Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Music: "What appears to be a go-go dancer trapped in a glass case in a fairly bare apartment, dancing to the Sonics' 'Psycho.'"

The Sonics, a five-man outfit from Tacoma, Washington, were part of the northwestern garage rock boom that, for a brief time during the mid-1960s, looked like it might be America's on native resistance to the looming Brit dominance of rock and roll. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we now know that these scrappy musical partisans would lose the fight, making a fractious mix of California folkies and NYC art rockers the standard bearers for popular music.

Described variously as "1960s punk," "garage rock," "frat rock," or, sometimes, "nuggets rock" – after the influential Nuggets anthology series that revitalized interest in the forgotten singles of these bands – the music of these groups combined low-fi production values, aggressive hooks, and an overtly sloppy take the music of the Brit Invasion. Garage rock groups also acted as a curious link between 1950s American rock and the coming psychedelic era. Many groups, for example, stubbornly kept saxophones in the mix long after rock had moved on. At the same time, these sometimes doggedly traditionalists groups were exploring the artistic possibilities of the fuzz and feedback that were the byproduct of the amateur approach.

The Sonics formed in the early 1960s, inspired by the success of local heroes the Wailers and the Kingsmen (the group responsible for turning the innocent calypso soul tune "Louie Louie" into one of rock's most investigated, censored, and pornographically misquoted hits). They had a couple of local market hits, but could never break into the national market. As the 1960s closed, the group entered the studio to produce a more slick and professional sounding record with the goal of producing a nation-wide hit. The record, too bland for Sonics fans and too clunky for a wider audience, sank without a trace. The group broke up shortly after the record's release.

Because the Sonics existed in the pre-MTV era and they were never big, big stars, there's not a lot from their prime on the Youtubes. There's some live reunion footage, but that's about it. There is, however, this truly bizarre clip of what appears to be a go-go dancer trapped in a glass case in a fairly bare apartment, dancing to the Sonics' "Psycho."

Where's it from? What the hell is going on in it? I have no clue. [Breaking News: Reader Paul has figured out where this strange little clip comes from. Check comments for the solution to this mystery.]

The Fuzztones where part the retro-garage movement that, since the 1980s, has flared up in the indie scene now and then. Like the Sonics, the Fuzztones also broke up after attempting a lunge at mainstream fame. Here's the Fuzztone's video for their cover of the Sonic's "The Witch."


Neil Sarver said...

I love The Sonics so, so much!

That early Northwest Rock is my big hometown pride thing. I could live out my days on a desert island with nothing that didn't fit under that banner.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Oh my, that is truly the greatest YouTube video ever.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Also, it's from the old NBC show Hullabaloo, which featured a segment like this at the end of every show.

CRwM said...


Brilliant work. You'll make sergeant for this!