Tag Archives: The Sonics

Acclaimed Albums – Here Are The Sonics by The Sonics

Like I mentioned with the switch over to the Top 1000 list, there are a number of older albums that I listened to as part of a previous blog. This was back in 2009 … and I think my views on music have changed somewhat. Or maybe not, but hey it’s good to keep crossing these off so for these three weeks will be playing a game of catch-up.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 309/1000
Title: Here Are The Sonics
Artist: The Sonics
Year: 1965

Let’s have a quick recap of the genres that have been covered so far. In no particular order we have had: jazz, blues, r&b, rock n’ roll, soul, pop, bossa nova, African music, folk, country and chanson. Not too bad a selection so far bearing in mind that not even 50 albums have yet reviewed, with the landmark occurring tomorrow. I like to think that through the meandering through these different genres, whether they be live or not, that I have been fair to each and every album without being that prejudiced.

With that in mind it is time to add one more genre to the list with Here Are The Sonics being the first true punk album on the list. When most people think of punk, myself included, it is hard not to first envisage the contorted face of John Lydon as he screams along to ‘Anarchy In The U.K’. Either that or the punk-pop, in the forms of Green Day and Sum 41, that pepper the airwaves. Well all of these acts have The Sonics to thank for the birth of punk, an act who went quickly into obscurity.

Punk isn’t a genre I can usually savour, Green Day’s American Idiot is usually as far as I go and that really isn’t punk, and I will also grant you that Here Are The Sonics isn’t true punk either. However, what we have here is what is referred to as protopunk meaning that these are the roots from which all future punk, whether it be Patti Smith or Blink-182, are derived from. As such this contains many elements of contemporary music, including many covers of rock n’ roll and blues standards, but the arrangements are now different. The music is louder, the lead singer screams, the drumming is primal and the guitars are almost turned up to 11.

What The Sonics have here is the makings of a very good album, the thing that lets it down are the covers, with some of these songs such as ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Money’ and ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ having all been on a few previous albums. While the first two of these aren’t songs I particularly like I can say with ease that their transition to protopunk isn’t an easy one with these covers sounding flat and uninspired. I draw special attention to ‘Walkin’ The Dog’ where the incessant whistling got very old very quickly.

The real strength of the album lies entrenched in the original material, a particular favourite of mine being ‘Strychnine’. These are the songs where The Sonics are truly able to express their abilities as a band. These songs are bizarre and allow for the animalistic parts of the band to come out to shine. The opener of ‘The Witch’ is a fantastic example of this random guitar solos, screams and all.

Personally, an album that greater embraced this primal side of the band without having to please the record company with the more mundane covers would have been greater appreciated. This is a band that really showed such great potential but with members running off to university this band died an early death which is a real shame. I guess I shall have to find solace in the punk children that I will encounter.

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1001 Songs – 1965: Part Two

And now the thrilling conclusion to 1965. If you think this is a lot of songs just wait until 1966 – that’s going to end up being split in 3.

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

Our first track sung by Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. This song would have had more effect on our listening if it hadn’t ended up being the first of the second half. This is so unbelievably different to whatever had come before (in terms of the 1001 songs list and music in general).

The big shock, at least for me, is just how successful this was. It isn’t like Bob Dylan was this artist that was appreciated by music-lovers only and not as much the mainstream. This song managed to get to the top reaches of the singles charts. That’s incredibly when you actually think about this cynical, biting poem set to music was able to reach the same notice as girl groups and the Beatles.

People Get Ready – The Impressions

I’m missing something with this one. I get that the imagery in this track is making reference to the Underground Railroad movement that helped to free slaves in the Southern states. I get that this was written at a time where the Civil Rights Movement was making tracks and that this was a good rallying cry that could be used in the churches. However, this is ranked so highly in so many best of lists… and I just hear a fairly generic gospel song from the 1960s.

Looks like this might just be me.

Who Do You Love – The Preachers

Well. That was different.

This is described as being a ‘high energy’ version of a Bo Diddley song. Not sure if that’s an adequate description. This is not on the list because it’s one of the best songs, but because of what it represents: proto-punk.

What we have here is a band trying to take the rock and roll sound and play it harder, faster, rawer and screamier (okay not a word). It’s not punk as we know it, but in the context of what was around at the time this is something very different.

Now to rescue my eardrums before moving on. Ouch.

The Carnival Is Over – The Seekers

This is more of what I expect from a 1960s song. A hugely successful pop-folk hybrid that sold over 1.4 million copies in the UK alone.

With this level of nostalgic melancholy it is unsurprising that this track originates from an old folk song – specifically a Russian folk song. It’s melody has been adapted by the brother of Dusty Springfield who also composed lyrics that were vastly different to the original Russian ones (which were about a peasant uprising… cheery).

This is just one of those nice inoffensive songs that just sounds good. Middle of the road, but good.

Psycho – The Sonics

This is another one of those songs where we are starting to see rock and roll morph into something harder and a bit punkier. It doesn’t hit the screamy heights of ‘Who Do You Love’, but this is most definitely part of the evolution.

The genre at this stage is garage rock (a bit of a Ronseal name there for a type of rock and roll kids would play in the garage) and we are not yet at the stage of punk.

It’s interesting to think that it would take 10-15 years before the definitive punk albums start to be made (Ramones, Never Mind the Bollocks etc) and yet we are starting that evolution in 1965. Makes you wonder what music is brewing right now only to explode in a decades time.

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now) – Otis Redding

Otis Redding is another one of those talents from the 1960s where there is a great sense of a ‘what if’ about them. Dead at 26 in a plane crash.

This song is most definitely soul, but it just feels that tiny bit more nuanced. There’s something in the vocals here and the light arrangement that leave you wanting just that little bit more.

Stop! In The Name of Love – The Supremes

This is very much the other side of soul. More upbeat and intertwined with pop sensibilities.

As much as this song is incredibly famous you can not hear that chorus without seeing the simple (yet legendary) choreography of the girl group simultaneously raising their hand as they say ‘Stop’ with their hand squarely placed on their hips. Classic.

Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan

Back again to the Nobel Laureate. Where you can’t think of ‘Stop! In The Name of Love’ without the dance move, you can’t hear ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ without the mental image of the music video where Dylan is dropping cards with the lyrics on them.

It’s annoying that this song is later on the list than ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ as this was the earlier song. You can tell this song is earlier as, for Dylan, this song feels just that bit more mainstream. It’s a protest song with a vein of blues rock running through.

Seriously, why wouldn’t you make this list completely chronological rather than chronological just by year. Honestly.

The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Damn it ‘Arrested Development’ I had to restart this song because I started laughing at the image of a depressed Will Arnett.

This is one of the great Simon & Garfunkel songs (although ‘The Boxer’ remains my favourite) and is one of those incredibly recognised pieces of folk rock. In part this is probably due to it’s use in ‘The Graduate’.

It’s a weird song as it is about isolation and yet it feels strangely uplifting. To think, Simon and Garfunkel had already disbanded before this had become successful!

My Generation – The Who

Easily one of the most famous rock songs from this era. Like the Rolling Stones from earlier in the year this is very much the pulling away of the harder rock from the rest of the genre.

It’s an interesting structure of the ‘call and response’ that we would have seen more in the RnB songs from earlier years. Also interesting to listen to is the implied swearing – which works remarkably well and helps to make this song radio friendly.

Between this, the Stones and the Kinks it is very clear that Britain was leading the way in this new sub-genre of music.

Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

Now to end on something remarkably vanilla that simultaneously makes you think of Demi Moore having sex on a potter’s wheel.

Whenever you listen to this song, remember that this was a throwaway B-side. This was not the song that DJs were meant to be playing. This was not meant to be the hit. This timeless and powerful recording was just an afterthought.

I know I called this vanilla, but it is a spectacular song in its own right. Bobby Hatfield delivers the best vocals of any song in this batch and, aside from Nina Simone, possibly even this year.

Sure it is incredibly easy to dismiss this song as being easy listening… there’s nothing wrong with easy listening done this well.

Progress: 186/1021