Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Album: Here Are The Chesterfield Kings

Sometime in the fall of 1984, while spending a year in England, I was thumbing through a record store in Guilford, south of London, when to my astonishment I came across a copy of Here Are The Chesterfield Kings.  Having just been introduced to this album – and 60’s garage in general – by a friend back in the States, I knew this album was gold.  Isolated from my friend’s and my collection of records back home, I found myself studying this and a few other albums in my lonely little high-schooler bedroom.  The songs Little White Lies, Sixty Second Swinger and Come With Me got special attention.  They gave insight into this other kind of music - unruly, menacing vocals set to a raw pounding beat and inventive instrumentation.  Other songs such as You Better Look Now, Time to Kill or Outside Chance showed the more melodic side to the mid-‘60s music I craved to hear.  As a whole the music on this album was so charged that at times I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing; and the album was so faithfully presented in the vein of a mid-‘60s era release, from the actual recordings to the picture of the band on the front of album, right down to the images and layout on the back of the album, that I must admit to not knowing for some time in which era this was initially recorded.  This just added to the allure.

The Chesterfield Kings formed in 1979 in Rochester, New York, and were one of the earliest ’60s revival bands as they rode that first crest that included The Lyres out of Boston and The Crawdaddys out of San Diego. In the next few years the Chesterfield Kings – Greg Prevost, Doug Meech, Rick Cona, Andy Babiuk and Orest Guran – released several singles and played locally, and all the while several influential garage-specific compilations – Pebbles and the Pebbles offshoot Highs In the Mid-Sixties - entered the mix. By the time of the Chesterfield King’s 1982 release of “Here Are”, ‘60s garage or otherwise ‘60s-inspired music had a foothold, albeit a distinctly underground foothold, on both coasts and the garage revival was well on its way.  While many of these early acts embraced the ‘60s garage ideal with a zeal, and some frankly nailed it – see The Unclaimed’s Primordial Ooze EP or The Tell-Tale Hearts' eponymous LP – if you wanted the blueprint at a granular level it was Here Are Chesterfield Kings.

Today we look not at Here Are but at the original versions of the songs behind the album.  The album is all covers, something I didn't really get only until recently, such was their ownership of the material. Although the ‘60s garage comps were hitting their stride by 1982, as of the date of release of this album as far as I can tell only one song on it had been comped.  In the pre-internet, pre eBay days, the general awareness and availability of some of these songs, let alone the actual wax, must have been pretty slim indeed, which makes this album all the more stunning.

The SonicsThe Hustler
The Rogues - You Better Look Now
The Turtles - Outside Chance
Painted Ship - Little White Lies
Zakary Thaks - Won't Come Back
The Choir - I'm Going Home
The Chocolate Watch Band - Expo 2000

1 comment:

  1. This is fabulous, Jack! I too picked this album up in the early 80s and admit that most if not all of these songs were unknown to me at the time. I remember looking at the songwriting credits and the names on the back of the Chesterfield's album and noting that nothing matched. These were all covers. Nothing I was finding on the Greg Shaw comps. As this website would suggest, I became a bit of a freak about record collecting -- and 60s garage punk specifically. Much of this stuff, as you note in this digital eBay age, is still hard to find. A few of these I've never heard before. So how the hell did Greg Prevost and the gang find these? Goldmine Magazine?

    Sonics - The Hustler: The Sonics are a Mount Garagemore band known to all. But this is one of the more rare songs as it didn't make it to either album. Not sure where I first heard the original, but I still don't own it. Bummer. Great song with a cool little riff and a nice, non-fuzz guitar lead.

    The Rogues - You Better Look Now: Here is an example of a song I have not heard before. This, as Tony Sanchez used to say, is killer. The guitar work is really great with some really nice chimey suspended chord work. You can hear the Byrds and Beatles influence, but this is all them. From where was this band?

    The Turtles - Outside Chance: I hadn't bothered to give The Turtles a look until I figured out this Warren Zevon song was taken from a Turtles single. This is a really great song that influenced my own songwriting style. This White Whale label single is pretty easy to get nowadays and can be had at bargain prices. I recall the first time I heard this original, I was a little taken aback by the keyboard lead. And the music transition back into the bridge at 1:02 still warps my mind.

    The Painted Ship - Little White Lies: Did not know this song or the band. Vancouver, BC? Absolutely amazing song. Just a cool, funky beat. Great find (for both the CKs and you). The guitar work is very much like Keith Richard's early work. I love the close the best. I think it makes the song. That damn, laugh.

    Zakary Thaks - Won't Come Back: I knew of this one from an Eva compilation. A great song that is too overlooked since Bad Girl is such an obvious, brilliant song. http://ontheflip-side.blogspot.com/2011/07/song-of-week-bad-girl-zakary-thaks.html
    The guitar work for Thaks was just great and the stutter beat after the lead is way cool.

    The Choir - I'm Going Home: I recall that the A-Side of this easy to find single was comped on a Highs In The Mid-60s. I recall flipping it over and thinking, "damn this sounds familiar." Another great find on a pretty easy to find disc for Prevost and the boys.

    The Chocolate Watch Band - Expo 2000: This is great cover of a song that is not actually The Chocolate Watch Band. Apparently none of the band had ever even heard it before it came out on the album. Studio musicians galore. Written by the engineer.

    I look forward to tomorrow's post.