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.
I have some experience with record collecting, mostly as a seller. I’ve yet to make a really big sale, though a White Stripes single I bought back in the day for two bucks once sold for $350, which paid my rent that month. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve purchased my fair share of rare records, I just could never fathom paying thousands of dollars for a slab of vinyl. But that’s exactly what record collectors do all the time. Take for example this seldom seen 1968 Rolling Stones 45, which recently sold for $17,100.
That’s right: $17,100.
Records by bands considerably less famous than the Stones also have value to collectors, especially those by virtually unknown groups that produced extraordinary music, but didn’t release much material. That, combined with the scarcity of the records, equals big bucks in the marketplace. Snotty garage rock from the ‘60s is a genre that causes collectors to drool with delight, and one such record, a 45 by the Albuquerque band the Chob (a group so obscure there are no known photos of them), is among the holy grails.
Initially going by the name the Choab, the band released a 7-inch under that moniker before shortening it and adding a long vowel accent mark. The Chob would release just a single 45, one that’s now treasured by fans of ‘60s garage punk. Alec Palao of Ace Records explains why (as well as the story behind their mysterious nom de plume) in the liner notes of the compilation, Uptight Tonight: The Ultimate ‘60s Garage Collection.
Two minutes and twenty-five seconds of pure punk genius, ‘We’re Pretty Quick’ emerged from the fertile minds of five Albuquerque, New Mexico teenagers - Dick Hanson (vocals) Quinton Miller (guitar), Robbie Crnich (organ), Keith Bradshaw (bass) and Dave Elledge (drums). This song of songs appeared as a small pressing in April 1967 on Southwest rock maven Lindy Blaskey’s Lavette label, barely sold at the time, and is now considered a prize rarity.
For all its novelty – a breathtakingly frantic pace and one of the more bizarrely entertaining lyrics of the era – the arrangement of ‘We’re Pretty Quick’ bore a couple of classic hallmarks of the garage band style. For instance, the guitar break’s lengthy, unmodulating crescendo was something commonly adapted by many combos of the time from the Yardbirds’ influential and much-covered ‘Mister You’re A Better Man Than I.’ And the sound at the very end of the record is that of organist Crnich switching off his Farfisa whilst holding down a note, providing the odd high pitched sucking sound that can be heard at the climax of several garage discs. Sadly, that was the last we were to hear from this inspired aggregation. Oh, and what is a chob, you ask? Apparently the band’s codeword for a pimple.
It isn’t known for certain how many copies Lavette pressed of “We’re Pretty Quick” b/w “Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” (a competent Young Rascals cover), but Alec believes it is likely in the 200-300 copies range, definitely not more than 500. I’m inclined to lean towards the lower number, as it doesn’t turn up for sale all that often. I searched the web, including popular auction sites, for a copy currently being offered for sale, and was able to find just one.
Before you say, “That’s crazy!” consider that in 2009 a less than stellar copy sold for $435, and two years later a “mint-minus” specimen went for nearly $2,000. The Amazon seller lists their Chob 45 as being in similar, near-perfect condition, and as rare records such as this certainly aren’t going down in value, it’s conceivable it could sell at auction for more than four grand.
In any event, “We’re Pretty Quick” is a prime example of 1960s American garage rock, and you can always pick it up on the aforementioned Uptight Tonight compilation. Alec Palao tells me the song’s inclusion is the only instance of it being officially licensed for re-release (it’s been bootlegged many times). If you really must have the original artifact, and $4,200 seems a little steep, you can always contact the seller in regards to the price. Maybe you can even get a break.
But probably not!
Special thanks to Alec Palao for his assistance with this post.
San Francisco’s The Mummies were kings of the 1990s garage punk “budget rock” scene. Known for their outrageous and insulting stage antics, the group, clad in tattered bandages, straight tore shit up until their demise on New Year’s Day of 1992—as the video at the end of this post will attest. Since their break-up, the group has reunited several times, and are currently scheduled to headline The Burger Boogaloo festival, hosted by John Waters, the weekend of July 4th, this year… Maybe…
You see, The Mummies recently posted a punk-as-fuck open letter to Burger Records, which had a lot of ticket-holders on the Internet scratching their heads.
Click on image for larger version.
Now, we’re in no position to second-guess The Mummies’ intentions or veracity of their letter—so we’re not going to speculate one way or another whether or not the group intends to ditch their Burger Booglaoo gig.
We will, however, point out what many fans of the group already know: that the Burger Records “fuck off” letter seems to be an homage to an earlier “fuck off” letter sent to Sub Pop Records back in 1993.
The Mummies` reply to Sub Pop`s offer to include them on their monthly singles collection was a fake Sub Pop Singles Club bootleg self-release with this “Fuck You” note, back in the early `90s, when Sub Pop had become a major player in the record business, signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and many more grunge bands from Seattle.
The Mummies put out their own “bootleg” Sub Pop “Singles Club” 45, with that letter included, as the ultimate two middle fingers in the air punk gesture.
Released in response to Sub-Pop requesting the band appear on a Singles Club release. The record’s sleeve copies the layout of a Singles Club single, but it is not a Sub-Pop release. The labels on both sides of the record are blank.
Could this even happen in 2015 without serious legal repercussions?
This gesture may have itself been inspired by Sub Pop’s own infamous “Dear Loser” rejection letter:
Click on image for larger version.
You see, in the early ‘90s EVERYONE was an asshole.
Let’s hope The Mummies reconsider their stance against the Burger Boogaloo “love in” before July 4th…
Because the world needs a little of what you’ll see after the jump…
Monday, 29th May 1967: Four young groups—hopeful, enthusiastic and slightly out of tune—thrash it out at a “Band Festival” in the Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, Croton-on-Hudson. NY. Their classmates dance. Indulgent parents look on. The bands roll through the songs they’ve rehearsed during nights after school—when they listened to vinyl, picked up chords, learnt how to play covers of songs by The Doors, Santana, Bob Lind and Wilson Pickett.
Still checking the fingering’s right.
“We sucked pretty bad on that one,” says the young, cherubic lead-singer of The Bad Habits after belting out a song called “Grandma’s Disco.” It’s raw, jangly, almost punky—and certainly didn’t suck as much as they thought.
The other bands stick to tried and tested covers—The Active Ingredients do a catchier version of Lind’s “Cheryl’s Going Home” and a decent “Light My Fire.” Tradewinds rock, The Hairy Things roll.
The band line-ups shift and mix, with a young Stephen King lookalike singing most of the songs. He’s sincere, plaintive, full of that earnestness only youth can endure. All the while the kids happily dance on.
The importance of being earnest.
I wonder what happened to these bands, these young singers and musicians? Mike Turturro, a member of The Active Ingredients filled in some of the details with 60’s Garage Bands site:
In the spring of 1966, my friend Tim called me to play drums in a group he hoped to start. We practiced the next weekend at his house outside on his patio. As I recall, we consisted of Pete on guitar, Tim on bass, and also on a Hammond organ, another person on guitar (I don’t know his name; he was there only once or twice) and me on drums. We had a lot of fun and played a lot of Rascals tunes.
We continued to practice at Tim’s house for a few more weeks. The unnamed guitar player was replaced by Bruce from Ossining, NY and that made our band, but we still had no name.
One night after practice Tim went home with bad headache, reached for a bottle of aspirin from his medicine cabinet and saw the words “active ingredients” written on the bottle, and that’s how we became The Active Ingredients….
About a year after we got together as a band, we began practicing every week in my basement on Thursday nights and playing out here and there. One night at practice Tim told us that on Memorial Day weekend (1967) there would be a Band Festival in our town, Croton-On-Hudson and we decided to play in it. My good friend John’s father was producer for one of the major news networks at the time. John told us there would be a big surprise at the band festival, but no matter how we pestered him to tell us what the surprise would be, John would not say, other than to tell us to wait and see!
We continued to practice for the show and came up with a song list that included new songs that were popular at that time: ‘Midnight Hour’, ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Catch The Wind’. And as mentioned, we liked to play songs by The Young Rascals.
Getting in the groove.
Memorial Weekend finally came and we were ready to play. By the time we had arrived to set up at the school where the Band Festival would be held, word was out that a major TV network had a film crew on hand to film the show. There was no lack of equipment to use that night as every band brought what they had and we all shared what we could. The Active Ingredients had the unfortunate luck to go on first but we did have fun and we thought we played pretty well. The Hairy Things were by far the hit of the Festival and they were really a great band! And what great night!
Two or three minutes of nearly thirty minute film footage of the Band Festival was shown on national television during the next week on slow news nights. The newscasters would note that instead of young kids playing after school sports, they were forming rock band in their garages and basements, and remarking how times had changed!
The Active Ingredients went on to play that summer at parties and dances but September was coming fast and Pete was off to college and Bruce got a call from Uncle Sam. Tim joined another band and had a cameo in the Woodstock movie, and I went on to seek employment but still played with a number of different groups and still play drums today (on my Active Ingredients set) in a group called 145’s, which is a ‘60s cover band.
It’s a beautiful little film. Innocent, delightful, a perfect time capsule of one night, long ago, when everything seemed fun.
Here’s a wonderful bit of darkly lysergic quick-cut photo collage for “Scum of the Moon,” the new single by Berlin-based Montreal trash-punker King Khan’s side project The Black Jaspers.
Posted by the charmingly named YouTuber LSD210SCUM, this rather incredible vid captures the extreme spirit of Khan & Co.’s ditty, and is pretty fun to just watch and randomly pause. As one commenter noted, “If you watch this video three times, you’ll be declared legally insane.”
Unfortunately, there are no shots of our King’s Cannes nightclub dalliances with a certain constantly rehabbing and self-reinventing starlet, but hey, can’t have it all…
Forget about The Grammys, here’s the real deal: The Grimys.
From penthouses to sleaze pits, strip joints and go go palaces of a bygone era, we present The Grimys, 37 minutes of non-stop bump and grind set to a garage rock and psychedelic beat that is guaranteed to blow your mind and set your monitor ablaze with the fires of unbridled passion. Enter the world of the taboo. Explore the desperate alleys where sin lurks in the shadows, lust wears a dress made of twenty dollar bills and rock and roll is the soundtrack to lives lived in the twilight zone between wasted days and wasted nights.
Actually, this is just plain old fashioned fun.
When the Dirty Wurds kick in at the 23:55 point you will be amazed and enthralled by one of the most frenzied displays of go go dancing in the history of the art. Who IS that woman? Her nipples could take an eye out.
Hide the children and put on your raincoats, this is Grind Mix #1. Exposed flesh abounds. You’ve been warned.
01. Congawa - The Zirkons
02. Zebra - The Youngsters
03. Jibba Jab - Tic & Toc
04. Groovy - The Groovers
05. Thunderbird - The Casual-Aires
06. Little Girl - John & Jackie
07. Take It Off - The Genteels
08. Crackin’ Up - Famen
09. Elevator Jam - The 13th Floor Elevators
10. Mr. Man - The Lyrics
11. Gotta Find Her - Pat Farrell
12. Why - Dirty Wurds
13. 1523 Blair - The Outcasts
14. Don’t Lose Your Mind - The Galaxies IV
15. Generation - The Jelly Bean Bandits
16. Joustabout - The Triumphs
17. Trashcan - Ken Williams
18. Drums A-Go-Go - The Hollywood Persuaders