‘Garage Rock’ and ‘Garage Bands’ can be somewhat difficult to define. At first thought, it seems it would apply to any band that began practicing and playing in a garage, but that covers a very wide range of groups. The Beatles and the British Invasion certainly spurred many to purchase guitars, drums, and the like to somewhat copy these bands that took over the charts. However, the true definition of Garage Rock often applies to a somewhat different sound that was unpolished, simplistic, raw and typically consisted of a basic chord style played on guitars, organs, drums and other instruments.

Many groups and artists actually began before the British Invasion took hold. The genre is actually a predecessor of Punk Rock that followed in the early 1970s. It also heavily influenced psychedelic, new wave, and hard rock. It would be very difficult to give the many bands and artists who fit into the Garage Rock genre proper credit for the influence they had on the history of rock and roll music in one short article so this is only the first part of my coverage on the topic. We will begin investigating some of these groups and artists that comprise this broad area of rock and roll music.

The Kingsmen

The Kingsmen created quite a stir in 1963 with their song “Louie, Louie” which is known by many as the party anthem of all time. The song was actually banned from the radio for many years because some considered the lyrics as inappropriate and sexually suggestive. Despite that, the song reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for six weeks. The group hailed from Portland, Oregon and originally began in 1959.

The Bobby Fuller Four

The Bobby Fuller Four began in 1962 and were from El Paso, Texas. The song “I Fought the Law” was released in 1965 and was a cover of a song recorded by The Crickets in 1959 after the death of Buddy Holly. The version of the song by The Bobby Fuller Four reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 and is considered one the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. It was also named of the 500 songs that shaped rock by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Troggs

The Troggs were a garage band that formed in the United Kingdom in 1964. They had several hits in the United States and other countries. Their biggest hits were “Wild Thing” which reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 and “Love Is All Around” which reached number 7 on the same chart in 1967.

The Standells

The Standells formed in Los Angeles in 1962. The group went through many changes in both members and appearance. Originally, the band had a clean-cut image and played mainly cover songs in local clubs. By 1965, The Standells now with a much different appearance found success after signing with Capitol Records and teaming up with Ed Cobb as their producer. Cobb wrote their most famous song “Dirty Water” which reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June of 1966. Some consider this to be the first punk song ever released.

Question Mark and the Mysterians

Question Mark and the Mysterians originally formed in 1962. The members of the group were of Mexican descent and were children of migrant workers from Texas who later settled in Saginaw, Michigan. The band found success with a number one single in October 1966 with the iconic song “96 Tears”.

The Electric Prunes

The Electric Prunes formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and were signed to Reprise Records in 1966. The group had a heavy influence on later psychedelic and electronic rock. Their biggest hit was “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” which peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966. The song is often referred to as “psychedelic garage rock” due to its distorted guitars, reverb, vocals and overall sound.

Garage rock and the bands who played it were influenced by the Beatles and the British Invasion, but the genre actually began to form prior to the invasion. The sound was much more raw and unpolished. The basic chords combined with distorted guitars and other sound effects had a large influence on music that was yet to come, such as punk rock, hard rock, and psychedelic rock. The music was not just raw, it also carried an attitude that later punk rock bands would build upon. Since many groups and artists were part of the Garage Rock sound, we will continue with more coverage of this truly influential genre.

Continued at Garage Rock Part 2

-Jack Stephens

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