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This Weekend I’ll not be Listening to…The Greatest Psych-Garage Compilation in the world…ever! October 8, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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And therein lies a sad story, for me at least – many many years ago, in the late 1980s, I managed to acquire cassette tape from a friend of my younger brother from Kilbarrack who was heavily into garage and psychedelia. It came with a fanzine – A4 sized, photocopied onto colored paper, lots of swirling psychedelic patterns, interviews with bands and suchlike. And it was brilliant. As indeed was the tape – all Love, The Seeds, The Chocolate Watch Band, 13th Floor Elevators, Lemon Drops, The Sonics, The Lyres, Crystal Set, The Lime Spiders, Opal and so on… .

Each side dealt with different periods of garage and psychedelia, though in truth the overall compilation was tilted more to the former than the latter. One was the roots of the genres – from The Sonics onwards. The other was more modern material from the 1980s.

I always had the impression that the tape was an home made compilation, in part built up from the legendary Nuggets, though there was a divergence in tracks and bands, in part from more obscure then contemporary compilations – including one, it would seem, concentrating on Australian and New Zealand groups. Certainly I’ve searched fruitlessly since for it online. And search I had to because it vanished from my life in the mid 1990s, I think during a move from one place to another.

The interesting thing to me is how much this tipped my musical taste towards all things garage. Not that I wasn’t aware of some of the bands prior to this, the Fleshtones were already firm favourites. But it definitely broadened it out. And it came at precisely the right moment too. Post-punk was now all but a distant memory, indie rising but about to be assailed by dance [to the enormous benefit of the former]. And already guitar based music was beginning to lose its appeal [a year or two later in London I’d pick up a remix album of the Cure and think ‘hey, that William Orbit remix is a damn sight better than the original song’ and that spelt the end of the beginning of my interest in indie and much guitar based rock].

Something about the guitars and the voices I think was what did it. Tumbling guitar riffs that were speedier than metal, punkier than punk – but rooted in rock, and vocals that generally, though not entirely, ranged from harsh to abrasive. Nothing to dislike there then. But softened by strings, Indian influences – all the rage, needless to say, curious ‘experiments’ to represent in audio certain pharmacological experiences and so on and so forth. And melodic, although not irritatingly so, at least in most instances.

And better still, there was the sense that this locked into a continuum, one which had clear roots in the 1960s, the 1960s of the Rolling Stones and the harder edged rock that they typified [though oddly I’ve never been much of a Stones fan]. I was marginally more fond then of the more recent stuff – unsurprisingly since the original roots had been refreshed and revitalized by punk – with many of the bands, such as the Fuzztones and the New Christs, being formed in the direct aftermath of punk [indeed the Fuzztones singer, Rudi Protrudi, once auditioned for seminal NYC outfit, The Dead Boys]. In some ways one could see this as the flipside of hardcore punk, particularly of the US variety, harsh, abrasive but melodic. And perhaps tellingly a large number of the second wave bands were antipodean.

None of which is to suggest that the old stuff was bad. Listen to the Lemon Drops, a bunch of late 60s teenagers [apparently Roky Erickson played with them some of the time] and you can hear in three or four songs a range of approaches that would later be taken up by a raft of others, even if their own influences were worn on their sleeves. Indeed some of the old stuff was amazing, Love – inevitably, but offerings from the Chocolate Watch Band and The Seeds amongst others were solid.

And in that respect it’s also important to recognize the psychedelic influence which although more muted was still extant ten or fifteen years later. Listening to the Crystal Set, which by the way had the brother of Steve Kilbey of the Church on board, and it was clear that their heart was in the late 60s too, albeit given a bright new wave sheen and urgency. And this neo-psychedelic aspect was such that bands like Opal, who were more easily categorized as Paisley Underground – unsurprising given their roots in the Rain Parade, were also incorporated into the genre. But then again there was no genre, it was rather a collection of groups which from various points intersected as a sensibility, and often one ascribed by others rather than the groups themselves. A sensibility that more established fanzine/magazines like Bucketfull of Brains championed through the 80s and later.

Mind you, this was also a sensibility which reeked of testosterone. Not many women out there, bar the singer from Opal, the keyboardist from the Fuzztones and some of those in the orbit of the Fleshtones. Nope, this was wall to wall men.

But this was a curiously paradoxical music. It sought its power in the past, and that can be a terribly limiting thing if there’s no scope for experimentation, and yet it did have experimental features. The phased guitars of The Lyres, the brash aggression of the New Christs use [and note the name too], the tinges of neo-psychedelia, all were elements of sonic experimentation that softened the hardest edges of the sound. Oddly enough there were many fewer groups like this in Ireland, at least as I remember – The Slowest Clock had something of the Paisley Underground, as did Something Happens, at least initially – though that always seemed to me to be filtered through R.E.M.

Anyhow, that’s treating it perhaps with more seriousness than it deserves and there’s a danger that in doing so one might overlook the element of fun and playfulness that was so characteristic of much of it – from the Fleshtones onwards. Either you love this stuff or you don’t and I know which camp I’m in.

I’m wondering did anyone else ever encounter the compilation or the fanzine? Not every song below was on the tape if I recall correctly – I don’t recall the Highway 69 by the Fuzztones – though I seem to recall another track from them, and I’m not entirely sure that the selection from the Chocolate Watch Band is the correct one but… if not those tracks then they perhaps they should have been. And if I were remaking it I’d definitely add Beach Boy by Bad Karma Beckons and Come out and Play by the Mad Violets.

Enjoy…

Back in the day…

The Electric Prunes – Get Me to the World on Time

The Creation – How Does it Feel To Feel? [worth noting that of the US and UK releases, this, the US release was a lot harsher in terms of sound]

The Seeds – Mr. Farmer

Love Seven & Seven Is

The Chocolate Watch Band -Let’s Talk about Girls

The Strawberry Alarm Clock? Incense And Peppermints

13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me

The Kingsmen – Louie Louie

The Sonics – Have Love Will Travel

The Other Half – Mr. Pharmacist [later covered by the Fall]

Lemon Drops – I Live in Springtime

The 1980s… more or less…

The 3 O’Clock – I go Wild

Fuzztones – Highway 69

Rain Parade – No Way Down [starts with an interview with some of the group]

Scientists – Last Night [1980]

The Lyres – How Do You Know?

New Christs – Waiting World/Face A New God

Chesterfield Kings – Social End Product [1987]

Fleshtones – Screaming Skills

The Chills – Pink Frost

Meat Puppets – Plateau

The Lime Spiders – My Favourite Room

The Clean – Beatnik

The Crystal Set – Benefit of the Doubt

Opal – Happy Nightmare Baby

The Cramps – Garbageman

Comments»

1. alastair - October 8, 2011

I always assumed ‘Let’s talk about girls’ was an Undertones original. You learn something new every day.

What was that late 80’s Dublin psychedelic band that used to do the odd NCAD party and Waterford Freewheelers organised gigs? My memory is that they weren’t half bad.

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WorldbyStorm - October 8, 2011

I can’t quite remember the name, but I remember who you’re talking about. I’ll ask an higher authority… they may recall.

It is strange isn’t how many songs that we assume were originals are covers, I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of the groups liked it that way too. 🙂

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2. Scott West - October 8, 2011

There is so much good stuff like this from the 60s on the various Nuggets and Pebbles compilations. This is where most encountered this music. Some fanzines would have been nice, but unfortunately rockabilly was a bit bigger in the 1980s around the US South.

Let’s see if this works, its The Brogues “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker” that showed up on the Nuggets box set:

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WorldbyStorm - October 8, 2011

Nice track, Scott. Thanks.

Interesting about rockabillly in the US South in the 80s, I think alastair would agree that that was a fairly strong strand in Ireland of psychobilly.. but garage wasn’t anywhere near as evident as a strand, except for the Golden Horde,
[and also a standby of NCAD parties – though in retrospect the word ‘party’ seems a bit wide of the mark 😉 ]

https://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/this-weekend-ill-mostly-be-listening-to-the-golden-horde-the-chocolate-biscuit-conspiracy/

And then I look at NZ and Australia and garage [and neo-psychedelia such as the Church] was huge. I’d love to know why that was and I wonder was it the way punk broke there, or perhaps didn’t quite in the same way and so they tended to look back to 1960s styles which had a similar but not quite the same approach?

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