serious” musicians who, while not purely a teen punk band, were one of the most influential groups on punk (especially on the ‘76 variety) from this era. They were The Velvet Underground. The simplicity of their songs, the sinister darkness of the lyrics and mood, and the rawness of their sound added up to music that remains as vital today as it did 16 years ago. Whether crossing over from speed-freak punk to sicko pop to deranged experimental, they always retained their bite, flying in the face of the niceties of the hippie era. Lou Reed and John Cale started early on playing in garage bands under various names (Primitives, Beechnut, Roughnecks), and eventually hooked up with other personnel like Mo Tucker to form the Velvets. Their stint as The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and their connection with Andy Warhol’s art scene was the boost they needed to make their date with destiny. All their LP’s have been re-issued at one point or another, and there are quite a few boots of varying quality and interest available too. Without a doubt, they were the most important band to emerge from NYC, if not the country, during this period.
Of course, New York state had some amazing punks too. The smaller towns /cities were full of wicked music by the likes of The Invictus (one rockin’ LP and several singles), The Young Tyrants, The Heathens, and The Huns. Neighbouring New Jersey gave Richard And The Young Lions, whose “Open Your Door” is a must, and the Knickerbockers who did well on the charts with the Beatle-ish “Lies”. Connecticut had a cool scene that was led by the Shags, who had several potent singles. There’s rumored to be an album’s worth of previously unreleased Shags’ material about to be issued. Let’s hope so, ‘cause songs like “Hide Away” are too enticing. Two other New Jersey bands who were connected with the New York scene were The Myddle Class, who put out some professional, but nevertheless punk records, and The Balloon Farm whose “Question Of Temperature” is sheer perfection.
PENNSYLVANIA While Philadelphia didn’t have a whole lot going on, the nearby suburbs had their fair share of good garage bands. The Kings Ransom from Allentown put out several singles and one, “Shame”, was a demanding little number that recalled the best of the Music Machine. Other cool sounds from the Philly area were The Satyrs’ “Yesterday’s Hero”, Ognir And The Nite People’s “I Found A New Love”, The Shillings’ “Cry”, and The Outcasts’ “Set Me Free”. There were some minor gems from the likes of The Bats, Buccaneers, TR5, and The Monkeymen. The latter group was actually from South Jersey, where they used to win every battle of the bands. The Kit Kats had the most success, as their “Let’s Get Lost On A Country Road” was a huge local hit. It still gets played as an oldie but, by our terms, it was certainly more pop than punk.
Philly’s favorite son, Todd Rundgren, even fronted a semi-punk band, The Nazz. They were very influenced by the Beatles and the Who and were rather sharp dressers. “Open My Eyes” was a tough little pop-punk track with a sizzling fuzz guitar line. Each of their 3 albums (now re-issued) have some quality punk sounds, but for the most part the Nazz weren’t punks.
Pittsburgh probably had the crudest, most insane punk group in the Swamp Rats. Their version of “Hey Joe” is a delightful mess of distortion, arrogance, and frustration. Their other releases are also impressive. The Swamp Rats were probably the best the state had to offer.
New England is also represented nicely with The New England Teen Scene that has great bands like the Psychopaths, Shadows Four, The Tallysmen and many others. This is a smokin’ collection of teenage crud that gets plenty of turntable time around here. This will liven up anyone’s record listening. Texas is certainly well depicted. I already mentioned several reissues, but floating around are four legitimate 13th Floor Elevators albums as well as a couple of boots. All music by the Elevators should be heard, but really seek out the Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators and Easter Everywhere. Besides Eva’s collection of singles, there’s Kenny & The Kasuals’ Live at the Studio Club which is full of cool rockin’ numbers like “All the Day All the Night”, “You Mike Me Feel So Good”, “Gloria”, “Farmer John”, and “Baby Please Don’t Go”. The Kasuals had solid party sound.
SOUTH This was also an active region, but the best groups had more of a frat-party sound. This is best exemplified by the Swinging Medallions’ “Double Shot Of Baby’s Love” and Phil And The Nightshadows’ output. These seemed to get the most attention, although the Cants from Mississippi put out 3 albums of cruddy versions of “Hungry”, “Rain”, and “Gloria”. Memphis’ Gentrys had an infectious “Keep On Dancing”, but little else of merit, the Uniques (R&B punk from Louisiana) had some singles, the Hombres (Memphis group that tried to out-Dylan Mouse on “Let It All Hang Out”). If Memphis’ Box Tops (Alex Chilton) hadn’t smothered their songs with over-arranging, they probably would’ve made some killer punk. But that’s just guessing.
FLORIDA Some really tight bands here, such as the Magi, Birdwatchers, Split Ends, Nightcrawlers (“Little Black Egg” is a must to own), and We The People. The latter is probably the most important band. They started out as a primo punk group and evolved into an interesting psychedelic band, having recorded numerous singles for a variety of labels. Eva Records has just collected them for a compilation and it’s really nice to have tracks such as “Mirror Of Your Mind” and “When I Arrive” readily available.
Punk didn’t end overnight. The groups who started to give their crude sounds a touch of psychedelia limped along for awhile with small hippie followings. Bubblegum was a studio creation, yet songs like “Beg, Borrow, and Steal” by Mouse & Traps were strongly based on punk traditions and proved to be pleasant relief in the otherwise staid late sixties. So there were a few releases to keep the spirit alive.
Later on in the early ‘70’s, the efforts of the MC5, Flamin’ Groovies, And Stooges kept alive punk traditions and were probably nearly as important Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets re-issue. Once that record came out, everyone realized you didn’t need a shag haircut, platform shoes, and a wall of Marshall amps to play rock and roll. That opened the door and allowed the New York Dolls, Ramones, DMZ, Dead Boys and others to walk through.
One thing the present day punks have that their forefathers didn’t was a strong network of fanzines spreading the word about new releases and new bands. Back then, bands 10 miles away from each other often didn’t know of each others existence. So these publications keep the punk spirit alive by promoting punk, while the straight media (radio/press/MTV) continues to ignore it. Once we lose that voice, we might as well kiss the whole thing goodbye. On a personal note, I’m looking for obscure/unreleased sixties tracks to re-issue. If you have any contacts, write to me c/o Sounds Interesting Records, P.O. Box 541 Stone Harbor, N.J. 08247. I’m also looking for tapes from current bands who play in sixties-styled punk groups. I’ve just released a compilation of such bands entitled The Rebel Kind. Finally, Greg Shaw of Bomp would like any information about a wild character who went under the names of Milan or Leather Boy. And I would like help putting together the story of an Alaskan 60’s punk group called The Pulsating Heartbeats. I have one single by them, “Anne” b/w ‘Talkin’ ‘bout You”, that’s great. Remember, not all rock n roll is punk – just the best!
A SELECTIVE GUIDE TO GARAGE PUNK REISSUES As I mentioned early on in this article, the time is right to discover garage punk because everything is being reissued. Entire labels are dedicating themselves to keeping the spirit of garage punk alive and we should be thankful for their hard work. Nearly every city has at least one record store that stocks such goodies and there are several mail order companies who do an incredible job spreading this music around. Each passing day seems to bring several new reissues, so this will have to be a basic list of some of the better reissue labels to watch out for and some up-and-coming ones with solid releases already around. Each passing day seems to bring several new reissues, so this will have to be a basic list of some of the better reissue labels to watch out for and some up-and- coming ones with solid releases already under their belts.
ARCHIVE INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTIONS A.I.P.’s claim to fame is their must-own Pebbles series. Inspired by Nuggets, Pebbles has, over the course of twelve compilations, brought to the light some of the most exciting, crude, rockin’ garage punk songs ever committed to vinyl. Each one of these releases is a joy to listen to as the quality of the packaging and the actual music is uniformly high. If one just picked up this series, it would be enough to get a clear picture of the teenage rebellion of the mid-sixties. A.I.P. has also started to concentrate on specific regions with a new series titled High in the Sixties. The first three volumes deal with Los Angeles and are worthy of your attention -especially Volume One with the incredible “Be a Cave Man” by the Avengers. Another release on A.I.P. of interest is Sky Saxon’s New Fruit From Old Seeds. Instead of dealing with the obvious, this collection has plenty of pre-and post-Seeds material from Sky. The results are uneven but a true fan of the Seeds will want to own this.
EVA There’s a little label In France by the name of Eva that’s doing a fine job keeping sixties American garage punk in circulation. In just a couple of years they’ve been responsible for some top-notch reissues of albums, new compilations, and even some previously unreleased material. Several you should check out are: Mouse & The Traps’ Public Execution, the Litter’s Rare Tracks, Rising Storm’s Calm Before The Rising Storm, Remains’ Diddy Wah Diddy, Rockin Ramrods’ I Wanna Be Your Man, Other Half’s Mr. Pharmacist, T.C. Atlantic’s Recorded Live at the Bel-Rae Ballroom, Kenny & The Kasuals’ Nothing Better to Do, and We The People’s Declaration of Independence. Eva puts out at least a couple per month, so you better start picking them up now. Like Pebbles’, these reissues need to be continued.
LINE Giving EVA some stiff competition is Germany’s Line label. They’ve reissued all genres from rockabilly to garage punk, to R&B, to psychedelia, and surfing instrumentals. Their records are put together with a lot of care and the packaging is usually quite good. For garage punk they’ve got Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction and Dynamite Incidents, McCoys’ Hang On Sloopy and You Make Me Feel So Good, Knickerbockers’ Lies, Music Machine’s Turn On, and a series of garage-punk compilations, Mindrockers, patterned after Pebbles. Lots of cool stuff here.
FIRST AMERICAN Through various compilations are putting out previously unreleased material by the likes of the Sonics and Kingsmen. First American is a favorite with collectors. Their History of Northwest Rock series captures classics from the Raiders, Bards, Kingsmen, Sonics, and Don And The Goodtimes to mention only a few. Besides having strong material, these compilations also show how the music varied between hard, bone-crushing garage punk and a more melodic garage style. Other goodies from First American are the Kingsmen’s House Party, Quarter to Three, and Ya Ya, the Sonics’ Fire & Ice, Here Are The Sonics and Original Northwest Punk and Don & The Goodtimes. It was a wild rockin’ scene and First American is doing a praiseworthy job keeping the material in record stores.
RHINO Rhino’s impressive catalog of reissues is usually remembered more for their mainstream artists such as the Turtles, Box Tops, Frank Zappa, Grandmothers, etc…yet they’ve got their garage punk releases, too. In fact, they’ve got some amazing releases such as all three Nazz albums, the Standells’ Best of the Standells, the Chocolate Watchband’s Best of the Chocolate Watchband, the Beau Brummels’ Introducing, Best of the Beau Brummels, and From the Vaults, and the Barbarians’ debut. Only a fool would pass by these reissues, especially the ones by the Chocolate Watchband and Standells. More are on the way.
VOXX Voxx is a spin-off of Bomp Enterprises and this subsidiary deals with reissues of garage punk or present day artists who play in the sixties style. They’ve got dozens of releases planned which will excite garage punk fanatics plus they’ve got some winners you should already own like Acid Visions (best Texas rock comp yet), the Grodes, Phil & The Frantics, and Canada’s the Haunted’s In Return From the Grave and Part Two: I’m Just Gonna Blow My Little Into Bits. It goes without saying that Voxx president Greg Shaw puts a lot of work into these reissues and these are as strong as one would ever hope for.
MOXIE This little label certainly means well and they’ve issued some primo EP’s. What bugs me though is the shoddy way their Boulders Series is thrown together. The cover art is terrible and the liner information is usually non-existent or barely coherent. There’s plenty of good music to be found with tracks by the Rain, Chocolate Moose Dearly Beloved, W.C. Fields’ Memorial String Band, etc…but compared to Pebbles, Mindrockers, History of Northwest Rock, etc… Boulders is lame. Their strongest release is probably Zakary Thaks Texas Band which nicely compiles their hard-to-find singles. Again, the packaging detracts but the music saves the day.
ODDS AND ENDS Besides those labels mentioned, there are younger ones trying to fill in the holes with solid reissues. Boston’s Star Rhythm label reissued a very primitive 1966 Battle of the Bands album that captures the spirit of inept but yet inspired playing. A better choice from the label would be the wonderful Bay State Rock compilation that features the Vikings, Improper Bostonians, Rockin’ Ramrods and others. Excellent graphics highlight this one.
The Flashback Series has some primo Texas punks like the Jades, Blue Things. Outcasts, and Knights Bridge. If you like the Moxie collection by Zakary Thaks, there’s plenty of unreleased material along with stuff by the Liberty Bell on a neat album titled Texas Reverberations (Texas Archive). They have some other releases, too, which I haven’t heard yet. Another good Texas oriented collection is Three O’Clock Merrian Webster Time (Cicadelic) which has some powerful cuts by the Lemon Fog and the Nomads.
The Cicadelic label also has two compilations: The Psychedelic Sixties (featuring my personal faves the Exotics, as well as the Cellar Dwellers, the Painted Faces and others, and Cicadelic Sixties Vol II Out of Order, which has fifteen crazed tracks including the likes of the Jagged Edge’s “Midnight to Six” and the Swamp Rats’ “Hey Joe’.At the moment, my absolute fave garage punk compilations are the Chosen Few Vol I with some hopelessly obscure gems from basement rockers like, the Gonn (great name), the Mods, Things To Come, Mystic Five, and Thee Wylde, Main-Iacs, etc. The other two are Back From The Grave Vol. 1 and Back From The Grave Vol 2. The Back From the Grave Collections are no holds barred samplings of primitive teen punk. Great groups with cool names like the Rats, The One Way Street, The Mystics, Ralph Nielsen & The Chancellors. Most of this is screaming rock and roll. These groups hit hard and never mess around with overdoing the Psychedelic aspect. Pure teen punk.
GNP has kindly kept all the Seeds’ albums in print and one should certainly pick up their First, Web of Sound, Falling Off the Edge, and Raw & Alive. Skip Future and A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues, unless you’re looking for a few cheap laughs. Mercury, in one 0f their sane moments, reissued the classic Psychedelic Lollipop by the Blues Magoos. Elektra and Rhino both have good ‘Best Of’ type albums out by Love that indicate why they should be lumped in with the garage punk scene.
Radar reissued Gloria by the Shadows Of Knight a few years back and while it’s now out-of-print I still see copies in different stores. It’s a good album from Jim Sohns and his boys. In Japan, a label reissued the 96 Tears album by ? And The Mysterians, which is a mystery in itself. At least one can find somewhat easily enough that still powerful classic.
The Leaves collection on Panda is really solid with some tough folk-punk. This junior version of the Byrds and Rolling Stones had more than their share of magical moments, and this album holds up nicely. Fans of Detroit area punk will definitely need Michigan Brand Of Nuggets, which is a double album of super rare treats from bands such as the Rationals, MC5, Unrelated Segments, Underdogs, Wanted, and Southbound Freeway. I haven’t seen this one around lately. but it’ll worth whatever effort it takes to trick it down.
Believe me, there are plenty more. But this is a good place to start and should keep you busy for a little while. Several mail order companies who specialise in sixties punk are Bomp-P .0. Box 7112-Burbank. CA 91510; Disques Du Monde-P.O. Box 836-New York. New York 10159; Midnight-P.O. Box 390 Old Chelsea Station-N.Y., N.Y. 10011; and Venus-P .0. Box 166 Cooper Station-N. Y., N.Y 10276. All have been around for a number of years and are quite reliable. (NB This article was written in 1983 so this paragraph might not now be accurate – Adam)
When spinning these early punk sides, try to imagine that this raw primal rock and roll sound not only shook up the staid sixties and made it one of the most colorful decades in our history but all that it’s the roots of today’s punk scene. From the revivalist like the Fleshtones, Chesterfield Kings, and Unclaimed to the hardcore thrash of the Circle Jerks. Black Flag and CH3, all have either directly or indirectly fed on those who came before them. There’s still a lot to be learned from the first punk generation, so open your minds and give this music an honest listen.