Jon Spencer: Garage / Proto-Punk Companion – A Mixtape

“You play that Blues Explosion album from last year a lot, so check this out.” That was Rob Green, a guy I clerked with in an Athens, GA record store in 1995. The record CD he was referring to was Boss Hog’s s/t second full-length. And like the Blues Explosion’s Orange and Extra Width before it, the album quickly entered regular rotation with “knock my teeth out, make way for gold” becoming something of an in-store, record nerd, mantra for the next several months. Ah, the 90s….

And now…they’re back. Made up of Jon Spencer and co-conspirator/wife Cristina Martinez, Boss Hog returns with Brood X, their first new album in 17 years. Out today via In The Red Records, we asked Spencer to run down some of his favorite garage and proto-punk moments for AD. As expected, his picks and thoughts on each are inspired.

Jon Spencer, in his own words, below . . .

Let’s skip the more widely-known and acknowledged “masters” – The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, MC5, Suicide, and New York Dolls. Here are some of the other freaks! I tried to stick with bands that had little to do with the blues, rhythm & blues, and tradition – these are bands that found their own style, their own sound, their own way. This is in no way meant to be any sort of definitive list. It s purely subjective – just some of my faves.

YouTube links are included for easy reference but if you are curious please visit your local Mom & Pop independent record store and buy some music! Or pick up a guitar or synth or drum or kitchen utensil or piece of earth and make some noise!

Los Saicos, Demolition: 1965. Crazy surf-style punk from Peru:  “Destroy the train station!”

The Monks, Complication: 1966.  A German  band comprised of ex-American GI’s (that had been stationed in Germany), The Monks wore robes and shaved tonsures into their hair and made uber-rock. All-rhythm, relentless, and wild. The Monks toured the German beat-club circuit relentlessly in the late 1960s, playing several shows a day, 7 days a week.  Their one studio album Black Monk Time is great from start to finish: pounding drums, fuzz guitar & fuzz  organ (a buddy of the band custom-bulit their fuzz-boxes & amps), banjo as rhythm guitar, and off-the-wall yet still political chants & hollers.

The Music Machine, Talk Talk: 1966.  Along with the Chocolate Watchband (and The Seeds,  see below) one of the  the great California ’60s garage-punk bands. Unlike the Watchband I think these guys actually played their instruments in the studio,  and all band members wore black turtlenecks and  a  black glove on one hand!. Driving beat, sharp turns,  great fuzz – Talk Talk gets in and out and lays waste all  in under 2 minutes.

The Seeds, Pushin’ Too Hard / Mr. Farmer: Most people know Pushin’ Too Hard (see goofy TV sitcom  appearance)  but I prefer Mr Farmer (1967)  from their 2nd album Web Of Sound. The Seeds were led by the mystical and way-out-there Sky Saxon and their sound was dominated by  Daryl Hooper’s  heavy-handed  keyboard style. Mr Farmer almost sounds like krautrock.

The Troggs, Come Now / I Want You: 1967 sexual caveman come-on with bizarre French interlude. (Predates and pre-cogs Gainsbourg’s  Je T’aime . . .   Moi Non Plus.) The Troggs had many moronic head-bangers and guilty pleasures. Just check out I Want You, a song covered by no less than the MC5 on their debut album.

The Shaggs, Philosophy Of The World / My Pal Foot Foot: 1969. New Hampshire’s finest, the Wiggins sisters!

Silver Apples, You and I: Insane primitive skronk outta New York City, Silver Apples released two albums, this is from their 1969  second album Contact which features a photo of  the band in a jet  cockpit on the front and then  standing amid wreckage on the back!  Drums and synth duo, the singer built his own instruments mainly using oscillators and  named the machine after himself  – the Simeon. Silver Apples reformed in the ’90s and still continue to gig and make noise.

Flamin’ Groovies, Teenage Head /  Dog Meat / Slow Death: 1971 & 1973. Teenage Head is one of my favorite albums. (Great cover art too!) Produced by Richard Robinson (Lisa’s husband) and featuring the great Jim Dickinson, the album is a tough take on more traditional musical idioms: blues, country blues, R&B, and  rockabilly/early  RnR. Out-Stonesed the Stones. OK, I am breaking my rules RE the blues & trad music, but Teenage Head is such a great song – so snotty! Included are clips from the follow-up EP Super Grease which although recorded after original (and superior) vocalist Roy Loney left the band, they too are great songs!

Modern Lovers, She Cracked: 1972. Boston MA.  Jonathan Richman (along with Jerry Harrison, later of the Talking Heads)  keeps the spirit of the Velvets alive. Produced by John Cale.

The Residents, Smelly Tongues: From their debut album,  1974’s  Meet the Residents. Great home-made skronk, before the fancy synthesizers.  Not sure if this song features guitar legend  Snakefinger, but he definitely cut a version of this song himself,  as a B side to his song  The Spot, also on The Residents’  Ralph Records.

Devo, Auto Mo-down: 1974.  Devo was a reaction to the Kent State shootings, the early Devo recordings are very minimalist and raw. This is a song about a car accident.

Simply Saucer, Nazi Apocalypse: 1974. Sci-fi rock an’ roll legends from steel-city industrial town  Hamilton Ontario. Similar to Pere Ubu in their mixing of electronics with aggressive rock-action. Only released 1 single during their brief initial career, this song is from the 1989 compilation album  Cyborgs Revisited.  Back together in some form  as of 2006 and making new records.

Electric Eels, Agitated: 1975.  More greatness from northern Ohio, Cleveland’s Electric Eels were raw and nasty art project  and legendary for confrontation and violence. Great guitar sounds. Great lyrics. Great attitude. Features a young Nick Knox on the traps.

Rocket Fron The Tombs, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo

Pere Ubu, Final Solution: 1975 & 1976. Cleveland. Something must have been in the water in Ohio! Rocket From The Tombs gave birth to not only Pere Ubu but The Dead Boys as well. Many of their songs ended up in both bands’ repertoires. RFTT  never released anything during their career, their demos,  practice tapes, & live recordings are spread  over  many different bootlegs and more recent official releases.

Dr. Feelgood, She Does It Right: 1975.  Good Lord what an amazing TV clip! Those kids don’t know what hit ’em. Wilko Johnson: hands-down best moves (and guitar sound, and style). Yeah, Dr Feelgood were coming from the blues but they were so hard-driving and white-hot they get included on this list. Plus they inspired many many UK “punk” bands.

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