The Remains

 

What was one of the greatest bands to come out of Boston in the middle 1960’s that you never heard of? Give up?  Still thinking it over? If you happen to think of The Remains, give yourself a well deserved pat on the back! You are really into your 60’s music. The Remains are probably one of the most underrated and unheard of bands of the decade of the sixties.

THE REMAINS
THE REMAINS

The Remains formed in Boston in 1964, and though they never received much notice outside of New England at that time, they were good. Really good! Unfortunately, by 1966, The Remains were no more. Short, sweet and powerful! If they could have made a go of it longer than a couple of years, they would have been much bigger, I’m sure. What they did leave behind is their one studio release in 1966, and it was masterful. What success they left on the table back in the middle sixties, would eventually become an international following, as an underground cult band.

Let’s put some things in perspective. At around the time of their 1966 studio release, The Remains, and their quick departure from the music scene at the time, they opened for The Beatles on their final tour. They also were on the music tv show Hullabaloo as well as The Ed Sullivan Show. They were on the way to stardom before their early departure from the music scene.

The Remains were not really part of the psychedelic music scene that would become synonymous at the start of the middle sixties. They were more of a garage rock band, and proto-punk. However, they featured some very psychedelic sounding guitar solos on some of their songs.

Their leader, Barry Tashian, who in my opinion is one of the better vocalists of the era, would have a very interesting career after The Remains. He would eventually become a guitarist and singer for Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. He currently, and has for quite some time, teams up with his wife Holly to make up the duo Barry and Holly Tashian. They play and record country music, folk and bluegrass.

One of my favorite songs off of The Remains self titled debut is Why Do I Cry, a great garage rock song with elements of punk and r&b and a great guitar riff. Their sound is infectious, danceable, and is one of Boston’s finest!

Don’t Look Back is a cover tune, and another one of my favorites off the record. It features excellent vocals by Barry Tashian, and there are times when he sounds like he is summoning his inner Mick Jagger. A great garage tune, which is in my opinion, a gem that never got the recognition it deserves.

The record as a whole is solid, shows a band that is very talented, and is a pleasure to listen too each time I listen to it. I find it unfortunate that The Remains never got the notoriety that they deserved, and that their career as a unit was so short. Had they stuck around a bit longer, they could have been one of the truly great artists of the sixties and beyond. What we have from The Remains though, is a treasure, and they left their mark, especially in Boston and New England as a whole. One of Boston’s best, regardless of their lack of popularity outside of New England.

Rating: A

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sonics-Boom

THE SONICS-BOOM
THE SONICS-BOOM(1966)

 

The Sonics were a garage rock band from Tacoma, Washington. They got their start in 1960, and were very influential in the garage rock genre, and also influenced punk rock bands with their hard driving, aggressive sound. They are considered by many to be the the very first punk/grunge group, long before punk and grunge we a “thing.” The grunge connection seems to be significant, due to the fact that most of popular grunge bands originated in the State of Washington, where The Sonics got their start.

The Sonics
The Sonics

Much of the Sonics sound is taken from the music of the 1950’s, but with a more brash and aggressive style. Some of the songs on their 1966 release, Boom, are cover versions of some very famous and recognisable songs performed by other groups.

One of the covers, titled “Skinny Minnie”, was a song made famous by Bill Haley and his group The Comets in 1958. One of the endearing qualities of The Sonics, in my opinion, is the way they take some of these older tunes and rev them up a bit. The beginnings of a harder version of music, later to become punk and hard rock.

Another cover on the record is a good rendition of “Let The Good Times Roll” from Shirley and Lee in 1956. This song was covered by numerous bands and artists over the years, and this cover by The Sonics is a good representation.

Another cover on the record is “Jenny, Jenny” written by Little Richard in 1957. Other covers of famous songs on the record include “Louie Louie”,”Since I Fell For You”, “Hitch Hike.” and “Don’t You Just Know It.” More than half of the songs on the record are covers, and all are given a good reworking in The Sonics style.

The Sonics original songs on the record are worthy of attention also. The first song on the album, Cinderella, starts out with hard driving guitars, and screaming vocals, a classic garage rock offering. The Sonics music, though sometimes raw and hard, is also very danceable, giving it an interesting dynamic.

The next song, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, is a Sonics original that starts out slow, but picks up a bit, and is definitely influenced by the music of the 1950’s. As will virtually all the songs on this record, these are fun songs to dance to, and work well in the sixties, and would fit in very nicely ten years earlier.

He’s Waitin’ is another  Sonics song that is pure garage rock, with hints of punk, is extremely entertaining ear candy, and is one of my favorite songs on the record. The song has a great, simple guitar riff that is infectious.

It’s Alright is a song that has a great guitar solo in the middle, and is one of the few times on the record that i can hear a bit of early psychedelia slip through, although The Sonics are not considered a psychedelic band. The beginnings of the psychedelic musical style can be heard briefly in the middle of this song.

The last song on the record, Shot Down, is a great song with a excellent, hard driving  guitar solo. You can hear the formation of what would later be considered hard rock, and the Sonics influenced that genre just as much as punk or grunge.

The Sonics were fun and danceable, very influential, and a band that is well worth checking out. Some of the best music in the beginning to middle sixties!

Rating: A

 

 

 

The Stooges

The Stooges
THE STOOGES

 

The Stooges were a rock band that got their start in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1967. They were sometimes referred to as Iggy and the Stooges, and the original band members consisted of Iggy Pop, David Alexander, Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton. They are widely considered to be influencers of hard rock, and heavy metal, and they are a major influence in establishing the punk rock genre.

The Stooges self titled debut album was released on August 5th, 1969 and was originally produced by John Cale of The Velvet Underground. It was rejected by Elektra Records, the same record company that had the Doors as their main act, but was redone by Iggy Pop and Jac Holzman, president of Elektra. It is widely considered a seminal proto-punk record.

The first song on the record, 1969, starts out with some great sounds from a wah wah pedal, and then turns into a classic guitar riff that sounds like the earliest incarnations of punk. With Iggy Pop’s vocals I get the feel of what punk was about to become. A classic opening tune.

The next song on the record is I Wanna Be Your Dog. This song consists of an iconic and very recognisable guitar riff which is played over and over throughout, and there are sleigh bells chiming through the piece as well. This is my favorite song on the record, and one of The Stooges classic, proto-punk songs. It is considered in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 songs of all time, coming in at number 438.

We Will Fall is a ten minute track that departs from the rest of the record, and it can be a bit hard to ingest for those who don’t like long, drawn out, droning pieces of music, which is exactly what it is. It is also a great song if the lights are low, the lava lamp is fired up, and the mood is right. It is an obscure song, but it works if you’re in the right frame of mind. The song definitely breaks up the consistency of an otherwise great rock album. I would consider We Will Fall the records one psychedelic song, dropped in with the rest being rockers and proto-punk gems.

The next song is No Fun, and it has some great fuzz guitar riffs, along with Iggy’s vocals, it is a great, early punk tune. I can see the influence that the band had on future punk and hard rock bands while listening to this track.

The next song, Real Cool Time, starts out with that wah wah sound and heavy guitars. The early workings of heavy metal by The Stooges gave a lot of bands their influence, a group that was somewhat ahead of their time.

Ann is a slow song, that reminds me a bit of The Doors. Actually, there are parts of this record as a whole that reminds me of The Doors. Although I can hear the similarities between both bands, they each have their own distinct style. The Doors a bit more psychedelic, while The Stooges are more harder.

Not Right is a classic garage rock song all the way, very entertaining, but not one of The Stooges more recognisable tunes.

Little Doll is the last song on the record, and it rocks the album out nicely, with a quick funky bass beginning, which follows with some heavy guitars. A great song, and Iggy has a great punk voice. The beginnings of a genre for sure.

The only low point in the record for me is We Will Fall, not because I don’t like the song, but it doesn’t really seem to follow the blueprint for the rest of the record, and seems out of place. But the record as a whole is excellent, and the future is being laid out before us. THE GODFATHERS OF PUNK, indeed!

Rating: A-

 

The Velvet Underground & Nico

The Velvet Underground & Nico
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO(1967)

 

The Velvet Underground were a band that got it’s start in New York City in 1964. The original members were John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Lou Reed, and Angus MacLise. MacLise was replaced by Moe Tucker in 1965 as drummer.

I would not put The Velvet Underground under the umbrella of psychedelic rock, but were quite popular around the same time. Their music could be categorized as proto punk and experimental, as well as other genres.

Though the musicians in the band were well received and had careers of their own, none became more popular than Lou Reed, who had a solo career that was active for the better part of five decades. The Velvet Underground did not achieve much success during their active years, but later became known as one of the most influential rock bands in history.

Andy Warhol was very much around the band in the middle to late sixties, and the cover for their debut album was his artwork.

The Velvet Underground’s debut album, “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” was released in March 1967, and featured friend and model Nico, who would go on to have a fairly successful solo career.

The record starts out with a slow mellow song, Sunday Morning, which features John Cale playing a celesta, an instrument not readily heard on rock records. It gives the song a playful feel and it works well. It is one of my favorite songs on the record.

Following Sunday Morning,  I’m Waiting For The Man is a song written by Lou Reed, which is very specific in its lyrics about a drug deal in New York City, with the “man” referring to a drug dealer. It is one of The Velvet Underground’s more popular songs, and gives a very concise picture of what it was like in the big city, both in the era of the sixties and also, unfortunately, very much what it is like in these times.

The next song, Femme Fatale, is a more mellow, softer song than the previous one, and is a song that has been covered by many bands and musicians over the years. It is one of their most recognisable songs that has remained somewhat in the spotlight due to it’s many cover versions.

Venus In Furs is a mesmerizing, driving song that probably sounded awesome back in the sixties while doing what they did back then, maybe dropping some acid, which was a thing. One can only imagine how this song was enhanced by such activity, and the lyrical content dealt with some taboo issues, and was not for the faint at heart.

Run Run Run has a bit of a psychedelic feel to it, and is again about people in New York City going after drugs, and is very specific about who are the characters, and where this is all happening. It is highlighted by Lou Reed’s obscure guitar work.

All Tomorrow’s Parties was written by Lou Reed and is sung by Nico. It has been suggested that this is a precursor to what would become the goth music genre, and I agree with this assessment. It is rather slow moving, and Nico’s low singing style makes the connection to goth a strong one.

Heroin is one of The Velvet Underground’s most celebrated tunes, and is very explicit in describing what using and abusing heroin is like. The song is haunting at times, violent at other times, and starts with what feels like will be a sweet, nice beginning, but we know how it all ends. It is a dark song, and one of my favorites.

There She Goes Again is a song about a prostitute, who is tough, and living on the streets. Again, another song about a sensitive subject, but that has a great guitar riff and is very entertaining.

I’ll Be Your Mirror is a song beautifully sung by Nico, and though it is one of the lesser known songs on the album, it is exquisitely executed, and is a real hidden gem.

The Black Angel’s Death Song is the one potential dud on the record, but musically it is so different, that it is interesting. Not one of my favorites on the album, I do feel the inclination to skip over this one, but still follow through till the end.

European Son is the last, and longest track on the record. It takes a bit of getting used to, with the majority of the song being The Velvet Underground’s foray into their extreme experimental stage. An alright ending to the record, that shouldn’t take away from the brilliance of most of the work previously.

The debut by The Velvet Underground is at times incredible, and at sparse times is hard to swallow. The majority of the record is groundbreaking, giving rise to what would become punk a bit later on. It is a very good record, that deals with some real life, controversial issues, and was musically very entertaining for the most part.

Rating: A-