Monday, August 3, 2015

The Top Three Greatest North American Garage Singles Ever Are...

You know the story by now. If not, it goes something like this. Back in October of 2014, On The Flip-Side innocently undertook a region by region Battle of the Garage Band singles. At that moment we failed to understand the scope of our endeavor.

Twelve regions in all. Generally 10 singles per region (more in So Cal, less in Canada). That means that roughly 120 singles got a digital spin on the turntable. Then each region winner went head to head with another region winner. A panel of 7 judges - from the Rockies to the PNW, to So Cal to NorCal to the South - each weighed in on the final 12 singles as they went into a bracket system against each other. The final votes have been tallied by On The Flip-Side's San Francisco accounting office and we can now announce the Top Three Podium winners of the North American Battle of the Garage Bands.

Coming in at No. 1 is The Chocolate Watchband's swan song of a single, Are You Gonna Be There on the A-side and No Way Out on the Flip-Side. The single was released in October of 1967 on the Tower Records label. The Chocolate Watchband represented the Northern California Region in the battle on their way to the Gold Medal.

Coming in at the number 2 spot is the winner of the hard fought Texas region, The 13th Floor Elevators. Their debut single, recorded in '65 and released in '66 for IA Records, of You're Gonna Miss Me on the A-side and Tried To Hide on the Flip-side was a very close 2nd. A slightly stronger flip probably would have put them at the number one spot overall. But the Silver Medal is not so shabby folks. 

And taking the bronze medal is the most controversial of them all. Some thought they shouldn't be considered in America since they recorded in the UK. Others thought they shouldn't be considered garage because they sounded so different. Others still thought that the record shouldn't be considered at all since it wasn't released until three years after the band broke up. But we hold the keys to the car, so we get to drive it as we see fit. The Misunderstood, from Riverside, California beat out Love and the Music Machine and The Grains of Sand to lay claim to the crown of what we consider the most competitive region, Southern California. Their 1966 recording (released in '69) for the UK version of Fontana Records is a mind blower. Children Of The Sun on one side and I Unseen on the Flip-Side. 

It's been fun. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Finals of the Battle of the Garage Bands

So here we are. After 10 months of 12 regional battle of the garage bands, we are down to only three singles. These three singles bested nine other kick-booty singles to become the 7" regional champions. Then they went head to head with the other regional winners in two rounds of cut-throat bracketeering (not a real word) to stand here on the stage with a little tiara precariously perched high atop their spindle hole. The image you see above shows their progression through these final rounds. They are listed in this final round in random order, not final order. That will happen today. At the bottom of this post are images which show the top five of their respective bracket.

When we started this bracket process back in October of 2014 we had very little understanding of how long this would take and how it would reform our understanding of these records. When scrutinized closely, when compared competitively next to another record from the same region, some records were, to be blunt, not as great as we may have once thought they were. Some had one wonderful side, but fell flat on the other side. Some are great rockers, but really didn't elevate to another level like their competition did. Some had youthful exuberance but didn't go much beyond that. And some records elevated to levels much higher than we had expected. Take, for example, The Bad Roads out of Louisiana. The South was a very competitive and unique region and The Bad Roads had to beat out records from We The People and The Tasmanians and Dr. Specs Optical Illusions. But when they were put head to head with these bands, and one really considered both sides of the record, it was very clear that their tiny production run of a record was the best of the region. In fact, one of the best of the whole genre.

And then we had the regions. In the image below you can see how the regions were mapped out. With two notable exceptions. California was split into two because of the wealth of music coming out of that state. We couldn't show that on our map. And, secondly, Canada, and that country's winner, The Ugly Ducklings, is not shown on the map. Sorry.
As we did this we really got a feel for how the different regions had different sounds and differing levels of intensity. The Pacific Northwest was very unique. In the early 60s, when rock-n-roll was being polished to a point that it no longer resembled rock-n-roll, The PNW held on to the pounding, keyboard heavy tradition started by Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Screaming vocals from The Sonics, youthful exuberance from The Talsimen and, of course, the template set by The Kingsmen. As a result, when The Beatles came, The PNW bands had already established a sound and they held on to that uniqueness. Texas is legendary. Everyone knows that. But when stacking the records up it was evident that the bands in Texas were having an identity crisis. With a few notable exceptions, such as The Stoics, most bands had one killer side and one very lame side. Making for half a great record. The Great Lakes region put out a ton of great records thanks in large part to two labels, Dunwich and Fenton. The Rocky Mountain Region was definitely behind the others when it came to putting out great records. Denver and Phoenix had a few, but the lightly populated time zone didn't quite stack up. As a result, they were our only region with less than 10 entrants. Southern California on the other hand had something like 16 entrants. And we could have done more. Los Angeles, we would argue, was clearly the most prolific area in the United States between '64 and '67, the key garage years. Northern California was clearly a San Jose scene. The top records from the top part of the state seem to have all come out of that fine town.

So now we have three records. 21 inches of love to give you. Flip-sides and A-sides. We will spin all six sides of the three records and we will ask our hard working, celebrity judges to weigh in and rank each record from one through three. Then our San Francisco accounting office will secretly tally the results and we will crown, in order, the top three garage records ever.

Will it be The Misunderstood? The Southern California band that had to travel to the UK (and add a Brit member) to finally record a few of their own songs? Will they be able to take their 1966 recording of Children Of The Sun/I Unseen and bring it back to the US as the champ? A record that wouldn't even get released in the US! A record that only got released in the UK three years after they had recorded the numbers. A long, convoluted trip to the top three, no doubt.

Will it be The 13th Floor Elevators? The band whose recording of I Had To Tell You was in fact the inspiration for creating this fine blog some eight years ago. Will the Texas sized champions be able to take their unique little release for IA Records of You're Gonna Miss Me/Tried To Hide and put Texas at the top spot? The band that helped define the psychedelic movement and influenced countless acts from Janis Joplin to The Grateful Dead.

Will it be The Chocolate Watchband. A real band out of San Jose who was taken under the gossamer wing of producer and writer Ed Cobb to rise to new but obscure heights. A band whose name would routinely be used by others for projects that had little to nothing to do with them. Will it be their swan song of a single, released on the legendary LA label, Tower Records, in 1967, that takes the top spot? Are the two songs of bleakness and doom, Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In) and the flip-side, No Way Out the number one record of all garage times?

Regardless, these three records are firmly ensconced now on Mount Garagemore. Even if you are not one of our celebrity judges, please take this moment to chime in below to let us know what you think. After all, the idea of the blog, started some eight years ago, was to build a community around the obscure music we love so much.

Thank you. The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Round 2 of the Battle of the Garage Bands Bracket: The Chocolate Watchband v The Ugly Ducklings

Round 8 is in the books. The representatives from Texas, The 13th Floor Elevators, bested the kings of the Pacific Northwest, The Sonics. It was hard for all of us to send a band like The Sonics packing, but that is the nature of the competition, isn't it?

Today one more band will be voted off the turntable while another gets a patch on their shoulder and matriculates to the finals, which we call the Thrilling Three. So without further hesitation...

On turntable 1 we have the Northern California champions, The Chocolate Watchband. They put forth with their final single, released in October of 1967 on Tower Records, Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In) with a flip-side of No Way Out. The single has already bested the likes of The Mourning Reign, The Brogues and The Shadows of Knight just to have the opportunity to spin at 45rpm on this fine morning.

On Turntable 2 we have the champions of Canada. The entire hopes and dreams of the great white north now rest on the dusty grooves of The Ugly Ducklings and their third release, from 1966, on Yorktown Records: Just In Case You Wonder with a flip-side of That's Just A Thought I Had In My Mind. This Canuck of a single has bested the likes of The Painted Ship, The Haunted and America's The Enfields as it now starts spinning with the 7-inch white hot fury that can only come from a homely water fowl.

Until tomorrow, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Round 2 of the Battle of the Garage Bands Bracket: The 13th Floor Elevators v. The Sonics

In our first day of Round 2, The Misunderstood of the So Cal Region went through New York champions, The Blues Magoos, like a hot knife through butter. The Misunderstand now move on to the top three and await their next opponent. Misunderstood no more. 

Day 2 of the second round pits two epic records against each other (after 10 months of doing this, they better all be epic at this point!). 

From the highly competitive Texas region we have The 13th Floor Elevators with their debut single, You're Gonna Miss Me c/w Tried To Hide. The single was released, first on the local label, Contact and then on International Artist records in early 1966. 

The Sonics are representing the birthplace of American garage records, The Pacific Northwest. They are putting forth with their 5th single, released in the Fall of 1965 on Etiquette Records. We have the original Cinderella on the a-side and Louie Louie on the flip-side.  

Go forth judges. Look at both sides of the single and make your call. We don't envy your task. 

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Round 2 of the Battle of the Garage Bands: The Blues Magoos v The Misunderstood

Round 2 is officially underway in our 10-month long Battle of the Garage Bands to determine (very subjectively) the greatest US garage band single ever. This round kicks off with The Blues Magoos of New York going head to head with The Misunderstood of Riverside, California. 

On one side of the ring we have The Blues Magoos who landed a major record deal and put out multiple singles and multiple albums, performed on national TV shows and shared the stage with the likes of The Who. On the other side of the ring we have The Misunderstood who had to leave their Sun drenched Southern California homes to travel to the rainy UK to record a song called Children of The Sun. The single was shelved until well after the band had succumbed to the unbearable heaviness of obscurity and the boys never even saw a release of their material in their homeland. Two very different paths to this moment. Both deserving of it. 

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands: The Enfields v. The Ugly Ducklings

Round 5 is in the books and for the first time we have a unanimous decision. The Chocolate Watchband of the NorCal Region knocked out The Shadows of Knight of The Great Lakes region.

We move today to round 6 of the Battle of The Garage Bands' "super-duper, bestest ever, most epic garage single bracket". It is indeed the final showdown of the first round of said bracket.

On Turntable number one we have The Enfields of Wilmington, Delaware.  The quintet will put forth with their 1966 single for Richie Records, She Already Has Somebody/I'm For Things You Do. Both sides of the single were composed by the band's guitarist, high schooler, Ted Munda. Somewhat like the single put forth by Phil and the Frantics, the Enfields take a moody, minor key, harmony approach to their double sided gem.

And on the other side of the music room, on turntable number 2, we have a band from Toronto, Canada calling themselves The Ugly Ducklings. Just In Case You Wonder/That's Just A Thought I Had In My Mind are two band composed numbers. The single was the band's third record and was released in 1966 on Yorktown Records.

Both of these singles had very stiff competition on their way to representing their region in The Battle of The Garage Bands. Both bands won only by the most narrow victories. Here is a look at the top 4 singles they bested to take the number 1 spot. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands: The Chocolate Watchband v. The Shadows of Knight

Yesterday The Sonics, representing the Pacific Northwest region, steamrolled Phil and The Frantics, the representatives of the Rocky Mountain Region.

Today we witness Northern California do battle with the monsters who emerged from The Great Lakes region.

The Chocolate Watchband of San Jose, California, will put forth with their 4th and final single, Are You Gonna Be There/No Way Out. The record was released in October of 1967 on Tower Records. The Shadows of Knight will put up their 2nd single, Bad Little Woman/Gospel Zone.  It was released on Dunwich Records in August of 1966.

Take a look at the graphics here to see some of the top competition that these two bested on the way to their awesomeness. Both of these bands had to beat some real great talent to get to this point. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands: The Sonics v Phil and the Frantics

Another round in the books and The 13th Floor Elevators of Texas cruised past a very strong single from The Bad Roads.

Today we move down to the next bracket. The Sonics representing the Pacific Northwest are going head to head with Phil and The Frantics representing The Rocky Mountains. Two very different approaches on American Garage records. The Sonics on Etiquette Records with their power chord heavy original, Cinderella, and a blitzkrieg reimagining of the PNW standard, Louie Louie. And on the other side of the ring we have Phil and The Frantics on Sounds Ltd. Records with two minor key originals that stutter and stop and takes at a more sensitive approach. Perhaps the only similarity between the two is the use of Saxophone in their records.

And here is a list of top singles The Sonics had to best to be crowned the PNW Region champions.
And here is a list of top singles Phil and The Frantics had to best to be crowned the Rocky Mountain Region champions. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands: The 13th Floor Elevators v. The Bad Roads

Day two of the bracket system witnessed The Misunderstood of the Southern California region getting past the midwest region winner, The Litter. Our congratulations go out to The Misunderstood who, we have on good authority, are huddled at a restaurant in Las Vegas watching the returns with baited breath. Stand by boys, we are about to move on. 

Today we move to a bracket with two very strong region representatives: The 13th Floor Elevators representing Texas and The Bad Roads from nearby Louisiana representing The South region. Our celebrity judges will now weigh-in with eloquent words located in the comment section below and let you know who comes out ahead today. So, without further ado, let's get ready to rumble!

 And here is a look at how The 13th Floor Elevators and The Bad Roads came to win their respective regions.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands: The Litter v The Misunderstood

Well, well, well. We have the first showdown in the books and it surprised me. Big time. This is why we have all these celebrity judges helping out. I flat out expected The Squires to make it deep into the brackets. Not even close. The Blues Magoos took their New York power and ran rough-shod over their New England Brethren.

So now we spin the winner of the Midwest region, Minnsesota's The Litter, against Southern California's hotly contested winner, The Misunderstood. The seven judges, who Donald Trump has described "as the most classy, opulent judges in the world", will now settle the score with these two bands and their powerful releases from 1967. Don't forget, both sides count in the consideration of the greatness of the record.

To put this into better context, here is a look at some of the competition that these cats bested as they claimed their regional victory.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands: The Squires v. The Blues Magoos

Day one of the Battle of the Garage Bands epic bracket system showdown. Today we have the winners of the New England Region going head to head with the winners of the New York region. The Squires of Connecticut v. The Blues Magoos of Greenwich Village. Celebrity judges will vote below to determine who moves on to the next round. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Battle of the Garage Bands Epic Bracket Showdown!

There comes a time in the history of man that certain events define and shape the very times in which we live. The Rise of the Roman Empire, the Mongol Horde unifying Asia, the teachings of Jesus, the geo-political realignment that came from World War II, and, of course, On The Flip-Side's epic Battle of the Garage Bands. 

For months now we have had a day by day competition to crown the best North American garage single. It started way back in October of 2014, posting roughly 10 singles from 12 different regions of the continent. 

As you can (almost) see from our cool map below, the winners in each region are as follows (and click on each winner to see the top five finalists from each region):
  1. New England: The Squires
  2. New York: The Blues Magoos
  3. Mid-Atlantic: The Enfields
  4. The South: The Bad Roads
  5. The Great Lakes: The Shadows of Knight
  6. The Midwest: The Litter
  7. Texas: The 13th Floor Elevators
  8. The Rockies: Phil and the Frantics
  9. Southern Cal: The Misunderstood
  10. Northern Cal: The Chocolate Watchband
  11. Pacific Northwest: The Sonics
  12. Canada (not shown): The Ugly Ducklings

Now we start the final competition! A battle royale of all 12 regional winners. Each regional winner will now go head to head in a bracket system until we can crown the top three North American garage singles ever dedicated to wax. Look at the high tech graphic below to see where we have seeded each band. 

We'll start at the top and move our way down. This will go fast. Guest judges will help us pick the winner of each round until we crown the top three singles. At that point we will rank them based on our very subjective votes and, in a moment that will make even the Dalai Lama stand up and take notice, we will be able to crown a champion single. 
We'll get it rolling in the next week!