Friday, March 1, 2013

The Alarm Clocks.

The Alarm Clocks
        When you listen to some of the music from bands like The Standells or Blues McGoos and so on, the question arises: "Why didn't these guys make it?"  Certainly, a band like The Remains or The Choclate Watchband were just as talented as anyone else at the time. I guess you just have to chalk it up to the fickle finger of fate and leave it at that. With other bands, however, the answer to that question is quite obvious. Case in point, The Alarm Clocks. The Alarm Clocks are like a bulldog that's so ugly, it's cute. That's how I think of The Alarm Clocks, they're so bad, they're good. They only cut a small handful of songs, and they are all pretty bad. Still, their music does have raw kind of appeal to it.

        The Alarm Clocks were formed in 1965 in Parma, Ohio. The three original members were students at Parma Senior High School when they began playing together. They were your typical suburban garage band. They were essentially a cover band that favored The Kinks and The Rolling Stones. In 1966 they recorded two raw tracks, Yeah and No Teason To Complain, pressed into 200 copies on a 45 and released on their lable Awake Records.

        No Reason To Complain was written before going into the studio. Up to this point, the band had no original material. When they got to the studio they realized that they needed a B side. Yeah was written right there on the spot at the studio. The 45 was done live in one take, vocals and insturmentation. The Alarm Clocks faded into obscurity until 40 years later.
          In the late 70's a local musician, Tom Fallon, and his friend, George Gell, who were collectors of old garage band records discovered one the original 45's.  Fallon and Gell invited Crypt Records owner Tim Warren to hear The Alarm Clocks single 45, and "he flipped out," according to Fallon. It ended up being on the first volume of Crypt's compilation called Back From the Grave; it came out on vinyl in 1983. Suddenly, the little 45 became a coveted collector's item. Garage rock legends the Lyres covered "No Reason to Complain" in 1986 and Mojo magazine named the song "one of the top 20 garage rock songs of all-time." 
Norton Records issued a reproduction of the single in the 1990s, followed in 2000 by a full-length LP/CD called Yeah!, which included additional Alarm Clocks material recorded in 1966.  In 2004, comedian Patton Oswalt named his Comedy Central special “No Reason To Complain,” and featured The Alarm Clocks recording as the musical introduction.

       Less than a year later, Fallon got a call from Norton Records co-founder, former Cramps drummer and friend, Miriam Linna. "She called me, and said: 'You got to get these guys back together to play. It'll be 2006, 40 years since the record.'  In 2006 The Alarm Clocks recorded The Time Has Come. They cut the album in two days at Freddie Fortune's Detroit studio. The Album contained 12 original recordings and two covers, I'm A Man, and Like A Rolling Stone.

      Bands that are successful and that stay together evolve over time. As a result, when these bands play their old material it sounds overly produced. That is not the case with The Alarm Clocks. They were just some high school kids that cut a 45 and a handful of demos back in 1966 and then faded into obscurity until 40 years later. Their music still has that raw sound, they never learned to play any other way.



Friday, February 15, 2013

The Sonics

The Sonics
      The Sonics career started in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington. Like many of the bands of that time, they underwent several lineup changes. The Sonics were originally an instrumental combo. In late 1961 or early 1962, Marilyn Lodge joined the band as their first singer. It's hard to imagine the Sonics with a female singing lead, their music wasn't exactly conducive to having a chanteuse on lead vocals. In 1964 Gerry Roslie, Bob Bennett, and Rob Lind, formerly of The Searchers, joined the band. Lodge left the band and Roslie took over lead vocals, the lineup that gained a cult following to this day was now in place.
      The Sonics began playing local venues like the Red Carpet, Olympia's Skateland, the Evergreen Ballroom, and so on. They played garage rock standards like Louie, Louie, Have Love Will Travel, and early rock and roll like Jenny Jenny and Skinnie Minnie along some original stuff like Psycho and Strychnine. The band signed with Etiquette Records and in the fall of 1964 they relased their first single The Witch. The Witch went on to become the biggest local selling single in the history of the northwest despite its limited airplay due to bizarre subject matter.
       The Sonics' music was based on simple chord progressions played hard and fast. They didn't so much play their instruments, it was more like they attacked them.They quickly gained a reputation as one of the rowdiest, loud, and reckless bands around. With Roslie's screaming vocals and the way the band played, the music was somewhere between an ear drum splitting din and white noise.  Psycho is a great example of the bands sound.
        In the spirit of the holidays, The Sonics also cut a couple of Christmas songs, Don't Believe In Christmas, which was based on Chuck Berry's Too Much Monkey Business with different lyrics, and my favorite Santa Claus.

        The Sonics recorded an LP, Here Are The Sonics, in 1965 at Audio Recording in Seattle. The album was recorded on a two-track recorder with just one microphone to pick up the whole drum kit. It was here that their antics in recording techniques began. In 1966, their next album, Boom was recorded at the Wiley/Griffith studio in Tacoma. W/G was mostly country and western oriented. The Sonics ripped all the soundproofing off the walls to get what they called "a live-er sound." 
        The Sonics headed to Hollywood in late 1966 to record Introducing The Sonics on Jerden Records at Gold Star studios. This was the beginning of the end for them. It has been rumored that their producer, Larry Levine, pushed the band to develop a more polished sound. True or not, The Sonics decided to follow new trends in modern music. The result was quite different from their earlier raucous recordings. The band was not happy with the new cleaner, slicker  recordings. They called it "the worst garbage."  Since I Fell For You, which is on Boom, was a harbinger of things to come. I like 50's music as much as the next guy, but this is not what fans expected from The Sonics. Maintaining My Cool is another example of their new sound.

        The Sonics fell apart between 1966 and 1968. Some of the members left to go to university or to join other bands. Their sax player, Rob Lind became a fighter pilot in Viet Nam. Eventually, all the original members left the band. The Sonics carried on with all new members, incorporating a string and horn section, it really wasn't even The Sonics anymore. Although the band never caught on nationally, they had a huge impact on the music scene in the Pacific Northwest that is still felt today. They had gone about as far as a local band with limited talent could go. Punk bands like The Dead Boys and grunge bands like Mudhoney credit The Sonics as influencing them. Jack White called them "the epitome of 60's punk" and said they were "harder than the Kinks, and punk long before punk." Kurt Cobain, in an interview on CITR-FM said "I have to admit, The Sonics recorded very,very cheaply on a two track you know, and they used just one microphone over the drums, and they got the most amazing drum sound I've ever heard. Still to this day, it's still my favorite drum sound. It  sounds like he is hitting harder than anyone I've ever known."

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Standells

The Standells

 Where do you start if you are going to chronicle the story of the music scene going here the the mid sixties? I'm not sure there is a right answer to that question. I'll just start off with the Standells since I've been on a kick with them lately and they got started about the same time as anyone else as far as I know, give or take a year or two.  The Standells where formed in Los Angeles in 1962. Their front man Larry Tamblyn derived their name from standing around booking agents offices waiting for gigs. Their first major performance was at the Oasis Club in Honolulu in 1962. Between 1962 and 1964 the band underwent a couple of lineup changes. They cut a couple of records for Linda Records but nothing really worth noting.

 Their big break came in 1964 when they signed with Liberty Records. The band appeared in several low budget films, most notably the cult classic Riot On Sunset Strip. The band also appeared on the TV show The Munsters,where they performed I Want To Hold Your Hand.

It was reported that the band had clean cut image, but photos from early in 1964 show them with long hair making them one of the first bands to adopt that look. Like many of these early bands, The Standells did a lot of gigs at nightclubs. At that time these nightclubs were still pretty conservative, so they had to cut their hair and look respectable in order to land these gigs.

In 1965 The Standells signed with Capitol Records where they worked with Ed Cobb. In 1966 the band became forever linked to Boston with the release of their biggest hit Dirty Water. Before that time none of the band members had ever set foot in Boston. Ed Cobb penned the song when after a visit to Boston he was robbed on a bridge over the Charles River. In 1997, Dirty Water was declared the official victory anthem of the Red Sox, and it is played after every home win by the Red Sox. In 2007 Dirty Water was honored by official decree of The Massachusetts General Court. The Celtics and the Bruins also play the song at their games.

 In 1967 The Standells released the song Try It. Billboard magazine pegged the song as the bands next big hit. The Texas radio mogul, Gordon McLendon, banned the song because he decided that Try It contained sexually explicit lyrics. Art Linkletter invited McLendon and The Standells on to his show House Party to debate the issue. By most accounts, McLendon's argument was easily defeated, but it was too late. Most radio stations followed McLendon's lead and refused to play the song. In an interesting side note, because of the song Try It, The Standells have been called one of the fore runners of Punk Music. I don't really see it that way, but I'll leave that argument to the purists. There are some people who will say that The Standells don't really fit into the garage music category either because of the high level of polish the band displayed. Whatever, I'm not going to die on that hill, you can decide for yourself.

Two songs that best exemplify that Standells sound are Mainline and Mr. Nobody.

              Dirty Water reached No. 11 on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1966. That was the high water mark for The Standells. After Try It was banned in 1967 it was pretty much over for them. The music scene was changing, 1967 was the "Summer of Love", the hippie movement was in full swing. Psychedelic music was the thing, it could be that The Standells music became dated. Whatever the reason for their failure to catch on, their fifteen minutes were over.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Beat music originated in England in the early 1960’s. British beat or Mersey beat originally pertained to bands from Liverpool, beside the River Mersey.   The beat format is largely responsible for the  British invasion of the American music scene beginning in 1964. The exact origins of the term “Beat Music” seem to be uncertain. There are two schools of thought on the origins of the term. One is that beat music had little to do with the Beat Generation of the 1950’s and more to do with the driving rhythms the bands featured in their music. On the other hand, The Beatles, who were big fans of the Beat Poets like Keroac and Ginsberg and the like, spelled their name with an “a” as a tribute to these poets of the 1950’s. Liverpool was the epicenter for this new form of music. Liverpool is a major port with links to America, this made for easy access to American records. Ironically, these British groups were heavily influenced by American groups like Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Chuck Berry and so on. Groups like The Beatles , The Hollies, The Zombies, The Who, and of course The Rolling Stones came out of this period, but we all know every word of every song these groups ever put out. In America, beat music had a very unique sound, quite different from its British counterpart. Much of the music from American groups of the period has faded into obscurity. This is the music you never hear anymore, the music you may have never heard of.
The Beat Generation, or Beatniks, morphed into the Hippie Counter Culture Movement beginning around 1965. The Hippie movement fueled the American music scene that was getting underway in the early 1960’s, but it was overshadowed by the British invasion. Early on there was some co-operation going on across the pond. Bob Dylan wrote a couple of songs for Manfred Mann before hitting the big time with Doo Wah Diddy. These Dylan composed songs did fairly well on the British charts, but never caught on in the States. If You Gotta Go, Go Now is an example of one of these songs.   If You Gotta Go is typical of that Mersey sound. The American form of beat music became known as “Garage Rock,” because the early bands were quite amateurish and some rehearsed their music in the family garage. This form was much more raw and edgy sounding than the British form. The difference is apparent when you compare the music from the U.K. with that which was going on here in the States. Let's take a look at If You Gotta Go and one of my favorites, The Witch by the Sonics, from Tacoma.
  The difference is quite apparent, in all fairness, The Sonics were probably the rawest sonding band of the time, it was their trademark. Most of the other bands of this time had more polish, even so, there is still a marked difference between British beat and what was called garage music here in the States. In the coming weeks I will be focusing on the music from this side of the pond, starting from around 1965 up to about 1969. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Rock on groovy guys and gals!