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!