In the garage, nothing was taboo

Did you hear the story about garage punk revivalist Black Lip’s?

It’s said that at one live show, front man and guitarist Cole Alexander once pissed in his own mouth and then sprayed it from his lips all over the front rows of the audience? True Story. I would use the word “urinate” to uphold the polite integrity of this profile; but we are talking about the filthy sounds and grimy antics of garage rock; a scene, sound, and inspiration that just keeps raring its hairy head so that thousands of teens might continue to maintain the leather jacket manufacturers.

But before you say anything I’ll smack my own bottom for the mistake of prematurely drawing a comparison between fashion and garage rock, for it wasn’t from stitches and threads that the seedling of such an unpolished yet effortlessly wild sound spawned but the dirty cheap price tag on guitars in the early 60’s. Raised on a ballsey dose of early rock and R&B from a patriarchy of cool that included Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, garage rock originated in North America, with the voices of a restless white American youth screaming out about their new found and utmost desires; cars, guitars and girls.

The Kingsmen’s cover of Richard Berry’s Louie Louie has long been associated as a significant recording in the genesis of the 1960’s garage sound. Though unintelligibly trolled, the lyrics expose the corrupted thoughts of a young male occupied with sex. Yet recorded on a nonexistent budget with limited access to equipment, it was this DYI approach to making music that gave birth to a genre ablaze with spilt ended guitars, disobedient themes, and swinging beats that would continue to move and shake rock music throughout the early 60’s and arguably, beyond. Swaggering in from Washington, The Sonics might easily claim to be the most cited and highly sung about garage rock band ever, with their dark hedonistic themes an influential older brother to the puff-chested anarchy of 1970’s punk rock. With talk of poltergeists and suggestions of drinking poison; these sinister images coupled the jagged edges of the raw sound perfectly.

Indeed, in the garage, nothing was taboo, with bands embracing amateurish results as an attractive stretch of an anti-establishment rebellion that blew over from spitting anti-war and civil rights statements in America. Then, amid this mid-sixties fuzz, the all too commonly titled “British invasion” smashed into American soil with mighty fists of beat and pop. Bands such as The Kinks, The Who and The Yardbirds, like their American counterparts, had been nourished on a healthy dose of imported African American R&B, and yet added the beat influence and from that, recognisable style. The two year career of Californian outfit The Chocolate Watchband saw how American bands took on the British influenced MOD style as they continued to pursue this primal approach to sound. influential older brother to the puff-chested anarchy of 1970’s punk rock

Yet amid the howling, stopping and screaming, there was little commercial and dare it be said, financial rewards for the vivacious stance of these original garage ensembles, with the forceful flow of garage fuzz drip drying before the decades demise. And yet, the stylistic influences of garage rock would continue to subtly pour out of popularised music throughout the next 40 years. Subtle, that is, until 2001 when five leather jacket wearing floppy haired New Yorker’s were credited for reviving this dormant scene.

The Strokes, along with The Hives and The Vines were the most well known bands to recreate the life, style and ethos of garage rock into popular rock’n’roll, with countless lesser known bands dancing down the same road. American/British duo The Kills continue to subscribe to the stripped back arrangements and cheap production quality that defined this early 60’s sound, and like the newly popular Black Lips, seem to be leading music lovers back into the garage. Yet fortunately for us, unlike Cole Alexander, these continual salutes to 1960’s garage aren’t merely spraying the same piss into the mouth of the bands that came before them, but resurrecting that defiant, wayward ethos that surpasses all normal expectations of cool and strips rock’n’roll back to basics.


Follow Clash: