10 Wild LPs From Garage Rock’s Greatest Year
Count Five, Psychotic Reaction
If you know this San Jose band, you probably know the essay Lester Bangs wrote positively drooling over this album, which got him so excited he made up a bunch more Count Five LPs that didn’t exist. The Count Five – who wore Bela Lugosi-style Dracula capes – had a touch of the Zombies about them, and some similar melodic and rhythmic panache, albeit with less flexible grooves. This record is catchy as hell, with a couple Who covers, but more highlights in terms of originals. The hit title track borrows the rave-up gambit from the Yardbirds’ “I’m a Man” – a pretty bold pilfer – but opener “Double-Decker Bus” is the real rabble-rouser. Again, the American guitar-wielding teens of 1966 loved British stuff. And the reconceptualization of everyday British imagery could be pretty heady in its new seedy American digs. Don that cape!
The Remains, Don’t Look Back
Some Boston boys here, and Boston boys who could play. Barry Tashian and the Remains were musicians first, garage-band dudes second. The title track of this album is to this band as “Paranoid Android” was to Radiohead. Multi-part, with the coolest vamp groove you will ever hear, with percussive guitar effects and Tashian’s voice skipping over the beat, it is one of the great rock & roll cuts of its decade. These guys opened for the Beatles on the latter’s final American tour, and with Tashian originals like “Thank You” and “Time of Day,” you can see how the two bands would be melodic ensembles in arms, of a sort.
The Blues Magoos, Psychedelic Lollipop
No garage band, back then or since, ever came up with a better, more saucily absurd album title than Psychedelic Lollipop. These Bronx kids had a hit with “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet,” a stompy organ-based number, but they were perhaps the most versatile of the first-wave garage groups. Their cover of James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy” is tighter than tight, whereas the Magoos’ take on “Tobacco Road” foreshadows metal’s birth more convincingly than anything else in the garage canon. The wig-out section even has a touch of My Bloody Valentine about it.
The Clefs of Lavender Hill, Stop! Get a Ticket
OK, so this sister and brother helmed outfit from Florida didn’t have an album, but there’s this compilation of their 1966 recordings, and it is a true garage cornucopia. The name is, of course, deliberately English-inflected, but that kind of invention – or reinvention – is what garage glory is all about. Maybe you can’t be everything you wish to be, but you can pretend and push, and doing so will get you at least part of the way there. The title track is a sophisticated outlay of melodies that are almost floral in their overtones, with a clever bass-drum part where a chorus would usually pop in. “First Tell Me Why” is akin to a garage analogue of Schubert’s “Winter Journey” in the Floridian sunshine, and “One More Time,” which might be the best thing a garage band ever did, is a massive, bass-powered, hand-clappy song with a giant beat that makes you want to lower your shoulder and power through a wall. In a good way.