This week we explore some of the many bands that had limited success at the time, but many years later enjoyed greater recognition for their importance and influence on rock and roll music. Like most garage bands they played nightclubs, high school dances and the like. Local radio was an important way to get their sound out to a larger audience. It is interesting to note that today this would be difficult since only a limited number of radio stations are truly local. They instead receive their programming from national radio chains such as IHeart Radio, Clear Channel and similar organizations.
from Tacoma, Washington initially formed in 1960, but the lineup went through many changes before truly beginning in 1964. The band played in local clubs and achieved popularity in the Northwest while achieving little national success. Their sound is described as loud, rough, aggressive and frantic. There was considerable controversy surrounding both their sound and lyrics. However, their brand of rock and roll remains a standard for true garage rock of the 60s and a huge inspiration for punk rock.
“The Witch” released in 1965 became a huge hit in the Northwest; however, although it was number 1 in sales in the area some radio stations thought it was too far out.
The releases of “Psycho” and “Strychnine” soon followed.
The original band disbanded in 1968 after the release of their final single “Anyway the Wind Blows” in 1967.
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Another hard rocking band, The Leaves formed in San Fernando Valley, California in 1964. They were fraternity brothers who taught themselves how to play and formed a group. They began playing at parties, the school gym and clubs.
Their first release “Too Many People” was a hit in Los Angeles in 1965.
Their version of “Hey Joe” was the earliest release of the song that was covered by many other bands. The Leaves are best known for this song which was actually released three times before becoming a hit in 1966 making number 1 on the Los Angeles charts and peaking at number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100.
However, the group would not have this kind of success on the national charts again despite other releases such as “Get Out of My Life Woman” in 1966. Bass player and founder Jim Pons left the group to join The Turtles in 1967 which led to their breakup the same year.
The Knickerbockers from Bergenfield, New Jersey began as a frat rock band in 1962. Although they had some success, they have often been criticized for copying the music styles of other bands such as The Beatles.
Their biggest hit “Lies” released in 1965 sounds so much like The Beatles that it is often mistaken for being one of their songs. This was actually a big reason why the song was so successful and reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The next single “One Track Mind” was not as successful mainly due to a lack of distribution and promotion by Challenge Records. It reached number 46 on the US Chart.
For the same reason, their next release “High on Love” only cracked the Billboard Hot 100 at number 94.
This continued decline led to members of the band leaving resulting in several lineups and an eventual final breakup by 1972. Jimmy Howes of WGHT radio did an interesting interview with drummer Jimmy Walker that is worth listening to.
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were a group of teenagers who formed in South Bend, Indiana in 1962. The band was part of both the surf and frat rock movement. They are notable in that they were one of the last pure American rock bands before the British Invasion took over the charts.
Their hit “California Sun” released in 1964 reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song featured a powerful drum intro along with their signature guitar and organ riffs.
The Rivieras released other less successful singles in 1964 such as “Little Donna” reaching number 93 on the US Chart and “Rockin’ Robin” peaking at number 96. With the changing music scene along with members of the band leaving, the band broke up in 1966.
Some consider the groups we have covered this week as one hit wonders. However, there is something about this term that seems to reduce the significance of these bands. Having several top charting hits doesn’t really indicate what kind of influence a band has. That includes not only the impact they had on other bands, but also the affect they have on the people who listen to these classics both now and then or the people who went to see them perform. They are a part of that strong foundation that rock and roll music is built on.
by Jack B. Stephens
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