Wednesday, October 03, 2007

V.A. - A History Of Garage & Frat Bands In Memphis Vol. 1 (1960 - 1975)



Upon first spinning this compilation, listeners will be struck by the audio quality. Certainly, the raw, grainy tone of garage rock is to be embraced, but the quality of the actual production here is definitely not up to industry standards. It's clear that these selections come straight from vinyl sources, and not master recordings. But you have to put that aside for a variety of factors. For one, the overwhelming majority of these tunes are not available elsewhere on cd. Secondly, it is highly possible that the master tapes for these records have either been destroyed or lost over the last 30+ years. Keep in mind too that these hail from small local labels of the era.
With all of that said, once the music is actually moving the molecules around in your room, you will easily overlook
the sonic shortcomings of the recordings presented here. Each track is a gem, and as a whole, the compilation presents fifteen unique, yet consistent-sounding songs spanning 15 years. A track by track analysis isn't necessary, although I will say that The Yo-Yo's take on Billy Joe Royal's "Leaning On You" is nothing short of a masterpiece. That track alone makes this a worthwhile purchase (and admittedly, was my personal motivation for seeking it out). My only real complaint is that, clocking in at 33 minutes, the second volume could have easily been placed on the same disc. (amazon.com/History-Garage-Bands-Memphis-1960-1975/dp/B00005QG2J)

Ever heard of the Yo-Yo's? How about Shadden and the King Lears? Unless you were a rock & roll fan in Memphis in the 1960s, or you're a collector of obscure records, the answer is probably no. For every band that made it big during that era, there were countless others whose tour itinerary extended no further than the local rollerrinks and VFW halls. Success was relative; of course, most budding musicians harbored secret (or not so secret) hopes that picking up a guitar would be a ticket to stardom, but if the extent of their success meant making a good record or two, meeting girls, and being popular around town, that worked as well. As a rule, garage bands were less concerned with breaking new musical ground than with playing in the styles that made them want to form a band in the first place. The Memphis scene was strongly influenced by the soulful sounds of Stax Records; compared to other regions, there were fewer psychedelic bands and cranked up Marshall amps (as the local studio engineers didn't have much experience in recording such equipment). A History Of Garage & Frat Bands In Memphis 1960-1975 serves up fifteen bursts of youthful enthusiasm, and it's a great survey of the local talent. The Yo-Yo's "Leaning On You" is a catchy slice of blue-eyed soul; The Changin' Tymes' "Blue Music Box" sports a killer fuzzbox sound; "Uptight, Tonight," courtesy of Flash & The Casuals, is what energetic frat rock was all about; and The Castels' "Save A Chance" reminds that American singers were adopting thick, faux-Brit accents long before Joey Ramone and Bob Pollard. There's an accompanying book (sold separately) entitled Playing For A Piece Of The Door, which provides exhaustive documentation on the bands featured on the disc, as well as many, many others (making one wish that Shangri-La had been a bit more generous with the CD, which clocks in at just under 34 minutes). With a non-hierarchal eye, it gives histories of the acts who broke nationally (The Box Tops, Big Star, Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs) alongside those who released a sole 45 and dispersed when it was time to go to college. As it's a straightforward, alphabetized look at the groups, with discographies, photos, and personnel listings, it'll be of primary interest to hardcore collectors of the original records and those were present at the time, but the CD should appeal to anyone who wants to hear more of the music that the Nuggets compilations specialize in. (James Lindbloom)

1. Uptight, Tonight - Flash And The Casuals
2. Rising Mercury Twist - LeSabres Listen
3. Ain't Goin' No Where - Danny Burk And The Invaders
4. Can't Find A Way - Joe Frank And The Knights
5. I Tell No Lies - The Escapades Listen
6. Seven Little Numbers - The Rapids
7. Leaning On You - The Yo-Yo's
8. Ain't Got You - The Jades Listen
9. Possibility - The Coachmen Listen
10. The Mysterians - Jimmy Tarbutton And The Memphis Sound
11. Land Of Soul - The Rapscallions
12. All I Want Is You - Shadden And The King Lears
13. Blue Music Box - The Changin' Tymes
14. Save A Chance - The Castels Listen
15. These Windows - The Village Sound

Various Artists - A History of Garage & Frat Bands in Memphis 1960-1975, Vol. 1 (2001)

6 comments :

Anonymous said...

That's Garage!
That's Punk!
Thanks SOOOO much for both volumes !

Anonymous said...

Hi! It would be really cool if you could repost both volumes. Thanks a lot ;-)

rachelbussetoo said...

Just wanted to thank you for spotlighting this book and the music that comes along with it. My father is Shad of Shadden and the King Lears. I have loved his music my entire life and have often felt like much of the music that comes from that era in Memphis has been tragically overlooked. The King Lears had several more regional hits and I cherish every 45 that I have. Still the talented singer and guitar player he always was, my dad has always made me very proud to have been a part of such a rare but vital part of the music world.

Thanks again!!!

Rachel Busse

Ryan Shepard said...

Any chance that you'd be willing to repost this briefly?

Thanks in advance :)

Anonymous said...

YES please, could you repost both the volumes ?
Good work!

Ryan Shepard said...

Please, please repost this one - I've been searching for "Uptight Tonight" forever :)