Listen to this track by proto-punk poet and her merry band of garage rock enthusiasts The Patti Smith Group. It’s “Gloria”, the opening track to their 1975 record Horses. That album would be a reflection of their work that melded fifties beat generation poetry with sixties garage rock music.
This song is the embodiment of that mix, taking a poem that Smith had performed for years called “Oath”, and fusing it to the 1965 garage rock classic by Them, which makes this a quasi cover version of sorts. It’s almost as though, in a time before sampling was formalized in the way we know it today, this piece was manually sampled. It was an effort at trying to tie the deeper questions of life to something that was just as common; a love of rock ‘n’ roll radio. It was also a way to tie it directly to the experiences of her generation.
Where is all of this pointing toward? Something that looks at lot like a search outside of that which had always been accepted as fact by the generation that came before. That’s what makes this so punk rock. Read more
Listen to this track by Pacific Northwest R&B supplicants the Sonics. It’s “Have Love Will Travel” (that title being a possible reference to Have Gun Will Travel, a TV western program), a well-travelled rock tune, written by the same guy who wrote “Louie Louie” , Richard Berry. This tune would be covered by many from Stiv Bators, to Tom Petty & The Heartbrekers, to the Black Keys.
This version of the song appears on the Sonics 1965 album Here Are the Sonics, a release that would characterize ’60s garage music, and later be seen as the roots of punk in the 1970s. The group grew out of the growing Seattle rock scene, among the first bands to forge a scene in that city that would endure for decades. The band were quintessential garage rockers, with a clear mission to deliver scrappy and loud R&B in a rock context.
The album contains several of what can be considered classics of the R&B catlog including Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven”, Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ The Dog”, Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want”), and Ray Charles “Night Time Is the Right Time”, among others.
All of these songs were the early templates for the British bands that had loved the originals and that had sold them back to American audiences during the British Invasion. And even if the Animals, The Stones, Them, the Yardbirds, and others had gone past this canon of material by the mid-60s, it was still very much alive and well on garage scenes all over the United States and Canada, even if many bands would not distinguish themselves by covering them.
But, what of this song by R&B vocalist and writer Richard Berry, and why is the Sonic’s version of it so undeniable, influencing so many down the decades? Read more
Listen to this track, a double-A side single from Southern Ontarian rock ‘n’ roll upstarts The Dirty Nil. It’s the rip-up-the-seats anthems “Fuckin’ Up Young/Verona Lung”.
If your workplace includes members of the clergy, you might want to put on your headphones, good people.
A drums (Kyle Fisher) bass (Dave Nardi) guitar (Luke Bentham, who also sings) trio, the guys have recorded EPs, cut vinyl singles (like this one), played shows, and have been named Best New Band at the Hamilton Music Awards starting in 2008. A part of the vibrant indie scene in Hamilton, Ontario, the band revel in their own brand of gritty, garagey rock music, while acknowledging the eclectic musical landscape in Hamilton of which they are a part.
Among other things, I talked to the Luke and Dave about cutting the single, about being indie and going pro, and about the the important fuel that guns the engines of many a rock ‘n’ roll band – beer.
Here’s a clip of Hamiltonian punkabilly-flavoured rock/pop punk rock trio The Barettas. It’s the video for their single ‘Touché”. You can currently download the single for FREE on their bandcamp page, good people. The single, with an equally excellent B-side in “Black Sheep” was released last month.
The band is made up of three women – Katie Bulley (guitar, vocals), Kate Kimberley (bass, vocals), and Carly Kilotta (drums) – who’s average age is currently 22, yet sound as though they’ve been at this game for twice that time at least. Since their formation in 2009, the trio has rubbed elbows in support slots for acts as critically acclaimed as the Diodes (!), The Fleshtones (!!), The New York Dolls (!!!) and A Flock of Seagulls (!!?) among others.
Among the references you’ll find about this band in the press are comparisons between their hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, and the soul music, blues, and garage rock mecca of Detroit Michigan. Sure, both are industrial, blue collar towns. Both are criminally left behind in comparison to other cities when it comes to accolades of cultural importance where pop music is concerned (although, KISS never wrote about Hamilton – or they haven’t yet). But, do the comparisons end there?
Well, I decided to ask Katie that question, among others including questions about dayjobs, about what a support band can learn from a headliner, and about what it is to be a woman in a 21st Century rock ‘n’ roll band.
Here’s a clip of indie-blues rock two-piece champeens The Black Keys. It’s their song “Your Touch” as taken from their 2006 record Magic Potion. Warning: This clip involves a lot of gun play, murder, ghosts, unabashed lip synching, and not a bass player in sight, good people. This is the blues as it was meant to be , haunted by the spirits of Hound Dog Taylor, also a bass aversonist of some renown, and of course Junior Kimbrough, a man who the ‘Keys covered heavily in their earlier career. Yet, this isn’t exactly blues, is it?
One thing about the Black Keys – Dan Auerbach on vocals and guitar, and Patrick Carney on drums – is that even if it’s hard to deny that they’re playing music that is heavily indebted to the blues, they are positioning the blues not so much as roots music interpreted by an indie band so much as a framework for another kind of modern indie guitar rock. In the Black Keys world, if rock music is the baby sired by the blues, than the sire still has something to teach the mouthy little brat after all.
The skill it takes to pull off that stylistic inversion is not to be compared, even if the knee jerk reaction is to draw a parallel with the White Stripes. Read more
In some ways, the band hearkens back to the 1965-1968 garage band era, yet also captures some of the darkness of late 70s post-punk. This made them something of a throwback, and a welcome addition to early 80s college alternative radio in the modern era as well. It can be argued of course that it is the pursuit of that 60s sound which fueled college radio at that time, when the simplicity of garage rock was something of a touchstone for post-punk groups like the Fleshtones.
Yet, with this song in particular, it is something of a curious listen in the sense that it sounds entirely timeless, even if at the same time it is tied to a specific era. There is as much Joy Division in there as there is the rough-shod R&B influence of bands like the 13th Floor Elevators.
The result is a highly potent strain of guitar-driven rock music that was able to endure the changing sounds of the 80s, through to the 90s when guitar bands had won back their favour, and onto this decade where the Fleshtones enjoyed something of an renaissance at Yep Roc records with a new release in 2003, Do You Swing?. Since then, they’ve put out a number of releases without any sign of slowing.
Listen to this song by Austin Texas’ 60s garage-rock heroes the 13th Floor Elevators, featuring 19-year old singer-guitarist Roky Erickson. It’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, their 1966 single which also featured on their The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators LP. This was their only hit, getting in at #55 on the Billboard Top 100 that year. But, it was a hit that counted. In a span of 2 minutes and change, it influenced the development of psychedelia, blues rock, and multiple strains of punk rock for decades after it was recorded.
The garage-rock scene, which were actually a scattering of little scenes all over the United States and here in Canada, came partially out of the influence of British Invasion bands like the Animals, Them, and the Yardbirds, among others. But, those scenes also sprang directly from the the love of bare bones American soul and R&B by which those British bands were also influenced – Link Wray, Solomon Burke, Booker T. & the MGs, and many others.
Nailing the garage rock trend down in terms of musical style isn’t easy. But, one overarching characteristic was that of a DIY spirit. If you wanted to be in a band, all you needed do was to love rock ‘n’roll, learn the basic chords, form a band, plug-in, and start wailin’. Of course because of this, there were so many of these bands, very few of them had much success beyond one single, or at most, a single album. But what this wave of little scenes and vital little groups did do was to outline a modus operandi that would feed the growth of punk rock of the 70s and beyond.
When the Nuggets collection was amassed and put out in the early 70s, collecting some of the bright points of the 1965-68 era of garage rock of which the 13th Floor Elevators soon came to be inextricably associated, it was practically a rosetta stone for bands like Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, not to mention the Ramones who would start a musical brush fire while using the same approach as you’re hearing in “You’re Gonna Miss Me”.
Listen to this track, a slice of grungy R&B from Belfast’s R&B purveyors Them featuring a young and ballsy Van Morrison on lead vocal. It’s the garage classic “I Can Only Give You Everything” which was a single for the band in 1966, and featured on their second LP Them Again. This song became a fast garage band favourite, also recorded by the MC5, and later by Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Soon after this song was released, Morrison would embark on a solo career.
This tune was unusual in a couple of ways as a single for Them. First, it wasn’t written by Van Morrison. Second, it wasn’t an established R&B recording. It was in fact an original song written by a couple of British songwriters, Mike Coulter and Tommy Scott. Scott also served as producer. But Morrison throws his entire weight behind it, pulling in his own influences and elements from his contemporaries – Solomon Burke, a bit of Jagger, a smattering of Eric Burdon – and distilling it into a knock-out believable performance.
Signed to Decca Records, Them were represented a lot of the time by studio musicians. Dick Rowe of Decca (‘the man who gave away the Beatles’) established this as a standard practice for many bands in their roster. But, what a sound! That opening riff is a monster, and the organ underpinning it is like the generator which keeps the whole thing running. There are some standard British R&B elements here perhaps. But this is a flat-out classic which helped to inspire a template for all manner of bands starting out with rough, unpolished sounds of their own.
Do you think you recognize that opening riff? Beck sampled it for his “Devil’s Haircut” single thirty years later. Well, I say sampled. Beck cheated. He played it live.