Various Artists - Songs We Taught The Kings

Various Artists
Songs We Taught The Kings

Released 2008 on Springboard International
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 23/02/2008ce

1. The Sonics-The Hustler (Etiquette 45 1965)
2. The Rogues-You Better Look Now (Audition 45 1966)
3. The Turtles-Outside Chance (White Whale 45 1966) The Sounds Like Us (Jill-Ann/Fontana 45 1966-67)
4. The Painted Ship-Little White Lies (London/Mercury 45 1967)
5. Zakary Thaks-Won't Come Back (J-Beck 45 1967)
6. The Choir-I'm Going Home (Roulette/Can Am 45 1967)
7. Chocolate Watchband-Expo 2000 (from Tower LP "No Way Out" 1967)
8. Chocolate Watchband-No Way Out (Tower 45 1967)
9. The Exotics-Come With Me (Tad 45 1967)
10. The Shades Of Night-Fluctuation (Alamo Audio 45 1966)
11. The Mourning Reign-Satisfaction Guaranteed (Link 45 1966)
12. The Moving Sidewalks-99th Floor (Tantara/Wand 45 1967)
13. The Harbinger Complex-Time To Kill (from Mainstream LP sampler "A Pot Of Flowers" 1967)
14. Little Phil & The Nightshadows-60 Second Swinger (Gaye 45 1966)

First things first, this album does not exist but it has been a project that I have been working on since 1984 or so. In early 1983 I bought an LP called "Here Are The Chesterfield Kings" by of course The Chesterfield Kings, who were and still are a modern day garage punk outfit operating out of the Rochester, New York area. For those outside of America Chesterfield Kings were a brand of non-filter cigarettes that were usually smoked by old men (along with their rivals Lucky Strike & Camels.) The early 1980's was the era of the garage/psychedelic compilation and they were being issued at such a fast clip it was hard to keep up with them as most were pressed in limited quantities. Of course it all started with Lenny Kaye's "Nuggets" in the early 70's. As great as "Nuggets" was it really only scratched the surface of what was really out there in the vast garage underground which saw it's heyday in the years 1965-1967. The American garage era was without question a response to the British Invasion of the early 60's with most groups modelling themselves after The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Them, Yardbirds & The Animals. But somewhere during the translation things got mighty fucked up.

Following "Nuggets" was the spectacular "Pebbles" series put out by the folks at Bomp Records but credited to the BFD or AIP labels. Every volume of "Pebbles" was essential and there were 10 whole volume available by 1982. From "Pebbles" we discovered the like of The Tree, Sunday Funnies, Human Expression, Third Bardo, Dovers, Squires and hundreds of others. In my opinion it was "Pebbles" that really kickstarted the interest in garage records of the 60's on a semi-mass level. Following "Pebbles" in the early 80's there was "Boulders", "Psychedelic Unknowns", "Glimpses", "What A Way To Die", "Chosen Few", "Off The Wall", "Open Up Your Door", "Everywhere Chainsaw Sound", "Echoes In Time", "New England Teen Scene", "Mind Blowers" and many more. I was lucky enough to have been a weekly customer of the late great Capitol Record Shop in Hartford, Connecticut which stocked every garage compilation in sight and I bought them all including the "holy grail" of the genre "Back From The Grave." Of course I shouldn't leave out the UK comps "Chocolate Soup For Diabetics" & "Perfumed Garden", Aussie sampler "Ugly Things", and Canadian winners "Afterthought" & "Nightmares From The Underworld."

At the height of the era in 1983 Julian Cope penned an essential article on the scene in NME, I have heard that it was supposed to be the cover feature of the issue until Sting decided he needed to tell the world about tantric sex & his other boring obsessions and the article was bumped off the cover. Nevertheless it got the ball rolling and it even mentioned The Chesterfield Kings, who at the time were virtually unknown. In the wake of the garage revival modern day garage/psych groups were popping up in every corner of the globe and while their hearts were in the right place most of them were fairly uninspired. However The Chesterfield Kings and their kindred spirits Plasticland were different. One got the impression instantly that these 2 groups were garage/psych lifers who were clearly into the stuff long before it had become fashionable. The Chesterfield Kings debut album was very important to me as it informed me about many groups and songs that would go on to be lifelong favorites of mine. The album "Here Are The Chesterfield Kings" was all cover versions but it was done with such spirit that it seemed in the beginning that these might be the King's own songs. Back in the mid-80's I went on a quest to hear and compile for tape all the original songs that the Kings recorded for their debut album and I just finished the job in December of 2007 when I found a re-issue 45 of The Rogues "You Better Look Now" (The Rogues 45 was super rare and the group came from The King's own home turf of Rochester.)

So what we have here is my own re-assembly of the King's debut album by the original artists that the Kings covered. I have burned 1 copy and put it on my own revamped version of the legendary Springboard International label (Springboard was the notorious fly by night label from Rahway, New Jersey who issued a whole series of dubious collections from everybody from Jimi Hendrix to Cher. This was all done for fun and I had a blast doing it. Here are the results.

1. The Sonics "The Hustler" (Etiquette 45 B-side 1965) Along with The Wailers The Sonics probably invented U.S. garage punk as we know it today. "The Hustler" is my all time favorite Sonics tune which was tucked away on the flipside of their classic "Boss Hoss" 45. This one features a super defiant punk vocal with a primitive beat and a sax player who sounds like Nik Turner of Hawkwind. "The Hustler" tells the tale of the coolest cat in town, probably Tacoma, Washington's answer to THE FONZ!

2. The Rogues "You Better Look Now" (Audition 45 1966) This one was pretty hard to find but it was worth the effort. As I mentioned earlier The Rogues hailed from the Kings hometown of Rochester, New York (along with The Young Tyrants and Audition label-mates The Heard.) The Rogues original version of this great song is much brighter than the Kings cover and sounds awful close to California garage titans The Dovers. A pretty smokin' version of "The Train Kept A Rollin'" rests on the b-side. A limited re-press of this 45 is in circulation right now.

3. The Turtles "Outside Chance" (White Whale 45 1966) This is without question the most popular group that the Kings ever covered a song by, yet "Outside Chance" was not a hit for The Turtles even though it received 2 seperate releases. It's hard to understand why because it is a glorious slice of folk-rock that blended the sounds of The Monkees & Beau Brummels. The song was written by future L.A. songwriting star Warren Zevon who at that time was a member of another White Whale act The Everpresent Fullness. "Outside Chance" was also covered by a Minnesota group Sounds Like Us who did the song in a more punk style on the Jill-Ann & Fontana labels, oddly enough Sounds Like Us also issued the song twice also without success. I'm not entirely certain who the Kings modelled their version after.

4. The Painted Ship "Little White Lies" (London 45 1967 Canada) The Painted Ship hailed from Vancouver, B.C. Canada and only managed to issue 2 singles. "Little White Lies" follows the standard garage-punk formula of punk aggression with a style similar to The Shadows Of Knight. The flipside of the record "Frustration" is even better and is highlighted by singer Bill Hay's menacing, whisper singing style. It was later covered by Rhode Island garage revivalists Plan 9. The Painted Ship did issue another 45 "Audience Refelections" b/w "And She Said Yes" which sadly I have never heard. "Little White Lies" was tailor made for The Chesterfield Kings and their version is very faithful to the original. The Painted Ship's 45 was issued in Canada on London Records while a USA release came out on Mercury I believe.

5. Zakary Thaks "Won't Come Back" (J-Beck 45 B side 1967) Zakary Thaks were one of the best of the Texas garage outfits of the 60's. They released several outstanding 45's on the J-Beck, Mercury, Thak & Cee Bee labels "Won't Come Back" is an aggressive punk number that was tucked away of the B-side of their 1967 45 "Please." There is some fabulous video of Zakary Thaks in circulation from 1967 in full color that looks like it was taken at some rich kid's birthday party.

6. The Choir "I'm Going Home" (Roulette 45 B-side 1967) The Choir were from Cleveland, Ohio and were best known for their melodic minor hit "It's Cold Outside" (which was the A-side to "I'm Going Home.") The Choir issued 4 good 45's during their lifespan on the Can-Am, Roulette & Interpid labels. Obviously they were inspired by The Beatles & Rolling Stones. "I'm Going Home" is a gritty garage punk number very much in the style of 1966 Rolling Stones. The Chesterfield Kings actually issued the song as a 45 of their own. As for the Choir, 3 of the original members teamed up with Cyrus Erie singer Eric Carmen and became 70's hitmakers The Raspberries.

7. The Chocolate Watchband "Expo 2000" (from 1967 Tower LP "No Way Out") Every card carrying garage freak knows this group. During the renewed interest in garage psychedelia the Watchband (who hailed from the garage punk mecca of San Jose, California) were always lumped together with The 13th Floor Elevators as the masters of the genre. Sadly the Watchband were under the strict control of their management who actually issued recordings with session musicians under the group's name. Luckily the group's debut album "No Way Out" is near perfect and contains this instrumental trip-out. The King's version was very close to the original and very impressive.

8. The Chocolate Watchand "No Way Out" (Tower 45 1967 B-side) This is possibly the Watchband's finest moment, "No Way Out" is a seething subterranean Rolling Stones/Pretty Things style workout that is easily on par with anything those 2 great group's were doing at the time. Singer Dave Aguilar actually becomes Mick Jagger & Phil May during this number and the final results are devastating. While they tried their hearts out the Chesterfield King's version is no match for the original.

9. The Exotics "Come With Me" (Tad 45 1967) The Exotics came from Dallas, Texas and issued several 45's on various labels. They unleashed this lethal fuzz-drenched monster in 1967 and the Chesterfield Kings version is right on par with the original. You can find The Exotics version on the "Texas Flashbacks Volume 5" sampler.

10. The Shades Of Night "Fluctuation" (Alamo Audio 45 1966) This 45 is a real riot, and I would rate it alongside The Monacles "I Can't Win" and Ken & The 4th Dimmension's "See If I Care" in the all time Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford/Eddie Haskell teen-punk-dementia stakes. This song just oozes teen-punk cool. The King's version is quite good but the Shades had true teen punk authenticity on their side. Like The Exotics, The Shades Of Night hailed from Dallas and you can find "Fluctuation" on "Texas Flashbacks Volume 3" and "Open Up Your Door Volume 2." At the present time there is a re-issue 45 out with both sides of the original 45 and a picture sleeve with a cool group photo. I have a few copies for sale in my online store if anyone out there needs a copy.

11. The Mourning Reign "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (Link 45 1966) Here is another fine Yardbirds obsessed punk group from San Jose, California. The Mourning Reign were actually quite popular during their brief existence and even got to support some major acts in their area. What's on tap here is top drawer, fuzzed out garage punk that's right there with The Chocolate Watchand. The flipside "Our Fate" is also first rate. The C. King's cover is spot on with the original and is one of their more impressive covers. You can find "Satisfaction Guaranteed" on the French collection "The Finest Hours Of 60's Punk" also on a re-issue 45 on Sundazed Records which sports the original 45 picture cover. Not to be missed!

12. The Moving Sidewalks "99th Floor" (Tantara/Wand 45 1967) The Moving Sidewalks were fronted by future ZZ Top member Billy Gibbons. They hailed from Houston, Texas which was also home to the 13th Floor Elevators and both group's shared a common sound. Most likely "99th Floor" swiped it's title from the line in The Rolling Stones' 1965 45 "Get Off Of My Cloud" but it's a potent garage-punk thumper in it's own right. The Moving Sidewalks later material such as their album "Flash" was more progressive and blues based. The Chesterfield Kings shot their own promo film for their version of "99th Floor" which used to make the rounds on late night TV.

13. The Harbinger Complex "Time To Kill" (from 1967 Mainstream Records sampler LP "With Love, A Pot Of Flowers.") I guess you could call Fremont, California's Harbinger Complex authentic 60's punks. It seems their lead singer Jim Hockstaff was quite the man around town getting banned from local high schools for getting too many of the female students pregnant. Onstage Hockstaff allegedly taunted the audience with words and his own spit. The Harbinger Complex were heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones and "Time To Kill" combines a mid-60's "Blue Turns To Grey" Stones vibe with the "west coast sound" of The Charlatans. All in all a spectacular song which the Kings covered brilliantly. "Time To Kill" has been listed as a 45 release but I'm not sure if it ever was. I first heard it on the Mainstream Records sampler "With Love, A Pot Of Flowers" (which was re-issued in it's entirety as part of the German "Mindrocker" series.) I have a Harbinger Complex 45 in my collection on the Brent label which also carries a Stones influence.

14. Little Phil & The Nightshadows "60 Second Swinger" (Gaye Records 45 1966) We wrap things up with Little Phil & The Nightshadows who came from Georgia and were also known simply as The Nightshadows. This group no doubt embraced the psychedelic experience fully as many of their songs contain overt drug references. However "60 Second Swinger" is much more innocent lyrically depicting nothing more than a swinging chick who is a bit of a phony. The Chesterfield's cover is letter perfect and seemed to be almost written for them. The song was re-recorded for The Nightshadows 1968 album "The Square Root Of 2" in a much more psychedelic, druggy style.

When I was putting this collection together I was sort of inspired by the "Songs We Taught The Cramps" compilations and I followed a similar theme. While this album doesn't really exist it can be pieced together from various sources. I started the project when i was 24 and I finished it when I was 46. Actually The Rogues 45 was the one missing link for many, many years. Now that it's complete it's really a rather remarkable garage-punk compilation, it would be a real gas if it were available in stores but all the copyright laws most likely would most likely quell that idea before it got very far. Yet at least this fantasy album idea borrowed from Mr. Cope gave me a chance to blab about some records I really love. I'd like to thank Greg Prevost & Co. for turning me on to these sounds in the first place.

Reviews Index