Sounds of the 60s: Garage Bands and Rock, Part 17
by Jack B. Stephens
Welcome to Part 17 of my exploration of the many bands from the 1960s. Eventually, we will continue this series into the decades that follow; however, as you can probably tell there are still many more groups to cover. The 1960s was a decade packed with the formation of new bands. This was partially due to the rise of The Beatles and the British Invasion, but also due to the birth of rock and roll music in the 1950s. It seems that any group of people who had a dream to form a band did. Many of these bands were very successful from the beginning. Some of them were not a success at the time, but were later rediscovered for their influence and contribution to the ever-growing history of rock and roll.
The Box Tops
From Memphis, Tennessee began in 1967 as The Devilles. The band shortly changed their name due to another band having the same name. They blue-eyed soul group combined elements of both pop and soul music. The original lineup included Alex Chilton, Danny Smythe, John Evans, Bill Cunningham and Gary Talley. They played at clubs in the area before signing with Bell Records. Their first release “The Letter” was a huge international hit reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967 where it remained for a month. The song received two Grammy nominations and was Billboard’s number one song of the year. The next release “Neon Rainbow” the same year was not as quite as successful; however, it reached number 24 on the Hot 100. “Cry Like A Baby” then reached number 2 on the Hot 100 in 1968. The same year included the releases of “I Met Her In Church” reaching number 26 and “Choo-Choo Train” peaking at number 37. “Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March was released later the same year reaching number 28. It was a controversial song as well and was banned from several radio stations because of its theme of prostitution. “Soul Deep” followed in 1969 peaking at number 18 on the Hot 100. The bands last single before calling it quits in 1970 was “Turn On A Dream” which reached number 58.
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Originally known as the Torquays, formed in West Germany in 1964 by five American GIs stationed there. The band was unconventional, experimental and controversial in their music and appearance. They relied on hypnotic rhythms, sound manipulation along with shrill vocals, a driving beat and feedback. They also used a six-string banjo which was quite a surprise to their listeners and audiences. They are often known as an influence on avant-garde and punk rock. Their appearance was even more shocking and controversial to audiences. They dressed as Catholic monks with black habits, cinctures around their necks and hair showing shaved tonsures. The original lineup consisted of Gary Burger, Larry Clark, Eddie Shaw, Dave Day and Roger Johnston. Much of this controversy led to the band never really reaching the United States. Their first single in 1964 “There She Walks” while still known as The Torquays was self financed. Their second single after changing their name “Complication” was released in 1965. Although the song and additional singles released in 1966 and 1967 only achieved limited success at the time, they have since become highly regarded by critics and music enthusiasts. Other releases include “Cuckoo”, “Love Can Tame the Wild”, the B side of their first single “Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice”, “I Hate You” and “Monk Chant”.
Formed in San Francisco during 1966. They were unique in that all five members were lead singers, all were part of the writing plus they had the ability to use elements from a variety of different genres of music. These included folk, blues, country and jazz combined with rock and psychedelic music. The band used a guitar form known as “crosstalk” which refers to all three guitarists playing against each other as well as playing leads at various parts of their recordings. The original lineup included Peter Lewis, Jerry Miller, Bob Mosley, Skip Spence and Don Stevenson. Although the band had all it took to become a major success, they were somewhat doomed from the beginning partially due to disputes with their first manager Matthew Katz. He had insisted that they sign over ownership of their name which they did thinking that it would not result in any issues. However, it turned out to be a huge mistake in the end. Basically, the story of Moby Grape is one where everything that could possibly go wrong did. However, they remain an influential and highly acclaimed band. They appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival; however, they were somewhat kept in the background. The band released several singles; however, only one cracked the Billboard Hot 100. Five singles were released all at once as a promotion that failed. This was an unheard of practice at the time. These included “Changes”, “Sitting By The Window”, “8:05”, “Hey Grandma” and “Omaha”. “Omaha” was the only one to crack the Hot 100 reaching number 88 and is considered by many to be their best single. It was listed in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time”. The band continued to record releasing “Can’t Be So Bad” in 1968 along with two singles in 1969 including “If You Can’t Learn From My Mistakes” and “Ooh Mama Ooh”. With the departure of Bob Mosley along with continued bad luck, the band released their final album “Truly Fine Citizen” and disbanded in late 1969. However, there were several attempts to reunite.
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formed in Los Angeles in 1966. They are known for their diversity of music styles including rock, folk, blues, jazz and country. They are often credited as being one of the bands that contributed to what we now know as World Music. Studio experimentation was another of their many interests. Their music always featured a wide array of stringed instruments. The original members of the band were David Lindley, Solomon Feldthouse, Chris Darrow, Chester Crill and John Vidican. There was actually another band by the same name in Britain. They began by playing live in clubs and were picked up by Epic Records. Their first single “Please” from the first album “Side Trips” was released in late 1966. Other notable tracks from this album include “Egyptian Gardens” and “Pulsating Dream”. By the time their second single “Nobody” came out in 1967, there were already some changes in the original lineup. Their third album “Incredible! Kaleidoscope” released in 1968 was their only one to chart. It included the song “Seven-Ate Sweet” which was an instrumental. The album “Bernice” in 1969 was their last before breaking up. Their last new songs were “Brother Mary” and “Mickey’s Tune” from the “Zabriskie Point” soundtrack.
As you have probably noticed by now, the majority of the bands from the 1960s had the common quality of experimentation. Each band tried to have their own unique sound and strove to evolve the music known as rock and roll. Each wanted to make their own mark on its history. While some people of the time period simply called it all noise that would eventually go away, many people particularly the young couldn’t wait until the next sound, the next band and the next new release. This is a trait that has always been a theme of rock and roll music. As I have said before, it was never meant to be a style of music that was meant to be stagnant. Please continue to offer suggestions for other bands you want to see covered and keep the comments coming!
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Sources and Further Information:
During their brief lifespan, the Box Tops earned a reputation as one of the best blue-eyed soul groups of the ’60s, even if their recorded legacy wasn’t as large or consistent as, say, the Righteous Brothers or the Rascals.
The Box Tops’ early beginnings were as a five man band from Memphis Tennessee called Ronnie And The DeVilles. The group consisted of Alex Chilton (lead vocal, guitar) Bill Cunningham (bass, keyboards, background vocal) John Evans (guitar, keyboards, background vocals) Danny Smythe (drums) and Gary Talley (lead guitar, background vocal).
The Box Tops are an American rock band, formed in Memphis in 1967. They are best known for the hits ” The Letter”, ” Cry Like a Baby”, and “Soul Deep” and are considered a major blue-eyed soul group of the period.
Note: In a crazy and sad coincidence, Monks singer/guitarist Gary Burger died just two days after we wrote this post. You can read more about his passing here.] We’re gonna take a little trip in the Weird Band Wayback Machine this week. It’s 1965 and we’re in Hamburg, Germany.
The Monks, referred to by the name monks on record sleeves, were an American garage rock band formed in Gelnhausen, West Germany in 1964. Assembled by five American GIs stationed in the country, the group grew tired of the traditional format of rock, which motivated them to forge a highly experimental style characterized by an emphasis on hypnotic rhythms that minimized the role of melody, augmented by the use of sound manipulation techniques.
Find The Monks bio, music, credits, awards, & streaming links on AllMusic – A garage band formed by American G.I.s in Germany…
The Monks- the story of American G.I.’s in Germany making rock and roll in the ’60’s
Find album reviews, stream songs, credits and award information for Moby Grape – Moby Grape on AllMusic – 1967 – Moby Grape’s career was a long, sad series of…
Moby Grape is an American rock group from the 1960s, known for having all five members contribute to singing and songwriting and that collectively merged elements of folk music, blues, country, and jazz, together with rock and psychedelic music. They were one of the few groups of which all members were lead vocalists.
Aside from critics and fans, few today have heard of the ’60s rock band Moby Grape. Why? Bad advice, bad breaks and bad behavior are three short reasons. Now that a label is reissuing the group’s first five records, other old problems still stand in the way.
(Image: © Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images) April 1968, somewhere in New York City. Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence, mercurial genius of San Francisco five-piece Moby Grape, has flipped. Sweating like a madman, his hair is tufted at wild angles, his once-trim beard looks for all the world like it’s just been savaged by a hatchet.
Find Kaleidoscope bio, music, credits, awards, & streaming links on AllMusic – Innovative American group of the 1960s whose…
Kaleidoscope (originally The Kaleidoscope) was an American psychedelic folk and ethnic band who recorded 4 albums and several singles for Epic Records between 1966 and 1970. The band membership included David Lindley, who later released numerous solo albums and won additional renown as a multi-instrumentalist session musician.
Around 1964 you and David started a band called The Dry City Scat Band. There was also Richard Greene on the fiddle, Pete Madlem on banjo and Steve Cahill on vocals and guitar. You released an EP called Sounds. Can you tell me the story about this recording…