Where do you start if you are going to chronicle the story of the music scene going here the U.S.in 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.