If you’ve never heard ‘60s garage rock maniacs, the Swamp Rats, you’re in for a treat. Though the teenage outfit almost exclusively dealt with material that was first recorded by others, this was no mere “cover band.”
The Swamp Rats were from the small Pennsylvania town of McKeesport, which is close to Pittsburgh. The origins of the group are complex, but I’ll do my best to explain. The basic gist of it is that they evolved from the ashes of another area band, the Fantastic Dee-Jays.
Bob Hocko, the drummer/vocalist of the Fantastic Deejays, would go on to sing lead on most of the Swamp Rats material, though he wasn’t an original member. The first Swamp Rats single was recorded as a trio—the guitarist from the Fantastic Deejays and two guys Hocko was in another band with before he quit to join the Fantastic Deejays. See, I told you it was convoluted.
Covers of “Louie Louie” and “Hey Joe” were released on a 45 in 1966 by regional label, St. Clair Records. Yes, these are two of the most frequently recorded songs by ‘60s garage bands, but boy, are they stellar takes. The Swamp Rats’ version of “Louie Louie” is a scorcher, similar to the Sonics’ interpretation—which came out the previous year as a B-side—but even wilder. Over raw, slashing guitar and a loose rhythm (ala the famous Kingsmen recording of the song), initial vocalist Dave Gannon sings the verses in a manner best described as “teenage cool.” He then ratchets up the intensity for the choruses, screaming like a lunatic a few times, for good measure. It’s really something.
Much more after the jump…