When emerge the SUB-GENRES
Garage rock played a major part in the rise of rock n'roll music, primarily in the late 60s in the period after The Beatles made their U.S. debut but before FM radio and the album oriented rock format came into prominence. This was the first wave of garage, where so many youngsters picked up guitars and started writing and playing original music based on tried and true formulas. Jimi Hendrix chose a couple of classic garage numbers for the album that would introduce him to the world, including "Wild Thing", originally done by the Troggs and "Hey Joe", a 1965 number recorded by The Surfaris, Byrds, Love, Shadows of Knight, and Warlocks in 1966 alone. Led Zeppelin performed the song in concert as well. Tommy James and The Shondells had a few big hits later covered by other artists including "I Think We're Alone Now", cut by Tiffany who would later pose nude in Playboy, as well as "Crimson and Clover", a #1 hit for The Shondells, later a top ten hit for former Runaways guitarist Joan Jett and the Blackhearts as well as "Mony Mony", a smash for former Generation X frontman Billy Idol. Bananarama covered Shocking Blue's "Venus", Neil Young covered "Farmer John" by The Premiers, Van Halen redid The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" and the classic garage rocker "Gloria" by Them was covered by everyone from Patti Smith to The Doors to Jimi Hendrix.
The 60s saw many musical styles emerge, with the branches of rock music starting to grow in different directions. The Beatles headed the craze into mainstream pop rock, where British Invasion bands such as The Rolling Stones, Kinks, Dave Clark 5 and Yardbirds followed. Bob Dylan headed up the folk rock movement, followed by acts such as Richie Havens, The Mamas and the Papas and even The Hollies. When folk rock rose in popularity, it came in a wave of political unrest as was the original wave of folk music led by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and company who sang in the 40s about repression and unfair social conditions. The music of folk rock was simple, sometimes repetitive musically, with lyrics and imagery which carried artfully concealed social and political messages to the masses. When Bob Dylan came to play at the Newport Folk festival on July 25, 1965, he made a brash move that hailed in a new era of rock, though went over poorly that day. This had much to do with the commercial viability of folk at the time - the more aggressive backbeats were only gradually finding their way into popular music but Dylan was swept up in the new rock sound the Beatles were making a killing on. Pete Seeger introduced him, expecting him to come out alone with his guitar, but he had brought along members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to back him with electric guitars and amplifiers. He plugged in and began to play "Maggie's Farm" and after some nervous applause the crowd heard Dylan doing his act on electric guitar with an unrehearsed band playing scales and blues refrains behind him. It was awful, Dylan was booed, and the folk fans called him a sellout. Pete Seeger tried to cut his power during the performance. Just a month before, he had recorded an electric version of "Like a Rolling Stone" with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield, and in the weeks that followed, "electric" Dylan started to sell a lot of records. Like a Rolling Stone" became his first million seller. He was on his way to the bigtime, and made a deal with Columbia Records. This irked Jac Holzman of the smaller folk label Elektra who missed out on signing Dylan. Holzman had for years recorded blues and folk acts, including old bluesmen like Sonny Terry and ethnic folk singers like Theodore Bikel. But Jac knew "the times were a'changin'". So Elektra signed the Butterfield Blues band, and set about looking to sign more of these new rock acts. He found other acts out West, such as Love featuring Arthur Lee, but it was The Doors who broke biggest and put Elektra on the map to stay. Folk rock never saw as big audiences after the big electric bands like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Cream tore up the charts. Folk was relegated to a niche interest ever since, though many rock bands freely incorporate a mellower folksy sound into individual songs. From the many cuts on The Beatles "White Album" that feature no more instrumentation then voice and acoustic guitar ("Rocky Raccoon", "Julia", "Blackbird") to Led Zeppelin's rootsy "Hey Hey Mama" (recorded in Mick Jagger's mansion no less), to the modern day "unplugged" hits like Guns n'Roses' "Patience", acoustic rock is still a meaningful part of the greater rock picture that many bands use to mix in to their repoirtoires, though the folk music with socially driven themes is relegated to a niche.
Psych rock began to grow large when bands like Big Brother, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix began to tool around with distortion, guitar effects and amps in new ways that coincided with large projected "liquid light" images and hippie lifestyle which included bellbottoms, long hair and recreational drugs. But one of the forerunners of the psych sound was The Pink Floyd, an English band whose lead singer was considered too psycho and fired. Syd Barrett was considered by some to be a musical genius. Others believe he was clinically insane. Somewhere in the middle lies the music of The Pink Floyd Sound, which created the some of the earliest and loudest examples of "art rock","space rock" or "psych", depending on your preferred term. Simultaneously showing fantastic light displays with strobes and "lava lamp" type projections, their live shows were huge, highlighting England's version of the "Summer of Love" in 1967. The bands name was taken from Syd Barrett's two favorite early blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, but prior to their first release, "See Emily Play", they simplified the name to The Pink Floyd. Some say it was overuse of LSD that caused Syd to become socially dysfunctional. Syd's band left him behind, first trying to keep him on as a "backroom" presence, but his mental state became too big a problem. Dropping the "The", the other members shortened the name to Pink Floyd and carried on, though Syd continued to make music on his own, even using the same studio and engineer, and an occasional hand from the members of the band. Pink Floyd became big, big, big. As Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright took over the songwriting chores, they released "Saucerful of Secrets" and then a live album, some soundtracks, and put out some poorly selling singles. Late in 1972 they recorded Dark Side of The Moon which upon release spent more time on the top 100 album charts then any other record before or since.
They say Syd descended into madness, institutionalized for life. The fact is he is alive and well today, living on his own and reportedly has not worked in music for twenty years or more. Looking from the outside, it's as if the creative output of Syd Barrett was linked to his psychological state, perhaps possessed by musical demons. But a listen to his music finds something different from all else, made by a musician who was not inhibited. He wasn't a complicated player, but he was great with rhythm and lyric and fantastic imagery and an ear for making harmonies twist on his equipment. He made new shapes with his music, which made it hard to categorize.
Roky Erikson was another singer-songwriter whose mental problems overshadowed his status as a rock star. From Austin, Texas, The 13th Floor Elevators was the leader in a Texas garage scene that had a nucleus in Forth Worth. (The reissue series Fort Worth Teen Scene out on Norton Records documents the music of this movement). Their hit "You're Gonna Miss Me" hit #55 in 1967, opening the door for other bands, like The Moving Sidewalks, the garage-psych band Billy Gibbons headed before he changed it into ZZ Top. The Elevators broke up in 1969 but Roky continued making music. Roky's use of drugs was a problem. His antics got him in trouble with hotels, the cops and the courts. Caught with six joints, he was given a choice of jail or a mental facility, and unwisely chose the latter. Roky was institutionalized and given shock treatments. When he was finally released five years later, Roky's mind was different, and the music he made reflected this. Roky's music was musically simpler then Syd Barrett's, but his lyrics showed an interest in demonism, with many odd, observations made. Song titles included "Creature with the Atom Brain", "I Walk with The Zombies" and "I Think of Demons". Roky told many he heard voices in his head. So the music scene was not ready for an act like Roky's. It wasn't commercial stuff, but it influenced many other musicians. The current rock music scene was a new world to him, now in heavy competition with disco, developing into glam and glitter acts like David Bowie and Kiss, and just starting the change into punk. Working with bands The Explosives and The Aliens, Roky played at Mabuhey Gardens during the time of the LA punk scene where Black Flag, Flipper, The Avengers and The Dead Kennedys would play. Roky made albums with back up bands The Nervebreakers and The Resurrectionists and finally settled back in around the Austin area living near his brother. In 1995, a member of The Butthole Surfers underwrote a Roky Erickson album, "All that May Do My Rhyme" at which point Roky "retired". He was seen often near his home in Austin, walking on roads in his bathrobe, talking to himself. Finally Roky came out of retirement this year, playing three songs at a benefit (for him) formed by some local bands. Though not a single advance ticket was sold, several hundred fans showed up for the show and Roky did three songs to great applause. He is now a cult hero and a movie of his life has long been in the works starring actor Jack Black, of School of Rock and Tenacious D fame.
Blues rock is another subdivision that stemmed from rock's original roots, the Chicago Blues. Artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Blind Willie McTell, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters helped bring the music from oral tradition to the first recordings. Though much of rock n'roll was based on the blues, or "jump" blues, with a peppier tempo, bands often incorporated the sound of "straight blues" into their music. Though black artists like B.B. King, Lightning Hopkins, T-Bone Walker and Ivory Joe Hunter have been plugging away for years, Eric Clapton was one of the first white artists to gain great notoriety for playing the blues. Artists like Steve Miller, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix incorporated straight blues tunes into their acts as well, but like Clapton, blues was only a part of their greater commercial repertoires. Then in 1970 an albino guitarist from Texas named Johnny Winter emerged whose entire act was blues rock, writing the smash hit "Rock n'Roll Hootchie Coo" for Rick Derringer, he was followed later by acts like Canned Heat, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray and others.
In the late 1960s, performers like Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Ted Nugent, Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly began to play rock music with a "bigger" guitar sound. This usually meant constructing a wall of amplifiers in stacks to overwhelm audiences and blow out their eardrums. But this sound would more accurately be dubbed "hard rock", whereas heavy metal was to come later. The term was first used in a song featured in the chopper flick Easy Rider, namely Steppenwolf's freewheeling anthem "Born To be Wild". Led Zeppelin had begun in 1969 to show how a brand of high voltage blues could be made commercially popular, but another band, using similar instrumentation, ushered in music with less of a blues foundation. This band was called Black Sabbath, and featured a young Ozzy Osborne on lead vocals. Their music was more reliant on the repeat of buzzing riffs, and with Ozzy's telltale mad hatter wail and lyrics that invoked imagery of demons and hellfire, Black Sabbath became the band that started it all. Guitarist Tony Iommi may not have been the chopsman that Jimmy Page and Clapton were, but he was the master of getting dark, eerie and ominous sounds out of his equipment. The dirgy black sound of Black Sabbath set a trend that countless later bands were to follow. By the late 70s, something was beginning to brew. The two bands that bridged the original Black Sabbath sound into what became later "metal" were Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, both drenched in satanic imagery, high-flying guitar solos, and wailing vocals, even including operatic falsetto. In the MTV age, the movement exploded - Quiet Riot, The Scorpions were all early heavy metal bands to jump on the sound. Van Halen, discovered by Gene Simmons of Kiss had a huge crunchy sound, scoring hits with covers of Roy Orbison and Kinks songs. Twisted Sister was a heavy metal version of The New York Dolls, using some cross-dressing as their gimmick. Some of the biggest acts in the genre were Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, though lesser bands are unending: Whitesnake, Warrant, Poison, Night Ranger, Dokken, etc. Somehow, a "look" developed, consisting of tall, sprayed and teased hair, spandex pants and "femme" make up. Hard rockers Kiss may have influenced this. But the heavy metal genre eventually died - the end came partially when Guns n'Roses emerged, refusing to accept the idea that they spray their hair similarly. They signalled a return to rootsier rock, while bands like Metallica and Megadeth were opening the doors for a faster, precision sound some called speedmetal or thrash. In actuality, that sub-genre had been invented long before by a band called Motorhead whose signature song "The Ace of Spades" demonstrates the notion, but few successful bands carried on the style until Metallica led "metal" into something else. To put the final nail in the coffin, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the "grunge" acts of Seattle overtook the charts. Deep Purple, Aerosmith, AC/DC and Rush are examples of bands that got lumped in with the movement though they were different animals from the start. They carry on undeterred today, as do Black Sabbath and Ozzy, long after the rise and gurgling death of 80s metal. Today, hair metal bands are relegated to the dinosaur circuit, playing venues like theme parks in festivals. One band, Great White, which was at their peak well known for covering Ian Hunter's "Once bitten, Twice Shy" made tragic headlines recently at a "comeback" gig in Rhode Island by accidentally setting off flaming pyrotechnic cannisters indoors, sparking a massive blaze which killed more then 50 people including the band's guitarist.
Jake is a huge fan of garage and punk rock, and lead singer for The Vonghouls who are playing Saturday, July (2005) 9 at Olive's in Nyack, NY and also appearing at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ on Saturday August 27 on an all-garage bill with The Downbeat 5 and the Misteriosos. See the Vonghouls website for details. To hear historically important garage rock music on demand NOW, go to http://vonghouls.com/gogo and Go Go garage!