Whoo boy, it's about time this story really got told! Volume One of the Northwest Battle Of The Bands is the tip of the iceberg, as Alec [Palao] tells me there are at least four more coming. This is the stuff that not only kept 60s teens dancing, but also the stuff that inspired so many Seattle, Olympia, Portland and other Pacific Northwest bands to pick up guitars and make noise, from the late 70s right into the 90s. There was a flourishing scene in the mid-60s built on raw rock'n'roll bands and independent labels like Jerden and Etiquette, and that's what happened again in the late 80s-early 90s - a regional, self-proficient approach that didn't really give a shit about what was happening in L.A. and New York. There's a direct line from the Sonics and Wailers and Ventures and Raiders and Frantics and Kingsmen to the Telepaths and Wipers and Moberlys and the Lewd to the U-Men to the Young Fresh Fellows to Girl Trouble to Beat Happening to Mudhoney to Soundgarden to friggin' Nirvana or whatever you want. It's the root of the Northwest sound, why fight it. And now Big Beat is digging out those roots for us...
If you're a 60s garage fiend loser like me, you may know some of these tracks. If you don't know the Sonics, get yourself a goddamn life! 'You've Got Your Head On Backwards' is a classic, covered by such luminaries as my very Young Fresh Fellows (in 1985) and Thee Headcoats. The intro to the Don & The Goodtimes hit 'Little Sally Tease' is definitive NW drum pounding, and it's not so hard to imagine Don Gallucci at the helm of the Stooges' 'Funhouse' sessions-.-no kidding and I am not. Maybe you wouldn't think 'The Owl & The Pussycat' prime material for a guitar/organ combo, but I do believe the Bards may change your mind with their Them/Zombies-inspired re-telling. And the Monkees take on 'Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day' was swell, but when Sir Raleigh & the Cupons cut their lead guitarist loose on it, the Monkees' later version quietly takes a back seat. When the Dimensions say 'She's Boss', I listen. Another Northwest anthem soon to be covered by Mudhoney! (Right, boys?)
But it's the previously unreleased tracks that get me really excited, because, again, there's more to come, and the quality of stuff being unearthed is obviously amazing. If this is the Express I know from the lo-fi but over-the-top 'Long Green' on the Highs Of The Mid-60s, then thank god another track has been found - the relentless fuzz stomp 'Wastin' My Time' does not disappoint. That the spooky 'Goodbye' by the Liberty Party has never been covered by the Cramps can only be because they haven't heard it! And the Rock-N-Souls version of the Wailers' 'Turn And Run' confirms again the Northwest has the best screamers west of the Little Richard River.
Now one other thing that needs to be mentioned is the sonic quality of all this. It's all from Jerry Dennon's Jerden-Piccadilly-Panorama archives, master tapes that were obviously stored properly, and recorded by folks who knew what to do in a time when many engineers threw their hands up at that crazy kids' music"! Mr Kearney Barton of Audio Recording in Seattle, where most of this stuff was cut, wasn't afraid to peg those meters and still get every instrument balanced on tape. I've worked with Kearney (yes, he's still at it) and he'll get you the sound you want, whether you're a punk band or a barbershop quartet. First time I came into Audio Recording with the Young Fresh Fellows, we said "We wanna sound like the Sonics" and he just went to work. And it worked! Best-sounding thing we ever recorded! Might not have been music to a radio programmers ears, but what the hell do they know?
I can't wait for Volumes Two through Five. This is the shit. And you can quote me on that.
by Scott McCaughey
(Scott McCaughey plays guitar and organ with The Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, R.E.M., The New Original Sonic Sound, etc.)