Friday, February 27, 2015

Mid-West Spotlight: The Five Americans - I See The Light/The Outcast

Back with day six of On The Flip-Side's Mid-West Battle of the Garage Bands. 

The Five Americans hailed from Durant, Oklahoma, a ninety minute drive north of Dallas, Texas. The band was comprised of singer and guitarist Mike Rabon, guitarist Norman Ezell, drummer Jimmy Wright, bassist Jim Grant and organist John Durrill. The Five Americans scored a local Dallas hit on Abnak Records with I See The Light in November of 1965. It was the band's 5th attempt.  In swooped HBR to take the song national a month later. A pretty solid full length LP followed.

We give you, today, both sides of that first release on HBR, I See The Light/The Outcast. Both songs were written by Ezell, Rabon and Durill. I See The Light is a real rocker with dominant organ, tight harmonies and a great, great instrumental break. I'm particularly fond of the repeated guitar riff wrapping up the guitar lead at 1:11 as it gives way to a solo organ riff back into the raver before it all wraps up at a tight little 2:06. Curiously the song would be covered on the other side of the pond by Freakbeat mods, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound some 11 months later. 

The Outcast is quite different. The Flip-Side is a slower more somber number. The bass dominant song showcases the country influence of the Oklahoma band with nice harmonies and a harmonica solo. Enjoy both sides. I usually do.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mid-West Spotlight: The Gestures - Run, Run, Run/It Seems To Me

Mid-West Battle of the Garage Bands rolls on. Today we welcome you to Mankato, Minnesota! 

Mankato is a small farming town about 90 minutes south of Minneapolis and about 90 minutes north of the Iowa border. Of the 24,000 residents living in Mankato in 1964, we're going to focus today on four of them: Gus Dewey, Tom Klugherz, Bruce Waterston and Dale Menten. Together the Mankato-four were known as The Gestures. They started off in high school playing surf music but quickly transitioned to vocal rock. In October of 1964 the band released their first single for the regional label Soma Records. That song, written by Menten, was the excellent Run, Run, Run. Believe it or not they had a real hit on their hands. The song went to number 44 nationally, number 1 in Minneapolis, number 1 in New York City and number 3 in Los Angeles. The small town band and the small local label couldn't keep up with production and the song began to fall from the charts as there literally weren't enough records to ship to the stores. At least Soma Records had the good idea to print a limited edition of the records in blue vinyl! How cool!

Now we get to flip that record over and dig on the brilliant It Seems To Me, also written by Dale Menten. It Seems To Me is a jazzy little number that really shows the maturity of Menten's songwriting. 

Sadly, after just two releases the band dispersed.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mid-West Spotlight: The Cornerstones - You Rule Me

Day four of our Midwest spotlight takes us back to North Dakota. Grand Forks, right on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota to be precise. The band is The Cornerstones and their song, You Rule Me, was a major regional hit, making big waves over in Bismarck, North Dakota, and across the midwest.  The label, Metrobeat Records, was started by Trashmen member Tony Andreason and Mike Jann in 1966, with You Rule Me, the band's first of two singles on the label, getting its release sometime in early '67.

Those are the facts, while the song speaks for itself.  If its writer, lead singer Stephen Rood, had not been studying Joe Meek, and specifically The Honeycombs, prior to writing this, well, I'd be shocked. The production and vocal delivery scream Joe Meek, especially in the opening salvo. Once we get past the brilliance of that opener, we are guided through a series of tempo and rhythm changes - including a frenzied upbeat ska (polka?) section - that just make me wonder: 1. how this was ever conceived? 2. how a band could be convinced to get behind it? and 3. how the hell did they pull it off so brilliantly?  Listen to it in its full unadorned midwest greatness!

I'd appreciate any additional information out there. There's a highly regarded "Best of Metrobeat" featuring today's song put out by Sundazed in 1990 and I'm curious what its liner notes say about The Cornerstones.

See you on the Flipside!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mid-West Spotlight: GONN - Blackout of Gretely/Pain In My Heart

After a brief hiatus, we are back today with another submission for our Mid-West region Battle Of The Garage Bands. 

GONN hailed from the tiny town of Keokuk, Iowa, located in the South East corner of the state where Iowa shares a border with Missouri and Illinois. 

GONN (all upper case spelling is intentional) was Craig Moore on intro vocals, scream and bass, Gerry Gabel on lead vocals keyboards, Gary Stepp on rhythm guitar, Rex Garrett on lead gutiar, and Brent Colvin on drums. The band recorded two singles in their brief time together. Today we feature their first single.

The legendary Blackout Of Gretely was released in 1966 on Emir Records and saw a very limited pressing of 600 copies. The title of the song was mutated from a Sci-Fi novel and the abstract opening line was inspired from a random comment from Peter Tork on an early episode of The Monkees. Seriously! Garrett and Moore get writing credit for the depraved number. 

The flip-side was a cover of Pain In My Heart. I don't own it, so here is a vid of it.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mid-West Spotlight: The Litter - Action Woman/Legal Matter

More Midwest mayhem today with our 2nd entry for the region's Battle of The Garage Bands competition. It's The Litter performing the garage classic, Action Woman.

Action Woman was released on Scotty Records in January 1967 (with a Flip-Side of The Who's Legal Matter) and after all these years, feels just as fresh today as it did the day it was released. The song is so epic that it led off the first Pebbles record even though their copy of Action Woman skipped!

The Minneapolis hipsters who comprised The Litter were Jim Kane on bass, Tom Murray on drums, Dan Rinaldi on guitar, Denny Waite on vocals and the very talented Bill Strandlof on lead guitar. That said, we need to talk a little about Warren Kendrick here. Kendrick was a local math teacher who formed his own label (Scotty) in 1965 in attempt to get on the rock-n-roll bandwagon after watching The Beatles light the world on fire on the Ed Sullivan Show. The math teacher began writing and producing and releasing numbers for the local Minneapolis kids to perform. Action Woman has Kendrick's signature all over the number. He wrote it, produced it and distributed it himself. Another of his band's, The Electras, released this number on the same label, just a month after The Litter. It's pretty damn awesome, but we'll go with The Litter's version as the definitive take on the song.

The fine, fine flip-side is Pete Townshend's Legal Matter. This is certainly one of the better covers of a song from the hard to cover The Who. Incidentally, Action Woman got re-released 8 months later on a different label, this time paired with The Small Faces' Whatcha Gonna Do About It. These guys knew their UK mod bands!

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mid-West Spotlight: The Trenchmen - Chains On My Heart/Travel With Me

We are moving to another region for our Battle of the Garage Bands. The Mid-West. America's breadbasket. We'll include Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Let's start in bustling North Dakota. It's true, we scan the globe to bring you good, rare music! And today we found a real nice and super, super rare record from the middle of nowhere. Only 1,000 of these were ever pressed. The Trenchmen hails from the tiny farming community of Minot, North Dakota and they released this one and only single. The Trenchmen recorded the number in Minneapolis with engineer Tom Jung at the controls back in 1967.

Soon after the record came out, the four members graduated high school and turned to other interests. Singer and bassist Jim Mackey joined the Navy while the others went off to...well, the things you do when you are a teenager in North Dakota. Greg Jordahl, the group's guitarist was 15 when the band recorded his original composition, Chains On My Heart. The single was released on their own made-up label, Impact Sound. Alan Mattson plays the freaky-ass dominant organ and Ken White is on drums.

Jordahl also wrote the flip-side, Travel With Me. It's a trippy number where that hipster holding the book in the picture below promises some good farm girl that he can show her exotic far off places, far beyond the confines of Minot, North Dakota. The opportunities are endless. Fargo, Bowman, and of course, the Capitol, Bismark!

We'll see you next time On The Flip-Side!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

And The Winner of the Texas Battle Of The Garage Bands is...

The mighty, mighty 13th Floor Elevators won unanimously with their debut single from 1966, You're Gonna Miss Me/Tried To Hide. We're surprised and we're not surprised at the same time. We're most surprised by how far down the line Zakary Thaks fell. Just goes to show, you never know. It also goes to show how strong the Texas bands were.

So now The 13th Floor Elevators will wait in the wings with the other regional winners to see who will win the next regional battle. And that will be The Mid-West. We'll start that one next week.

Here are the regional winners thus far.
Texas: The 13th Floor Elevators with You're Gonna Miss Me/Tried To Hide

New England: The Squires with Going All The Way and Go Ahead

The South: The Bad Roads with Too Bad/Blue Girl

Great Lakes: The Shadows of Knight with Bad Little Woman/Gospel Zone

The Mid-Atlantic: The Enfields with She Already Has Somebody/I'm For Things You Do

New York: The Blues Magoos with We Ain't Got Nothing Yet/Gotta Get Away
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Texas Spotlight: The Lavender Hour - I've Got A Way With Girls/So Sophisticated

Our final day of our Battle of the Garage Bands, Texas addition, takes us to Houston, Texas. Our first stop in the state's biggest city. 

The Lavender Hour put out two records in a very brief span of time. I've Got A Way With Girls/So Sophisticated was their final record and was released on Steffek Records in the Fall of 1967. The band were a bunch of High School kids -- Mike Teague, Tom Peña, Steve Headley, Sid Templeton, and Jerry Cope. These Houston High Schoolers had attitude for days. Steve Headley wrote the chest thumping number, I've Got A Way With Girls and cowrote the A-Side, So Sophisticated with Sid Templeton. 

The band would mutate into The Clique and turn into a bit of a bubblegum group. But here they are before they graduated High School and got all sophisticated. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Texas Spotlight: The Esquires - Judgement Day/These Are The Tender Years

Day 9 of our Texas Battle of the Garage Bands brings us another depraved disc. This time from Irving, Texas, the third ring of hell.

This is why I love garage music from the 1960s. No pencil necked record executives here. No songwriter from the Brill Building crafting the perfect song. No producer arrogantly pushing his one-size-fits-all vision on a band. Nope. Just a bunch of kids banging out some song that they wrote themselves. Usually those songs were silly, boorish or just plain bad. But occasionally, it was brilliant.

As we do...we are flipping the record over and starting with The Flip-Side (get it now?)

On the flip-side we have the ultra-awesome Judgement Day by The Esquires. The year is 1966. The label is the DIY Glenvalley Records. It's really hard to imagine what Singer/lead guitarist Charlie Snellings and rhythm guitarist Wes Horne were thinking when they wrote the words to this devil-comes-a-knockin' tale. Perhaps it was taken from a baptist sermon in the conservative, religious Dallas suburbs. Perhaps they were just feeling a little devilish. Here are the lyrics to the Esquires' Judgement Day.
All through life you laugh and say there is no such thing as judgement day/one night as you lay sleeping on the pillow. And voices start coming through the wall and you think back but you can't recall ever hearing those words ever spoken. They say 'brother your time has come your soul must leave, your body is done.' You say 'what sin have I done to deserve this?'. You say 'I'm not ready to be taken, nor be to winged my way to heaven'. Say brother it's not heaven but hell that's waiting. Yeah. And a hole opens up in the wall and that familiar voice does call that says 'brother, follow'. And down that dark pathway you tried to leave your world of sin and pride and then you see that light up ahead. You say 'it's heaven! I can win!', 'tell them I can win' then you feel that heat on your skin and then you know where you're bound for. Yeah!
Don Smelling, our singer's dad, set the label up, managed them, bought the band's equipment and even produced this kick-ass record with a devilish scream. Kudos to dads like Don who do stuff like this for their kids. 

The plug-side, These Are The Tender Years, is downright lame compared to our cryptic flip-side. But I include it because I love you.  Only 1000 copies were pressed and the record was probably only sold at their local roller-rink performances.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Texas Spotlight: The Wig - Crackin' Up/Bluesscene

Day 8 of our Texas Battle of the Garage Bands takes us back to Austin, Texas. Right where we started.

We do that with The Wig and their monster single, Crackin' Up. Crackin' Up came to fame with it's inclusion on the original Pebbles series. The group of lads that were known as The Wig are Benny Rowe on lead, Rusty Wier on drums and vocals, Jess Yaryan on bass, Johnny Richardson on guitar and Bill Wilmot on Organ. A previous incarnation of the band apparently also included Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller.

Crackin' Up was the second, and last, single the band ever did. It was released on BlackKnight Records in 1966. It is a real monster with kick ass guitar leads throughout, a nice time-change and a cryptic vocal delivery. But it is the end of the song, with what sounds to this listener like an organ being run through a Tremolo, that really caps it off nicely. Rusty Wier composed the number and sings on it. He went on to same success in the country scene of Texas.

I don't own the record so I can't give you the Flip-Side, Bluescene. A rocking instrumental that shows the band's skills. Here is a YouTube vid of it. The band looks a bit like an Awkward Family Photo candidate in the pic shown on there.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Texas Spotlight: The Outcasts - 1523 Blair/Smokestack Lightning

Back for out regional Battle of the Garage Bands competition. As we assumed, week one of Texas has been a lovely experience.

Today we turn our attention back to San Antonio. This is where we find a band that competed with The Stoics for coolest band on the river.

The band was the poorly clothed, The Outcasts. There were so many bands in the 60s named The Outcasts that we can affirmatively say that one would be part of the in-crowd if they were an outcast. That's called Irony, kiddos. These particular Outcasts put out no less than six singles between the vaunted rock years of '65 and '67. Their 5th single, I'm In Pittsburgh And It's Raining, was comped on the original Pebbles. It's killer. But nothing like this gem from January of 1967 on the not-so-legendary Gallant Records label.

The A-Side of the single is the demonically paced 1523 Blair, and, to be frank, it scares me. The break neck speed, the obtuse lyrics, the blazingly fast guitar runs. Wow!

The Flip-Side is a cover of Howlin' Wolf's number, Smokestack Lightning. Meh.

The band broke up in 1968 as Buddy Carson (co-writer of this gem) died from Hepatitis that year. The other members were Jim Ryan (the other co-writer), Jim Carsten, Ricky Wright and Galen Niles.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Texas Spotlight: Mouse and the Traps - Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice/I'm The One

Day six of spinning old records from Texas for our regional Battle of the Garage Bands takes us back to Tyler, Texas. That's the same town that gave birth to Murphy and the Mob. 

Mouse and the Traps were Ronnie "Mouse" Weiss on vocals, Knox "Bugs" Henderson, David Stanley on bass, Jerry Howell on organ and Nardo Ken Murray on drums. Nardo? Okay. The band scored a regional hit right out of the gate with a bit of an original (okay, a Bob Dylan rip-off) called A Public Execution

We feature today their sophomore release, also released on Fraternity Records in May of 1966. It was at this moment that the band unleashed fury on the world with the Weiss-Henderson composed Maid Of Sugar, Maid Of Spice. I don't know what to say about this song that the song doesn't say for itself. It's a major league garage number in the first order. The musicianship is stellar as stellar gets. 

The flip-side, I'm The One, also composed by Weiss-Henderson, is not so strong. But in many ways it demonstrates the schizophrenia that was Mouse and the Traps. A garage band trying to smooth the rough edges to get a hit. 

Ultimately this fine single was a commercial flop. But that makes it even better to us collectors!
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Texas Spotlight: The Stoics - Hate/Enough Of What I Need

Day five of our Texas Battle of the Garage Bands. The journey takes us down to San Antonio, Texas where we find a stiff-upper-lipped group that go by the name of The Stoics. The band was comprised of guitarists William Ash and Rufus Quillian, singer Al Acosta, drummer Sam Allen and bassist Michel Marechal. Legend has it that the latter three were from a tough part of town and the band sprang out of a bit of a gang affiliation they had. I don't know if that is true or not, but there you go. 

The Stoics released only one single in their brief existence. It's as rare as a Kardashian shunning publicity! Wow! That is rare. The number was recorded in 1966 and released on the one-off label, Brams Records, in January of 1967. 

The A-Side is a not-so-love song called Hate. The number was composed by some cat (or psuedonym for multiple cats) who went by the name of J. Cutrer. Don't know who he  or she is. But Mr. or Mrs. Cutrer had some pent-up aggression going on. The damn perfect song starts off with a sparse guitar and rapid-fire drums. Sam Allen keeps the relentless beat going perfectly for 2:25. Al Acosta nails the vocal delivery for his tale of mixed up confusion in a world where love turns dark.
If I could get my eyes from being paralyzed
I could have seen your love was hatred in disguise
No, please, please. Don't let me go.
No, please see, I need you so. 
I'm particularly fond of the falsetto harmonies on the number at points like "hatred in disguise". Pure teen-genius. The band screws up at the :45 mark. But hey, this is teen angst, live in a studio. We don't need no stinking over-dubs or anything like a "take 2'. Damn the torpedoes. Fire!

The flip-side was composed by guitarist, Rufus Quillian. The melodic Enough Of What I Need starts off with a great descending bass run by Michel Marechal that would make Chris White of The Zombies proud. Acosta keeps his requisite sneer over the soft backing vocals. With Acosta's aggressive vocals, everything takes on a menacing undertone.
I'm not asking if what you do is wrong
Because to me, that's where you belong
Think of all the nights that you kissed my lips
And the pleasure of my fingertips
You got to, Gotta Love me babe
You got to, gotta hold me
And give me enough of what I need.
Hmmm, I like the way this guy thinks.
 Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Texas Spotlight: Zakary Thaks - Bad Girl/I Need You

Day four of out Texas Battle of the Garage Bands already? What?

I probably looked like Linda Blair from the Exorcist the first time I heard Bad Girl some 30+ years ago. It is simply an amazing song with a killer Kinks-inspired riff, great guitar lead and perhaps my favorite key change in the history of music. That says a lot. 

The band is Corpus Christi's own Zakary Thaks and the song is their original composition, Bad Girl. Again, even beginner garage record collectors know this song inside and out, but we are here in the region by region Battle of the Garage Bands to spin the best of the genre. The single was originally released on the legendary local label, J-Beck Records, in July of 1966. The song was then picked up for national distribution by Mercury Records and released as a promo only. It never hit the record bins, just the radio stations.  

Zakary Thaks were just pimply faced kids. Singer Chris Gerniottis was only 15 when they recorded this. His voice is powerful and soulful far beyond his years. Rounding out the rest of the band were Pete Stinston on guitar, Rex Gregory on bass, John Lopez kicking out the sharp lead work and Stan Moore pounding out that beat that is so sweet at the key change.

On the flip-side the boys show their roots with a faithful cover of The Kinks' I Need You.  All in all the kids put out eight singles. All worth watching on eBay as they sell for ridiculous dollar amounts. 

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Song of the Week: Murphy and the Mob -- Born Loser/Because You Love Me

[Ed note: see comments section for some illumination from the lyricist for Born Loser]

Day three of our Texas Battle of the Garage Bands takes us to a small outpost on the highways of Texas. Somewhere on that asphalt road between Dallas, Texas and Shreveport, Louisiana lived the Murphy brothers. And at some point in 1966, the Murphy brothers, Terry and Dennis, and a friend, walked into Steve Wright Studios in Tyler, Texas to cut their one and only single. The three called themselves Murphy and the Mob. The single they recorded on that day was Because You Love Me/Born Loser.

As is so usual, we'll start with the Flip-Side. Born Loser is a middle-finger of a song about being bullied, ridiculed and generally looked down upon. And their song is über rare and über cool. The lyrics were written by their friend, Stephen Brewerton. To say that not much is known about these anti-hipsters is an understatement. The most we know about this band can now be found in the comments section below where the song's lyricist fills in some great and vital info.

So let's turn our attention to what is known from the cool riffed song: Murphy and the Mob were clearly feeling some angst about being different in tiny Tyler, Texas and were not scared to tell us about that frustration.
I am a loner baby, I swing alone. I've got my own pad and an unlisted phone. A steady job, that's all I need. Just one heart gets fulfilled, baby just one mouth to feed!
But wait, there's a twist. Our lone geek protagonist was not so quietly getting revenge on the jocks and cowboys who looked down their crooked noses at him, shook their head and said "look at him, he's a born loser". Think revenge of the nerds. A nerd with a bitchin' little Danelectro guitar, a Silvertone amp he bought at the Sears and Roebuck in Dallas and a generous heaping of loser bravado.
I got no pals but look who's got the gals. They come to my pad because they want me so bad. I sleep all the day and I swing all night. I'm so cool baby, I'm just out of sight!
Sing it Murph. Sing it for all of us born losers. We're geeky as hell and we won't take it anymore!

The A-Side never gets any play. Unless you subscribe to On The Flip-Side, that is. Because You Love Me is a very different song. It starts off mellow enough, with a cool walking bass line. Murphy is a visionary. He can see in this girl's heart. I'm not so convinced she knows it, but Murphy is going to make sure she gets it. The number takes us on some rollicking good fun. Not a bad A-Side at all.

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

Texas Spotlight: The Headstones - 24 Hours (Everyday)/Wish She Were Mine

Day 2 of our entrants in the Texas Battle of the Garage Bands takes us to McAllen, Texas. 

You really have to work hard to get to McAllen, Texas. It's a speck on the Mexican border and a world away from where the music industry was kicking out must have records circa 1966. But in this dusty outpost lived four hep-cats who kicked out some crude rock-n-roll on the local Pharaoh Records label. The band went by the cryptic name of The Headstones and they were so hip that they did their photo shoot in the High School library. Check out that Dewey Decimal System baby! File under "Cool". 

Frontman, Dave Williams and his cohorts recorded their first record, Wish She Were Mine/24 Hours (Everyday) in the Summer of 1966 at a two track studio in their hometown. As is so common, 24 Hours (Everyday) was the Flip-Side of this August release. As usual, we'll start with the Flip-Side.

24 Hours (Everyday) is just primitive awesome, cool. A little Them riff and heaping of fuzz, a bouncing bass and an incessant tambourine create the backdrop of this tale of sexual frustration that knows no time limits. 

The A-Side is the catchy and solid beyond solid, Wish She Were Mine. It starts bouncy with harmonica and lyrics of longing. Then we get a little fuzz on the navel as we go into what stands in for a chorus. We're particularly fond of the :30 of non-stop music to end the song. Not a bad double-sider at all. 
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!