In a year studded with all-out rock masterpieces – Aftermath, Pet Sounds, Revolver, Blonde on Blonde – a grungier offshoot of the genre was also reaching an apex.
Garage rock, which has existed since rock & roll’s advent, and will probably always exist, had exactly one year when it was a national force. Meaning, when you could be a pimply virgin living under your parents’ roof, team up with some of your friends and force your way into a trend that had hit-making ramifications.
The Shadows of Knight, from Chicago, helped get everything rolling with their cover of Them’s “Gloria,” a hit at the end of 1965. Hell, even today, if you hear a version of the song on the radio, it’s probably that spiky Knights version, which led to the band cutting their first long-player in March 1966, a shot heard round the carport world.
The album, of course, was named for its big hit, and Gloria was as apt a garage-rock tutorial as you’ll find. What you most wanted to do was assimilate the sonic vocabularies of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, the latter especially. Which seems ironic, considering that American teens and college kids couldn’t hope to play at the level of a Jeff Beck, but when the chops weren’t there, the attitude was. Snotty, strangely charming, earnest and sounding not as old as they wished themselves to be, bands like the Shadows of Knight had themselves a raucous national prom of sorts.
But pretty much just for a year. Psychedelia and hippie-dom killed off the toughs, you might say, and though garage-band careers could persist into 1967 and beyond, there was nothing like that kind of initial fervor of 1966. So back the car out and grab your ax: Here are 10 other great garage LPs.
The Sonics, Boom
Seattle’s proto-punkers were the loudest of the garage bands, and those most in thrall to distortion – to an almost erotic degree. The lyrics, too, could get a bit Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, so you wonder just what the hell they were reading. The version of Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch-Hike” out bad-asses the Stones’, whereas band original “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is like the rock & roll version of a horrifying B film featuring a cameo from the Devil himself.
The Barbarians, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl
Ah, a garage band from the brine-clotted peninsula of Cape Cod, complete with a drummer, in Victor “Moulty” Molton, who had a hook for a hand – a misfortune the band cashed in on by having him sing a ballad of his real-life left hand’s downfall. The title track of their debut was a hilarious take on gender which would horrify the Internet-scouring militants of today ever in search of things to be offended by, but better still is “Linguica,” a greasy slab of surf-infused bonhomie that has some real instrumental aplomb to it.