This is the third volume of goodies exploring the deceptively elusive Downey Records catalogue. The much-lauded first comp was a collection of weird instrumentals, “Intoxica!” (CDCHD 1144), and the second was a rock‘n’roll collection that spanned the pre-Beatles era, “It Came From The Suburbs” (CDCHD 1133). This collection brings us gems from Southern California’s suburban garage-land. If the second volume was caught somewhere between the beach and the hip teen clubs on Sunset Strip, then this volume chronologically carries on where that volume left off at the British Invasion of 1964. All great garage-punkers and whimsical psychedelic folk-rockers of a mixed-up jangly nature!
Essentially based on a much-missed Big Beat comp called “Scarey Business”, which was released and then withdrawn in 2001, this collection adds a further 11 tracks to the 13 gems pulled from the Downey tape vaults for that collection by Ace wunderkind Alec Palao. “Scarey Business” introduced many unreleased tracks that we bring back in the company of a clutch of other unissued and mostly unhinged corkers.
Bill Wenzel, together with his oldest son, Jack, opened Wenzel’s Music Town in 1958 and began to record local acts at the studio they had installed in back of the store. They founded the Jack Bee record label in the summer of ’59 and another imprint, Downey, in 1962. They hit paydirt with the Rumblers’ Boss, and then with the Chantays’ Pipeline and so the label started with a reputation for releasing instrumentals.
1964 saw a big change in American music and teen culture. The British Invasion not only put the final coffin nail in the instrumental scene (as it had in the UK), but on the positive side it freed the instrumental groups to start singing. Groups like the Rumblers had been recording tough R&B vocals on their B-sides since before the arrival of the Beatles, Stones and Them, and from the same suburban garages that the instrumental and surf groups had first got together, in came a new breed. From the Pacific North West; from all over Texas; from Missouri; from California; and from every landlocked small town across the land. They emerged with their Prince Valiant haircuts and cheap guitars. They arrived with acne and attitude. From the British Invasion through to the first psychedelic era, they brought an energetic buzz not felt since the earliest savage Southern rockabilly.
With a couple of exceptions, what you have here is all from the final fling at Downey, from 1965-1967. I like to think that this collection can sit beside “Nuggets”, the double long-player that was released way back in 1972, compiled by the great Lenny Kaye, and a forerunner of so many similar collections ever since. Yes, this is a swag bag of “Nuggets” that will have eBay hounds searching for the rare originals.
We present the Rumblers from Norwalk, California; the Last Word/Sir Frog & the Toads from Las Vegas, Nevada; the little known Barracudas and New Breed, from parts unknown; the Sunday Group, who were the Hustlers from Whittier, California in disguise. Add to this another illustrious name, not normally associated with garage punkers and folk-rockers, the Love Walrus himself, Barry White. Barry produced the Bobby Fuller 4 after he left Downey, and before he started getting his teeth into his more famous early sub-Motown productions, he actually wet his production head on Lakewood Boulevard at Downey on the Rumblers and the Hustlers! Witness the Bel-Cantos sides, a thinly disguised Rumblers, giving us some hard-edged white-boy R&B. Sleepy Hollow by the Last Word has proved to be a popular addition to previous comps, and it’s a stand-out track here.
The Downey vaults excavation continues in order to bring straight-from-the-masters quality. We’ve discovered that the released sides (and the two or three hits on the label) were only a small part of the Downey story!
By Brian Nevill