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."

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