Fricke's Picks: The Monks


The silver lining around the passing on January 10th of banjo player Dave Day Havlicek of Sixties extreme-beat band the Monks (he died of heart failure at age sixty-six) is that he lived long enough to see the group ascend to its rightful place on garage-rock Olympus. Five ex-GIs based in Germany, the Monks dressed like Franciscans (complete with the clerical haircuts) and played a severe rock descended from the Star Club-era Beatles but shorn of the rockabilly and Motown influences and standard pop-song grammar ("Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice," "Oh, How to Do Now"), with Day's rapid-fire banjo chords sounding like he was strumming bamboo. At once ultraprimitive and the future of rock two decades hence, the Monks were post-punk before there were punks, an achievement nailed on the group's sole album, 1966's Black Monk Time (of the various reissues, get one with the non-LP singles). Deeper listening: Demo Tapes 1965 (Play Loud!), a one-day session even more rude and brittle than the '66 album, and Silver Monk Time: A Tribute to the Monks (Play Loud!), two CDs of homage by assorted Monks spawn, including the Fall, the Gossip, Jon Spencer and a combo called the Havletones — with Day himself pummeling that banjo.

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David Fricke

Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).

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