List of the Day - Archives

25 Garage Rock Heroes

List Of The Day

In all the hoopla surrounding this Michael Jackson guy, the deaths of OTHER PEOPLE have been sorely overlooked. The Farrah crowd is understandably disappointed by the lack of airtime--and Oscar Mayer also passed--but List Of The Day is more upset over the thunder that was usurped from legendary garage rock titan Sky Saxon.

Surely, if Michael Jackson hadn't stolen the moment, all the major news outlets would've been dedicated to the life and times of all things Sky. "Pushin' Too Hard" and "Can't Seem To Make You Mine," from his wonderful band the Seeds, would've been cranking from radios, TVs and music video stations, for sure. An entire week of videos by obscure garage bands would've ensued. Little Steven would've been interviewed countless times about the music's history and importance and young people everywhere would've put down their iPhones and iPods and broken out the old trusty, dusty turntable and spun those vintage 45s. It was revolution that could've happened but they wouldn't let it!

But we here at List Of The Day don't care about them. To be clear, we do care about THEM, Van Morrison's old band from Belfast, but it's the nefarious cultural forces that want to stop US that we're united against.

If all of this seems a bit vague and conspiratorial, you just haven't lived. Or you haven't read this blog enough to realize the work-release program I'm involved in only allows me a limited amount of human contact. I mostly read about people!

In belated tribute to Sky Saxon, I offer up 25 perfectly swell garage rock bands from the 1960s. Some made a couple of great records. Some made one. There are literally hundreds more where these folks came from who could just as easily qualify. That was the beauty of this horribly recorded, often poorly played music. Its charm was accessible to anyone with a tape recorder and a dream. Years later, bands such as Sweden's Nomads, the UK's Prisoners, San Francisco's Gravedigger 5 continued the dream many decades past.

Below is just a sampling. (Loyal readers--all three of you--know to automatically add the phrase: And then along came RUSH to the end of each entry. To actually do so would confuse the casual reader and while the "Church of Peart" would like me to do anyhow, there are limits. Ayn Rand can kiss my butt!)

25) The Kingsmen: Does "Louie Louie" count or is this frat rock? In any case, the Kingsmen are also standing in for Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs ("Wooly Bully") because why not? We've got a lot of ground to cover here people and lots of facts to make up, so bear with me.

24) The Leaves: Mostly known for their manic cover of "Hey Joe," the tune eventually slowed down by Jimi Hendrix, the Leaves recorded actual full-length albums and were thought to have a real career in them. However, time has relegated them to the sidelines, mentioned only as a footnote to an era they clearly participated in. They even appeared on American Bandstand. In some sense, they were like the Wilco of their day, except not really.

23) The Mojo Men: With a tune, "Dance With Me," produced by Sylvester Stewart, who went on to better success as Sly Stone, San Fran's Mojo Men were included on the seminal Elektra Records Nuggets collection with a cover of Stephen Stills' "Sit Down, I Think I Love You," a song that with that title sounds like it would belong in the catalog of the Partridge Family but was actually also recorded by Stills' band at the time, the supersmash Buffalo Springfield, who had several members who went to form Poco and some other guy who lives on a ranch in Northern California and releases long delayed boxed sets of himself farting and doing other cool stuff.

22) Count Five: Known for not releasing four albums, including Carburetor Dung, Ancient Lace And Wrought Iron Railings and Cartesian Jetstream, the Count Five were a favorite Yardbirds rip-off band for people who liked rip-off bands. Sorta like what Bush were to Nirvana, but different. Only Psychotic Reactions exists.

21) The Barbarians: Their big hit was "Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl?," a damn fine and probing question to be asking in uncertain times. Their drummer played with a hook and he exploited it as well as he could with a tune, "Moulty," that recounted the who, what, where, why and hows of the situation. And on that day journalist rock was born...

20) The Electric Prunes: A lot of people remember these guys as much for their endorsement of the Vox Wah-Wah Pedal as their hit "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)." They had one of those classically dated names. They could only have come from the psychedelic era when everyone was taking drugs that made think they could fly, become immortal, or be shipped directly to the local state nut house.

19) The Moving Sidewalks: "99th Floor" was their "hit," but the band should be most noted for featuring a very young Billy Gibbons who would go on to bearded fame with ZZ Top.

18) The Sons Of Adam: "Feathered Fish" has made it onto various compilations but somewhere in my stack of weird 7 inches, I have a yellow six-song EP that includes a killer version of the Yardbirds' "Mr. You're A Better Man Than I." Ironically, this 7-inch I speak of was released in the early 1980s when about twenty people decided they still cared about such things. I'm personally glad they did.

17) Question Mark And The Mysterians: "96 Tears" remains of those legendary tracks that anyone old enough to hate modern technology and who owns a cheap organ immediately begins playing to remind themselves they are still somewhat alive. 

16) The Chocolate Watchband: Were they better than the Rolling Stones? Define "better." Their version of Bob Dylan's "Baby Blue" was pretty cool and when they ask "Are You Gonna Be At The Love-In"? it sounds like you better have an answer. Also give them points for having a name you wouldn't mind eating.

15) The Third Bardo: Only recorded five tracks, released one single. But that single was "I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time," which is what you might call a manifestation of modest arrogance. Technically, they're bragging, but not by much. It would be like looking yourself in the mirror right now and saying "I'm so 2014!"

14) The Monks: The Monks have appeared as "Punk Pioneers" on this blog already, so they've been covered sufficiently. I'll use this moment then to mourn the passing of TV infomercial king Billy Mays. We all drink a bottle of OxiClean in your memory as we listen to the Monks, a band Mays surely knew little, if anything, about.

13) Blues Magoos: Psychedelic Lollipop and Electric Comic Book were among the best psychedelic albums of the era, if only because they had the coolest names and it was important to have songs like "Love Seems Doomed" (LSD--get it?) and "Albert Common Is Dead" (ACID--get it?) on there just so people would know what you were about. The other tunes don't quite spell out anything so ambitious, unless you have some theories as to what QOMN or SITA might mean.

12) The Sonics: Another band that has made it onto other lists. You should at least know their tune "Psycho" just so when you start a band you'll know what to imitate. Unless you're forming a Christopher Cross cover band. Then just buy a copy of "Sailing" and leave us decent folk alone.

11) The Standells: The Standells appeared on The Munsters, had a hit with "Dirty Water" and also gave the world "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White." Apparently, "Dirty Water," with its references to the Charles River, is played whenever a Boston area sports team wins a game. Nobody bother to tell the authorities these guys are from the very evil city of Los Angeles.

10) Davie Allan And The Arrows: Davie Allan intuitively understood that bikers needed music to accompany them when they appeared on film. Secret hint: if you go to davieallan.com and click on FUZ, you can order the definitive history and know more than anyone else on your block.

9) The Twilighters: In what can only be considered a call from the cosmos, as I was compiling this list, I finally learned the identity of a garage rock classic I'd only had on tape. Turns out a tune I swore was called "My Mind Is So Messed Up" is actually called "Nothing Can Bring Me Down" by the Waco, Texas group T\the Twilighters, who only released this one single. I never really took that "You Don't Mess With Texas" stuff seriously until now. I've abandoned all plans to mess with it from now on.

8) Mouse And The Traps: Back in the 1960s, there were still such things as a "regional hit" and if the great and always reliable Wikipedia can be believed, the splendid "Sometimes You Just Can't Win" only went to #125 on the national charts but was a bigger smash in Tyler, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky. This suggests people in Boise, Idaho were deprived of what clearly would've been massive enjoyment. Mouse also had a bigger hit with "A Public Execution" which was a Bob Dylan rip-off that somehow didn't lead to singer Ronnie Weiss being named a potential "new Dylan" like every other singer-songwriter who showed up a few years later. In some circles that would make Weiss "The First John Prine."

7) The Troggs: OK, so everyone knows "Wild Thing," but you should also acquaint yourself with "I Can't Control Myself" and "Love Is All Around" and then consider joining their fan club. If they don't actually have one, consider starting one.

6) Blue Cheer: These guys invented heavy metal by turning their amps up beyond the bleeding point and screeching the blues like a cat caught in the washing machine.

5) Nazz: Much like the Moving Sidewalks, Nazz hid a future star in its fold. That's right! Todd Rundgren, who would go on to a solo career, produce Meat Loaf and XTC and raise Liv Tyler, was once just a member of a pretty cool group who continue to perform with other members of the group. Todd stays home and thinks deep thoughts and is a provably superior human being.

4) The Litter: The Litter recorded several albums and reformed enough times to make you wonder if there might be some money in this garage rock thing. I mean, the older you get the tougher it is to get out there on the road and you've surely had your fill of entertaining the wild audiences at the local mall's food court. Is there an actual demand for music this old and grungy? In a perfect world, of course. Why else would I have listed these boys at number four? But last I checked it wasn't a perfect world--some people still get rickets--so surely there's something going on here and I don't know what it is.

3) Randy Alvey And Green Fuz: Even everyone's favorite alternative rock poster boy Evan Dando has now covered "Green Fuz." But while everyone else tries to capture the glory of this band's one great track, the great track itself simply laughs back. Its greatness is its unplanned, unforced serendipity. You don't try to get that crappy of a sound. You don't sing that maniacal just for kicks. You don't play guitar that poorly. But when you do, stranger things can happen. You begin to understand things on a different level. You transcend reality and get "it."

2) Sky Saxon And The Seeds: What can I say? We'll miss you Sky. The world should spend at least 20 minutes listening and then reflecting on "Up In Her Room." Then a graduate studies program should offer an advanced degree in the deeper meaning behind the Seeds and their great works. It would not be an exaggeration to say that most of the world's ills--at least rickets--would be cured for eternity if they listened to the wisdom deeply meshed in these tracks. All others pay cash.

1) Roky Erickson And The 13th Floor Elevators: Is Roky really insane? I'm not a doctor, so I will politely say I don't know. But his music was pretty crazy. His old Texas band made a great psychedelic noise but it was Roky's aching vocals--the sound of a child who has had his blanket taken from him--that made them purely transcendent. They managed both albums and singles making them far more versatile than most of the loonies on this list.

View Comments