Friday, April 13, 2012

Garage Bands

So, quite arguably, many bands began as garage bands but we are more aware of them under other classifications.  Or maybe EVERYONE who formed together ON THEIR OWN and honed their craft in the dredges of basements and garages can fall into this qualification.  But how do we really know?  Can we judge by sound alone?  I admit I was confused when this topic started.  For me, it is much easier to assign garage band status in the 80's decade, when we have a resurgence of 60's cover bands.
Shelley J. Sweet-Tufano 

If it makes you feel any better, Shelley, you're not the only one that's confused.  We've received several letters just like yours wanting a clearer definition of what we mean by a "garage band".  (I stated right from the start that the lines have definitely blurred on this classification over the years ... and, as pointed out last week, we're getting nominations for everything from folk rock bands, surfer bands, psychedelia bands, blue eyed soul bands, bubblegum bands and virtually everything in between. 

I asked Mike Dugo, who runs the excellent 60sGarageBands website, if he would help to better clarify our definition.  After all, we want your votes to help us determine The Top 20 Greatest Garage Bands Of All-Time ... and if you're afraid to vote, we'll never paint an accurate picture.  (kk)  

Here's what Mike had to say ...

Glad to see that you're still receiving comments on garage bands.  Very cool.
Regarding the term "garage band" ... I know exactly we're you're coming from when debating over Chicago groups like The Cryan' Shames and Ides Of March or even national groups like The Turtles.  None are (at least during their hit-making phases) garage bands, if adhering to the classic / stereotypical use of the term "garage band."  But The Cryan' Shames recorded 'Ben Franklin's Almanac' (a song you didn't single out by them), which is a classic garage band sound.  The Ides Of March Parrot singles (pre-'Vehicle') or New Colony Six Centaur / Sentar sides - while not completely representative of the proto-snarl and fuzz garage band sound - definitely qualify as well.  And 'Grim Reaper Of Love', 'Almost There' and 'Outside Chance' by The Turtles all nail the garage rock sound.
Of course, there wasn't really such things as "garage bands" in the '60s, since that term hadn't been created or assigned yet.  There were blues bands, soul bands, country bands, rock bands, etc.  Groups typically played what was popular on the radio, and their songs were influenced as such.  Today, the term "garage band" has many connotations.  Groups like The Electric Prunes and The Standells (examples of bands that are generally singled out as garage bands) are classified as such, but both recorded several albums, made many TV and / or film appearances, performed at major arenas and top clubs and scored national hits.  Can groups that successful, then, truly be classified as "garage bands"?  The answer is, of course, yes. 

In the '80's, when the great "lost" groups of the '60's first started to really receive their due, most of the '60's bands were referred to as "punk" bands (a term that today is more closely identified with '70's groups like the Clash and Sex Pistols).  The "punk" description was created more as a means of describing the band's musical "attitude".  Although called "garage bands" today, the terminology to collectors / fans still represents primarily an attitude / sound and NOT necessarily a degree of professionalism or ability; while The Electric Prunes and The Standells may have had the attitude, they were extremely capable groups musically and soared beyond what today's audience might think of as a "garage band": the band down the street that plays at the local bar or festival a couple of times a year.  Garage bands in the '60's (again, the term wasn't even used in that decade) could have been both the local act that played at the roller rink, or major groups like The Leaves or Shadows of Knight, i.e., groups that scored national hits and toured ... even though their primary fan base was on a local or regional level. 
Bands (or "garage bands") of the era recorded in all musical styles - ballads, folk, pop and of course the garage rock which they have become identified with.  That's why it's sometimes difficult today to pin the "garage" label on certain 1960's combos. 
Clear as mud?  Does this help at all?
Mike Dugo

Be sure to check out Mike's site here:  Click here: 1960s Garage Bands
You'll find all kinds of artists profiled here ... from the hit-makers to the obscure ... and everything in between.  (kk)

The Electric Prunes scored the #2 Song in our All-Time Favorite Psychedelic Songs Poll a few years ago with "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" ... 

And this Standells tracks is one of my all-time favorites.

Be sure to vote for YOUR favorites now!