“The term ‘garage band’ literally means the space where many bands rehearsed. LSD and marijuana played a big part in the music with widespread use among America’s youth across its colleges and cities. This led to some of the wildest and most demented records ever put to vinyl as sounds became….”
Article by John Rose, Pop/Collage Artist and Frontman for Pablo Alto. Featured Artwork by John Rose.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER
Psychedelia is back!…in fact it’s never really gone away as each new generation turns on and freaks out to a new revamped version of those groovy 60’s sounds. It all started for me after taping an hour long Psychedelic radio show special in the late 80’s (possibly on Radio 1) which I still have featuring wonderful psych gems from The Seeds (Satisfy You), The Chocolate Watchband (No Way Out), Nobody’s Children (Good Times), The Bees (Voices Green And Purple) and the fuzzed up brilliance of The Third Bardo’s ‘Five Years Ahead Of My Time’.
There was also a strange track by Dave Diamond & The Higher Elevation called Diamond Mine with a weird voice over and sinister lyrics and howls (the six foot narcissus and peanut butter fudge angel of love) and a cool, hypnotic song called ‘Cellophane Wrapped Woman’ which will always remain a mystery. I’ve never heard it since and have no idea who its by. Anyway, my mind was suitably expanded and I rushed out to get the Best Of The Pebbles on yellow marble vinyl, a great place to start.
Travelling back in time though, the story does of course begin with the impact of the British Invasion in the early 60’s with Beatlemania, The Stones, The Who and The Kinks touring America and helping start a new youth culture that influenced countless bands to form like The 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, Electric Prunes, Count Five, Shadows Of Knight and the wonderfully named The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band to name a few. The 60’s exploded into life as garage rock and psychedelia bands sprung up just about everywhere with teenagers realising all they needed was a few guitars, amps and the attitude to start up and make some noise.
The term ‘garage band’ literally means the space where many bands rehearsed. LSD and marijuana played a big part in the music with widespread use among America’s youth across its colleges and cities. This led to some of the wildest and most demented records ever put to vinyl as sounds became more discordant and experimental and lyrics began to deal with dreams, nightmares and psychedelic trips.
This new counter culture took many forms with light shows, poster designs, record sleeves and clothes all reflecting the psychedelic experience and a new found freedom and experimentation. Light shows started in San Francisco with film slides and oils on transparent dishes through which light was projected onto a wall. Strobe-lights were also first widely used around this time. Psychedelic sleeve art and rock posters attempted to translate these acid visions into art with vivid use of colours, trippy letters, pop-art and montage. Festivals such as The Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in 1967 and The Monterey Pop Festival attracted huge crowds and coined the term ‘The Summer of love’.
The psychedelic era revolutionised rock and pop music pushing back the boundaries of what could be achieved beyond the traditional 3 minute song format. Instruments such as sitars, theremins, flutes and the vox organ sound were added to the mix along with electronic devices such as fuzz pedals, wah wah, phasers and studio effects such as backwards guitar. The Fuzzbox developed in the mid 60’s helped to mould the sound which was often crudely recorded and primitive with savage guitar fuzz, snarling vocals and farfisa organ which came to define the genre.
Lyrics often dealt with the problems of teenage life, social restrictions, radical politics, protest and the Vietnam war. The British approach to psychedelia was more whimsical and surreal with a cheery domesticity, a fascination with childhood themes and lost age of innocence, along with a healthy dose of Lewis Carroll, Wind In The Willows, cups of tea and bicycles….epitomised by the wonderful surreal lyrics of Syd Barrett,“I’ve got a bike. You can ride it if you like, it’s got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good. I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it...You’re the kind of girl that fits in with my world, I’ll give you anything, everything if you want things”. Also UK Freakbeat incorporated psychedelic rock sounds with early to mid 60’s R&B with bands like Wimple Winch, The Creation and The Action.
There have been many garage rock and psychedelia revivals over the years, from the 80’s Paisley Underground with bands like The Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Opal along with garage rock bands like The Cramps, The Fuzztones, The Chesterfield Kings, The Tell-Tale Hearts and The Cynics. In the UK bands had their own movement like The Milkshakes featuring the ever prolific Billy Childish, The Prisoners, The Spacemen 3, The Soft Boys and the pop psych of The Teardrop Explodes.
There was also the feedback squall of The Jesus And Mary Chain on Psychocandy and early Primal Scream chanelling The Byrds 12 string jangle. In the mid 90’s The Elephant 6 label in Athens, Georgia produced some great psychedelic bands like The Lilys, The Olivia Tremor Control, Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel and other memorable 90’s bands included Man Or Astroman, The Mono Men, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Flaming Lips – while in the UK we had The Stairs, Clinic and Mr Rays Wig World all from Liverpool.
Back to today’s garage psychedelia revival led by mighty San Francisco legend Ty Segall and his phenomenal creative output of brilliant raw and powerful garage rock records, shows, and guest appearances in many different guises and various underground bands. Equally great are Thee Oh Sees who I was lucky enough to see at this years End Of The Road Festival, another prolific band who keep on producing amazing garage psych albums and have been going since way back in 1997.
Many of today’s garage psych bands seem to either take on the punchy, reverb-drenched attack of The 13th Floor Elevators or Spacemen 3 style drone but there’s plenty of cool psychedelic bands around now including Hookworms from Leeds, Os Noctambulos and Dusty Mush from Paris, Goat from Sweden, the memorably named King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard from Melbourne, Thee MVP’s from London, Night Beats from Seattle and the Feels from LA to name a few.
2016 has witnessed some exciting new garage psych releases and memorable gigs. The genre seems pretty healthy and thriving at the moment.
FESTIVALS AND GIGS
Psychedelic Music Festivals are all the rage with the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia in September, Levitation in May (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and Bristol Psych Fest in July organised by Alex Studer who runs the excellent independent record label and shop Stolen Body Records specialising in Psych, Garage Rock and the freakier side of music. Definitely worth checking out. He also fronts Yo No Se, a 3 piece grunge/ space / psych band.
All this brings us seamlessly to our forthcoming Garage Psych gig at The Booth Hall on Saturday 25th November featuring 2 exciting live bands. From Redditch, The Hungry Ghosts, who play a mix of garage rock and slaugterhouse blues and Ledbury’s very own garage psych legends Pablo Alto. DJ’s Sam and Siobhan will be spinning some cool psych tunes and in true authenticity there will be psychedelic oil projections…Don’t miss it!
My top 10 Garage / Psych releases this year (so far) :
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
Os Noctambulos – Stranger
Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation
Moths And Locusts – Helios Rising
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers
The Useless Eaters – Relaxing Death
Ed Penfold – Caulkhead
(Joint 10th) Toy – Clear Shot / Feels – Feels
Top 5 Books of the Era (in no particular order)
Fuzz, Acid and Flowers: Comprehensive Guide to American Garage, Psychedelic and Hippie Rock (1964-75)
Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and The Book of Love
Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound
Syd Barret: A Very Irregular Head
Tapestry of Delights by Vernon Joynson
Catch Pablo Alto and The Hungry Ghosts hosted by The Underground Revolution at The Booth Hall Hereford on November 25th. Doors 7:30pm and show starts 8:30.
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