Archive for the ‘ Garage ’ Category

Afterglow “Afterglow”

Afterglow

Not too many bands were coming out of Oregon in the late 60s, and it’s not the first locale that comes to mind when you hear the sun drenched songs on Afterglow’s only record.

Originally called “The Madallions,” Tony Tucemseh, Ron George, Roger Swanson, Gene Resler, and Larry Alexander became Afterglow to record their self titled debut in 1966. Under the direction of producer Leo Lukia, a very interesting album was cut at Golden State Recorders that autumn.

Released in early ’67 on MTA records, Afterglow made hardly a dent and the group disbanded soon after. The tragedy of this is apparent when hearing such a delightful record full of pop hooks and potential.

It may have been their relatively remote location that helped quicken the bands demise, but it also added to the unique songwriting on Afterglow. If you hate the sound of the Farfisa organ, you should probably pass on this record altogether. It makes a prominent appearance on every cut, and though the production is slightly derivative the writing is extremely progressive and original for such an obscure debut. Definitely a must for fans of The Zombies, The Left Banke, and Joe Meek’s mid period freakbeat phase.

“Chasing Rainbows” is by far the best track here with it’s odd melody and rhythmic changes melding into a dizzying hook. A dark autumnal vibe undercuts the sunny arrangements, with tracks like “Mend This Heart of Mine”  and “Dream Away”.

“Love” could almost pass for a Meek production with its buzzy organs and slightly off kilter vocal sound. “It’s a Wonder” should be a staple of modern classic rock radio with its catchy hook and Zombies by-way-of the Byrds harmonies, which really drives home what a shame it is this album wasn’t heard more.

There’s an excellent reissue on Sundazed that includes some decent bonus tracks (mostly alternate versions/backing tracks). It’s available on both CD and Vinyl.

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“It’s a Wonder”

:D Reissue | Sundazed | buy here ]
:) Reissue | Sundazed | buy here ]

The Kings Verses “The Kings Verses”

In 1966, Fresno CA band the Kings Verses went into the studio to cut the 10 tracks that make up the bulk of this special LP release.  What could have been a fine mid 60s garage LP ended up in the can for what seemed like an eternity.  The good folks at BeatRocket took it upon themselves to release these excellent recordings on vinyl/MP3.  The record label was also kind enough to include two quality live cuts from around the same time – all in good sound. This live material was culled from the band’s first place performance at the 1966 KYNO Battle of the Bands. Legal complications with the musicians’ union and LA’s Hullabaloo Club would ultimately seal this legendary group’s fate.

During their heyday the Kings Verses played LA’s Griffith and also appeared at the Elysian Park Love-Ins. Their sound alternated between crunching garage punk and sullen folk-rock (think early Love).  For garage rock fanatics this is a major find, along the lines of another mysterious CA group that never released any official singles or albums in their day but produced a slew of unreleased recordings, the Public Nuisance.

To my knowledge, all the tracks on the Kings Verses LP are original compositions that come from the pen of guitarist Jim Baker.   Furious punkers “The Ballad of Lad Polo” and “A Million Faces” caught my attention first but album opening raver “Light” is just as good.  “The Ballad of Lad Polo” is a near classic track that proves this group was more than just a myth – the Kings Verses catch fire here, unleashing a blazing fast paced rocker with lots of great static-like fuzz.  Other good cuts are the fuzzy instro “Mind Rewind”, the menacing garage ballad “She Belonged To Me” and a trio of beguiling folk-rockers, “It’s Not Right”, “E. Sok Baxter” and “You Can Be.”

Had this been released on vinyl back in 1966 it would have been up there with the very best garage rock albums.

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“It’s Not Right”

:D Compilation | 1998 | BeatRocket | buy from sundazed ]
;) Digital Download | buy from reverbnation ]

The Outsiders “C.Q.”

C.Q.

With a plethora of recent reissues (Jackpot – vinyl and RPM – cd), it seemed like a good idea to backtrack to this classic record and give it another listen.  C.Q. was to be the Outsiders last album (their 3rd LP), an attempt to reach the group’s original core audience amidst a troubling commerical downfall.  Not only is this one of the best “international” psych albums but it’s as good as anything by the early Pink Floyd, psychedelic era Pretty Things or Love.  Its closest reference point is probably the Pretty Things superb S.F. Sorrow – there are no soft, wimpy moments on either of these records, just pure intensity and garage punk muscle.  C.Q. is what the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request should have sounded like.

C.Q.’s strength is in it’s consistency and diversity.  No two songs sound alike yet every experiment is well thought out and successful.  The group’s hallmark start-stop punk rhythms are firmly in place on many of C.Q.‘s tracks but by 1968 the Outsiders had grown considerably, incorporating more folk-rock and psych sounds into their repertoire.  Psych cuts such as the very European sounding “Zsarrahh” (supposedly a nod to Wally Tax’s Russian roots), the brief “Bear,” an avant garde folk-rock cut titled “Prison Song” and “C.Q.” heralded a new, more experimental outfit.   Other cuts such as the sensitive “You’re Everything On Earth,” a bluesy, spacy cut titled “It Seems Like Nothings Gonna Come My Way Today,” and “I Love You No. 2”  were folk-rock gems that showed off Tax’s soft, expressive side.  That being said, it’s the harder cuts that warrant the greatest attention.  “Misfit,” “Doctor,” “The Man On The Dune,”  “Happyville,” and “Wish You Were Here With Me Today” are masterful acid punkers.  “Doctor,” one of the group’s best LP tracks, features distorted vocals and an explosive fuzz guitar freakout.  “The Man On The Dune,” another classic and personal favorite, is a blistering psych punker with jagged guitar fuzz and a strange, unsettling conclusion.  It goes without saying that C.Q. is one of the immortal 60s albums.

As mentioned above, there have been many reissues of C.Q. To me, the Pseudonym reissue was the best as it featured three terrific non-lp tracks (“Do You Feel Alright” is an excellent cut that should have been a hit).  The recent RPM disc features six good live cuts from 1968 while the Jackpot reissue is a straight up vinyl offering with no extras.

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“The Man On The Dune”

:D Reissue | 2005 | Pseudonym | buy here ]
:D Reissue | 2011 | RPM | buy here ]
:) Reissue | 2011 | Jackpot | buy here ]

INDEX “INDEX”

INDEX  were a popular local psych rock group from Grosse Pointe, an affluent suburb outside of the Detroit, Michigan area.  Their debut album, commonly referred to as “The Black Album,” was released in December of 1967.  The group consisted of drummer Jim Valice and guitarists Gary Francis and John Ford.  150 original LPs were pressed on DC Records, making this album very rare and super expensive.

“The Black Album” was recorded in mono using a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This primitive, underproduced recording technique has only added to the album’s mysterious, acid drenched mystique.  Gary Francis played a Gibson 12 string electric guitar on most of the album’s tracks, which were recorded in the ballroom of the Ford Estate.  Of the 9 tracks, 4 are instrumentals while the remaining 5 tracks were recorded with vocal arrangements.  Most of the album’s tracks are quality originals although INDEX adds some interesting basement-garage-raga-surf sounds to well known standards such as “Eight Miles High,” “You Keep Me Hangin On” and “John Riley.”  “Eight Miles High” is probably INDEX’s best known track, being full of superb raga guitar work and downbeat amateur vocals.  Other than the Byrds’ original, this is probably the best version of this song I’ve heard but kudos to English band East of Eden, who recorded a very fine unreleased take of “Eight Miles High” in 1969.  “Feedback,” another popular track that received limited airplay back in the late 60s, is an explosive, feedback laden monster (instrumental) that sounds like the Velvet Underground circa 1968.  Other fine tracks are the acid surf instro “Israeli Blues,” psychedelic folk-rockers “Fire Eyes” and “Rainy, Starless Night” and the wah-wah crazed “Turquoise Feline.”  INDEX is without doubt one of the classic “must own”  American psych albums.

Comparisons are hard to draw upon because INDEX doesn’t sound like anything I have heard before.  The group name check The Who, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix as influences but the Velvet Underground and Dick Dale can also be heard in the INDEX’s unique sound.   Vinyl reissues have been around for years but are somewhat expensive.  Lion Productions recently released a fine 2 disc set which includes INDEX’s two official albums along with some unreleased studio material.

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“Feedback”

:D Reissue | 2fer | 2011 | Lion Productions | buy ]

The Liverbirds “Star Club Show 4”

“Girls with guitars / What’s the world coming to?” sang Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1993, with her Rickenbacker 620 clutched firmly to her bosom and her tongue firmly in her cheek. Since the emancipating mid-70s influence of punk, women have been free to pick up electric guitars and emulate, or even outperform, their male counterparts, either as solo virtuosi (Bonnie Raitt, Rosie Flores) or in all-female bands (the Slits, the Bangles). How different it all was back in the sixties! Ever since the arrival of the Stratocaster back in ’54 the electric axe had garnered a near-universal image as a phallic symbol, culminating in the onstage antics of Hendrix, Page, Ted Nugent and Marc Bolan. As a matter of course, only men played the electric guitar and bass, and indeed the drum kit; a few lady folksingers got to pick melodiously at an acoustic, but during the Beat Era and the ensuing Golden Age Of Rock the idea of females seriously picking up the men’s toys and running with them was almost unthinkable. What about Fender bassist Megan Davies with the Applejacks, or drummer Honey Lantree with the Honeycombs, you ask? OK, they turned a few heads on Ready Steady Go, but they were almost universally dismissed as novelties.

It was with some surprise, then, that I discovered the Liverbirds, a fully-fledged all-female Beat band from Liverpool who came together as early as 1962, were regulars at the Cavern, opened for the Rolling Stones several times in late ’63, spent two years on the infamous Hamburg circuit, and despite a forecast to the contrary by John Lennon (“All-girl outfits can’t last”) stayed together for six years, finally bowing out after a tour of Japan. Nothing remotely folky about these ladies; they elected to play an abrasive brand of R’n’B with all the spiky garage-band pizzazz of the early Stones or Pretty Things, whilst coming onstage in masculine-cut waistcoat suits and frilled shirts for all the world like a female Kinks. Their enduring lineup featured Pam Birch on lead vocal and rhythm guitar, Valerie Gell on lead guitar, Mary McGlory on bass and Sylvia Saunders on kit, and their recorded legacy reveals that they all had real chops.

Beyond cosmopolitan Liverpool, the girls’ reception by conservative UK audiences and sceptical record company A&R men proved predictably underwhelming. However, when invited to work in Germany by Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder early in 1964 they immediately wowed the famously indulgent Reeperbahn audiences with their energetic, high-volume set of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley covers, earning the nickname “die Weiblichen Beatles” – “the female Beatles”. As an inducement to a second tour, Weissleder offered to record them on his recently-incepted label; their recording career on Star-Club would eventually stretch to four singles and two albums. German chart entries and TV appearances followed, and the girls toured extensively there and in Denmark and Switzerland, even once sharing a bill with Berry himself in Berlin, where legend has it they defied a management instruction to avoid Berry’s songs and brazenly opened with “Roll Over Beethoven”.

Their recordings were unsurprisingly never released in the UK, and apart from the odd anthologised track remained firmly underground here till compiled by Ace subsidiary Big Beat in 2010 as From Merseyside To Hamburg, the CD comprising the entire 1964-65 Star-Club recordings, 29 cuts in all. The tracks from their first original album, Star Club Show 4, are the best: raw, unadorned R’n’B covers recorded live in the studio. These could almost be the Pretties, driven along as they are by Birch’s angry, punky contralto, McGlory’s muscular, metronomic bass, Saunders’s no-nonsense percussion and Gell’s scratchy machine-gun Fender Jaguar lead work. Their takes on Chuck Berry’s “Talking About You”, Berry Gordy’s “Money” and the blues chestnut “Got My Mojo Working” are fit to strip wallpaper. The later sessions offer more of the same but also move further towards Motown, with creditable tilts at the likes of Doug Sahm’s “She’s About A Mover”, Holland-Dozier’s “Heatwave” and Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around” – all good Reeperbahn fare – plus a couple of modestly Beatle-ish Pam Birch originals which originally appeared as single B-sides; the production is more measured and less viscerally exciting. Today, the individual albums remain unavailable but the compilation is a great-value testament to a bunch of pioneering female rockers, and is highly recommended.

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“Talking About You”

:D Compilation | 2010 | Big Beat | buy here ]

The Easybeats “The Shame Just Drained”

The Shame Just Drained was a collection of Easybeats material that slipped out on vinyl in 1977.  The album contained 15 unreleased tracks from the group’s mid 60s prime, 1966-1968.  Most of these songs date from aborted studio sessions with Glyn Johns (Central Sound Studio Sessions – 1968-) and Shel Talmy (Olympic Studios Sessions – 1967).

There were many fine Aussie rock groups in the 1960s but none of them exploded onto the scene with as much excitement or anticipation as the Easybeats. Their live performances and chart smashes firmly established the Australian rock n roll scene. They recorded several fine albums (Friday On My Mind is probably their best) and waxed many classic Oz singles throughout their fabled career. Late 60s tracks such as “Land Of Make Believe,” “Peculiar Hole In The Sky,” “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” and “Come In You’ll Get Pneumonia” were as good as anything being released in the UK or US at the time. Then there was “Good Times,” a song which famously caused Paul McCartney to pull his car over and ring the BBC to ask for a replay. While some of their best songs were recorded in the late 60s, the groups final albums, Vigil and Friends, are considered major disappointments.

By 1969, drugs and management issues had reduced the Easybeats to a bland good-time pop group, lacking the muscle and adventure of previous years. While their sharp demise was sad, when the Easybeats were on, they were surely one of the best.

The Shame Just Drained strongly recalls the Kinks from Something Else, or more accurately, The Great Lost Kinks Album – a mishmash of aborted late 60’s sessions and raw, mid 60’s material. Great power pop numbers such as “Wait a Minute” and the fiery “Baby I’m a Comin” hold hands with observational Ray Davies-like numbers “I’m on Fire”, “Mr. Riley of Higginbottom and Clive” and “Kelly” – this is the late 60’s Easybeats at their finest. Other songs such as “Amanda Storey”, “We’ll Make It Together” and “Where Old Men Go” are also excellent, featuring more a psych pop vibe with mellotrons, tinkling piano and sophisticated arrangements.

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“Baby I’m A Comin'”

:D Reissue | 2005 | Repertoire | buy here ]
:) Original | 1977 | Albert | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Rising Sons “The Rising Sons”

The Rising Sons seem to have done things backwards. Built around Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, and Jesse Lee Kincaid (whose ‘She Sang Hymns Out of Tune’ would later find its way onto records by Nilsson, Hearts and Flowers, and the Dillards), the band would certainly have been deemed a supergroup had it gotten its act together a couple of years down the line. As it stands, the band first made a name for itself on the hip side of the Los Angeles folk scene before eventually finding its way into the studio with producer Terry Melcher, fresh from his success with the Byrds. Though these recording sessions would ultimately lead to the demise of the band, they yielded a strong, if scatterbrained, collection of blues-oriented folk-rock – excellent music that would unfortunately remain unreleased for over thirty years.

Though a compact disc of the band’s recordings was compiled in the late nineties, it was put together as a historical or archival release, and as such, was a little messy in its presentation (a handful of the cuts featured new, overdubbed vocals by Taj Mahal). Fortunately, however, Sundazed Records has recently taken matters into their own hands and pulled off a beautiful restoration job, putting together twelve of the leanest cuts from that mid-sixties session and releasing what they think the first Rising Sons record would have been like, had it actually seen daylight. Even the artwork on this release has been carefully and lovingly designed to look like a vintage record jacket.

The album opens with “Statesboro Blues,” the Blind Willie McTell standard, and a barreling take on the Monkees tune “Take A Giant Step.” Both songs would later be re-cut by Taj Mahal in arguably superior arrangements, but the sides here have a brash recklessness to them that’s both engaging and refreshing. Cooder’s slide guitar and Kincaid’s twelve-string are all over the place, buzzing around the songs and really propelling above your usual late-sixties fare. When the band sets aside the fuzz tones and brings out the acoustic instruments on “The 2:10 Train,” it’s extraordinary to hear how beautiful the Sons can sound when they put their minds to it. Linda Albertano and Tom Campbell’s folk ballad positively dances here, and is as laid back as the earlier cuts are furious, gesturing towards the road Taj would soon take with Jesse Ed Davis and beyond.

If you dig the later work of any of the members involved, or are simply looking for a righteous slice of Los Angeles folk rock, the Rising Sons album delivers. The band manages to deliver an eclectic range of Americana with the perfect blend of rock and roll attitude and musical traditionalism. If it all sounds a little wild and messy, it comes with the territory – this stuff is the real deal. Dig.

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“Take A Giant Step”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2001 | Sundazed | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Hickory Wind “Hickory Wind”

This group took their name from the classic Byrds/Gram Parsons song.  Hickory Wind, from Indiana, were fairly young musicians when they cut this mini gem in 1969.  If you consider the limited studio technology on hand, Hickory Wind came up big, with a very good country-rock garage psych private press LP.  Initially, when you look at the record, it resembles one of those male/female folk duo LPs or maybe a private press christian rock album (note the small crucifix at the bottom of the record and the amatuer illustration).  Thankfully, it’s neither of those.   There are mild Buffalo Springfield, Byrds and Beatles echoes throughout the album but closer, more accurate references might be  Riley or Spur.

Most of the albums tracks are strong but only a handful qualify as excellent.   “Father Come With Me” and the bizarre spoken word number “Mr. Man” give the album its psychedelic folk-rock sheen – both are great tracks with lots of organ and moody garage vocals.  “Time and Changes,” a pounding garage rocker with sizzling fuzz would soon be recut by B.F. Trike, which was essentially a later version of Hickory Wind.  In some circles, “Time and Changes” is considered a classic.  The remaining cuts have a strong country-rock/folk-rock flavor.  The bare bones production of Hickory Wind gives these compositions a unique quality that makes this album memorable – no albums I know of have quite this sound.  “Country Boy,” “The Loner,” “I Don’t Believe,” “Judy,” and “Maybe Tomorrow” are well worth hearing, all eerie slices of early country-rock/Americana.

I’ve read other reviews that describe Hickory Wind as only half a good album or not that good at all.  Don’t believe this.  Hickory Wind is a fine album – consistent throughout with lots of interesting twists and turns.  Check out the recent Beatball reissue as original vinyl LPs will be impossible to find (just 100 original Gigantic label LPs were pressed).  Rockadelic would release B.F. Trike’s only album, which is also a good post psychedelic hard rock album.

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“Country Boy”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Beatball | buy here ]
:) Vinyl | 1969 | Gigantic | search ebay ]

The Chocolate Watchband “The Inner Mystique”

The infamous Chocolate Watch Band from San Jose California are the quintessential garage psyche band; their story is angst ridden and strange. Chocolate Watch Band, originally formed in 1965, went through a relatively complex series of personnel rearrangements settling for a short while on the lineup most familiar to fans consisting of Dave Aguilar, lead vocals and harmonica, Mark Loomis, lead git and keys, Bill Flores, bass, Sean Tolby, rhythm guitar and Gary Andrijasevich on drums. It was this incarnation that earned Chocolate Watch Band its reputation as an excellent live act by becoming known for their wildness and raw energy on stage. They were regularly gigging around the Bay Area with big groups such as the Doors and the Mothers of Invention playing mostly blues covers and tracks by obscure groups from the UK. Around this time in ’67 the band was introduced to the up-and-coming studio producer Ed Cobb. The band got their kicks by upstaging headliners with their forceful stage performance. They considered the recording studio an afterthought best left in the hands of Cobb.

Ed Cobb was to have a profound impact on the legacy of Chocolate Watch Band. He penned much of Chocolate Watch Band’s original material and enforced his vision of soft psychedelia on a band that he never bothered to see perform live, a fact that he has in later days openly regretted. It was because of this that the raw garage power of Chocolate Watch Band somehow eluded him, much to the group’s chagrin. There is a notorious story of the band using entire boxes of their second single as skeet pigeons because they detested the inclusion of Cobb’s gentle orchestral ballad “She Weaves a Tender Trap” on the B side; these boys were all nails and dog tails.

But boys grow up and it was the Summer of Love… under whose dubious charms Loomis departed to form a short lived psych-folk project “The Tingle Guild”. This was the beginning of a collapse for Chocolate Watch Band as one member after another left to pursue other interests just prior to the release of their first album No Way Out.

Cobb, however, was committed to the idea of Chocolate Watch Band and recruited a new lineup consisting of previous members Bill Flores on bass and Sean Tolby, now playing lead, and newbies Tim Abbott, rhythm, Mark Whittaker, drums and Chris Flinders singing. The ostensible purpose of this short lived incarnation was to support the hastily slapped together psychedelic era oddity that is The Inner Mystique.

Released in early ’68, the conundrum of The Inner Mystique is that not only was the band lineup at the time of the album’s release almost totally different than the band that recorded the psyche-rippers on the second side, but more stunningly, the music on the first side of the album was mostly recorded by studio musicians Cobb’d together [sic] that were never in Chocolate Watch Band. Far from a detriment, its schizophrenic dual personality makes the album more interesting in my mind.

Let’s take it one side at a time. The Inner Mystique kicks off with the psychedelic raga “Voyage of the Trieste”. Drenched in sitars, chimes, meandering flute, and jazz sax breaks, the cut is propelled by a repetitive fuzzy power-chord pulsing ‘m-e-l-l-o-w’. This cut is followed a soft sitar-psyche rendition of “In the Past” featuring Don Bennett singing. This shimmering and echoey number is impressive considering its strictly studio creature origins. The first side closes with the title track, another sitar ballad that is essentially a reprise of “Voyage of the Trieste”, albeit slower and darker in tone. Altogether this side of the album is a pleasant slice of gentle psychedelia, enjoyable, but without the power of the second side to rescue it from the otherwise probable obscurity that would be its fate.

Which brings us to the actual Chocolate Watch Band on the second side. Five songs, covers done better than the originals all, composed of out-takes from their first album No Way Out and a remixed and redubbed version of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from CWB’s first single released in ’66. The first cut is a burning cover of “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” by the Kinks. Aguilar’s vocals simmer, coming to a rolling boil as he barks out the chorus in a punk brogue Ray Davies couldn’t have achieved. Bashing caveman drums and Fender Twins in overdrive, this is garage primitive at its best. It was at this point Cobb committed a cardinal sin – he removed the original and far superior vocals of Aguilar on the next two tracks, “Medication” and “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go” and dubbed in Bennett’s vocals which range from unexceptional on the former to painful on the latter. Despite the mediocre vocals, these tracks still cook. The Dylan cover is excellent although the original 45 version is better as the album cut suffers from Cobb’s affinity for superfluous meandering flute overdubs. The album closes out with the wailing “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker”; Aguilar positively howls. Jangly guitars and some overdubbed bouzouki round out this killer cut.

Confrontational garage-punk on stage or soft studio psychedelia, whatever it was the Chocolate Watch Band had moved on just as Ed Cobb moved on to producing other bands like Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, and Pink Floyd. Luckily we have these scraps and oily rags from the psyche-garage to ignite but The Inner Mystique applies the balm before the burn.

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“In The Past”

:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Tower | search ebay ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]
;) MP3 Album | download here ]

Count Five “Psychotic Reaction”

Most fans of garage know Count Five as the group behind the classic single “Psychotic Reaction” – a three minute and eight second distillation of everything that’s great about the genre, from its immediately recognizable opening fuzz riff to its last wigged-out break. Eminent garageologists all agree on the track’s importance in the canon, and its inclusion on the original Nuggets LP cemented its hall-of-fame status long ago. But make no mistake, the sum of Count Five is much more than that one single. If you like “Psychotic Reaction,” you’ll love Psychotic Reaction.

Of course, Psychotic Reaction the album wouldn’t exist but for the success of “Psychotic Reaction” the single, so some background information is in order. Count Five began in the suburbs of San Jose, California, when John “Sean” Byrne, recently arrived from Dublin, Ireland, heard The Squires practicing R&B and British Invasion covers in a garage. Byrne asked if he could sit in, and being the closest thing in San Jose to a real Beatle, he was immediately asked to join the band. Flash forward a year, and with competition for bookings becoming increasingly fierce, the quintet attempted to stand out from the rest of the pack by donning vampire capes and becoming Count Five. (Check out this promo shot of the band in full Dracula regalia, awkwardly standing in front of the Winchester Mystery House).

The capes didn’t last long, but as Count Five, the band began to write original material and soon came up with the basic structure of “Psychotic Reaction.” Although the song was a hit with local audiences, record labels weren’t interested and the band endured months of failed auditions. But Count Five pressed on, revising and reworking “Psychotic Reaction” until the fledgling Los Angeles label Double Shot decided to take a chance on the song, though it ended up hedging its bet with some last-minute cutting and splicing. (A producer made the wise decision to copy the rave-up section in the middle of the completed track and add it to the end as a fade out). Released as a single in June 1966, “Psychotic Reaction” began to dominate radio playlists across the country, and was a national top five hit by September. To capitalize on the success of the single, the suits at Double Shot immediately pressured the band to record a full-length album. Yet despite the hurried circumstances of the album’s origin, with songs literally being written in the airplane on the way from San Jose to the studio in Los Angeles, Psychotic Reaction has a high killer-to-filler ratio.

The album was rush-released in October: eleven tracks of caveman stomp and Maestro Fuzz-Tone inside a genius album cover that makes you forget about that earlier promo shot – the band looks like they’ve quickly and ruthlessly disposed of some poor soul foolhardy enough to call them a poor man’s Yardbirds. While none of its tracks overshadow the greatness that is “Psychotic Reaction,” the shambolic perfection of “Pretty Big Mouth” comes close. With its propulsive circular fuzz riff, sly lyrics, and brilliant key change at the chorus, the track absolutely nails the smart-aleck swagger every garage band circa-1966 tried to cop to. “Peace Of Mind,” the follow-up single to “Psychotic Reaction,” is another contender for best track: an unholy racket of strident, siren-like guitar, surf drumbeats, and heavy doses of controlled feedback, all barely held together by an insistent three-note bass groove. (To these ears, “Peace Of Mind” sounds similar to the proto-punk the Monks were recording over in Germany around the same time). Unfortunately, AM radio wasn’t quite ready for “Peace Of Mind,” and the single failed to chart.

While the trio of “Psychotic Reaction,” “Pretty Big Mouth,” and “Peace Of Mind” make this album essential for any garage devotee, there’s also the hopped-up mayhem of “Double Decker Bus” to consider. While it’s basically a double-time rewrite of their hit single, complete with a rave-up midsection, you won’t hear any complaints from me. Other notable tracks include “They’re Gonna Get You,” with its falsetto verses and abrupt tempo changes, and the trippy, disoriented vibe of “The Morning After.” As mentioned above, Psychotic Reaction does contain some filler. The inclusion of two workmanlike Who covers (“My Generation” and “Out In The Street”) offer no surprises, and there’s a couple of backward-looking tracks that feel out of place with the rest of the album, such as the beefed-up British Beat of “Can’t Get Your Lovin’.”

Band members complained in later interviews that due to the hurried nature of the recording sessions, they never had the chance to shape the songs the way they wanted them to sound, but in my opinion, whatever perceived flaws there may be are part of the album’s perfection. Although subsequent non-album singles would sound more assured and incorporate newfangled effects such as the wah-wah pedal, they lacked the raw simplicity of this album. On Psychotic Reaction, there’s nothing fancy, nothing complicated or too clever – just fuzz and low-end stomp that squarely connect on a primal level. Do yourself a favor and take this album for a spin the next time you’re looking for a garage fix. Your inner teenage punk will thank you for it.

Both mono and stereo versions of the original vinyl album can be found quite easily, but for the last word on Count Five, check out Big Beat’s Psychotic Revelation – The Ultimate Count Five, which contains the original album in mono, unedited versions of “Psychotic Reaction” and “They’re Gonna Get You,” plus non-album singles and essential demos.

Q. Since we’re on the subject, what are your top five U.S. garage singles? Mine are included in the comments below. . .

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“Pretty Big Mouth”

:) Original Vinyl | 1966 | Double Shot | search ebay]
:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Big Beat | buy here ]