The Sonics invented punk rock… with this song
There’s always quite a debate about the origins of punk- over here in Blighty, no doubt that the first single was ‘New Rose’ by The Damned, over in the US, New York Dolls? Iggy and The Stooges? Nah, it’s right here…The Sonics (nb. honourable nod towards The Kingsmen for ‘Louie Louie’, of course.)
The Sonics are an American Garage-Rock band from Washington, who originally played during the early to mid 60’s. They played a mixture of rock’n’roll and garage standards, alongside their own penned songs. They played simply structured songs hard and fast- tracks such as ‘Louie Louie’ , ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, ‘Rollover Beethoven’ and ‘Have Love Will Travel’ would grace their set as too would ‘Psycho’, one of their own.
It was at a party for my brothers birthday, that the DJ, chiefly playing rock’n’roll and other rockin’ wax (my brothers and their cronies are into the Rockin’ and Hot Roddin’ scene), that the said DJ ‘dropped’ this tune, I was having a little boogie as it was, as he had just played another garage number, but suddenly this wave of noise and excitement hit me. The drums clatter in at 100 mph, followed by a gruff ‘whoa!’ then these dirty geetars and horns- the poetry and subtlety of the lyrics is nothing to write home about, it’s what you would expect in a garage rock tune called ‘Psycho’!
But then you get Gerry Roslie’s scream/howl- and I think this is the best in the business- yes, better than Rob Tyner’s of MC5 (in my opinion, ya know.) the gruff vocals (result of the screaming I would guess) and the howl/scream, I think, set The Sonics apart from their peers. The other thing this track does is, after hurtling along for a minute and a half or so, you think it can’t go anywhere else, but then the whole track lifts again by a couple of notes or so (I’m no musician, so if anyone could help me out here), and finishes with more Roslie hollers, and after just over two minutes, it’s over.
I was grinning ear to ear, I had to know this tune- and indeed I’d felt robbed of all the years that it wasn’t part of my life, very few tracks have that effect on me. My guessing it’s the primeval simplicity of it all, tapped straight into the pituitary gland for some balls-out rockin’
After splitting in 1968, most of the band reformed in 2008 to do a few one dates at festivals in Europe and niche events over here- The New Untouchables Easter bash in London being one, their popularity, no doubt, being increased by the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys name checking them as influences, and the whole garage rock sound having a mini revival- Mojo’s 2003 cover mount CD ‘Instant Garage’ being a great starting point for anyone interested- I’d say it’s essential.