It was a noble experiment, and only a group like the Wailers could have pulled it off. As the bona fide architects of the Pacific Northwest rock'n'roll explosion - surely the finest grass roots teen scene extant in America during the 1960s - the Wailers were in a unique position to succeed. A bunch of musicians, a rock'n'roll band running their own record label? Pshaw! But no-one could argue with the enviable respect that the Wailers enjoyed, in that far-flung part of the United States, or deny their widespread influence and shining example as a real rock'n'roll band, as worthy of emulation as the black R&B artists they learned from, or indeed, the original rock pioneers themselves. The little group from blue collar Tacoma, Washington cast a pebble whose ripples were felt all over the region, and indeed the country, for years. The story of their Etiquette Records is ultimately the same as any number of indie labels of the 1950s and 1960s - wilful enthusiasm ultimately dashed upon the unforgiving rocks of commercial enterprise.
It would be fair to say that today Etiquette Records and its distinctive logo are best known around the world for the Sonics, a veritable touchstone for the greatest lowest common denominator rock'n'roll (and consequently a sound as influential at this moment in time as it has ever been). But before the Sonics came the Wailers, and without the Wailers and the efforts of two of its constituents - Kent Morrill and John Buck" Ormsby - the Sonics would never have reached the ears of the record-buying public. By expanding Etiquette to become a conduit for other bands that, they believed, had the same or similar vital rock'n'roll energy, Ormsby and Morrill put their money where their mouths were. Yet to hear the pair tell it, the idea of the Wailers forming their own record label almost didn't happen, because their own bandmates didn't initially have faith in them. The success of Etiquette 1 - the Wailers' classic take on Louie Louie - put paid to that notion.
It's just one of the many notable tracks on REQUIRED ETIQUETTE, which kicks off our series of reissues dedicated to the label on Big Beat. Forthcoming shortly will be definitive repackages of the Wailers' classic albums, but we commence with this superlative anthology that details the garage-rocking side of Etiquette and its subsidiary Rivertons release schedule, 1964-66. As well as the Wailers and Sonics, local legends the Galaxies and the Bootmen weigh in with a brace of punchy, full-blooded singles cuts like Make Love To Me Baby and Ain't That The Truth Babe. There are rarely heard sides by the Rooks (the outfit Rich Dangel joined immediately after the guitar god quit the Wailers), and a fascinating unissued cut by songwriting legend Ron Davies, and the girl group/garage crossover of Don't You Worry About Me Baby by MayAlta Page. Plus you get the pure undiluted raunch of I've Been Thinking by Paul Bearer & The Hearsmen, a record so visceral - and so rare - that it has a exhibit all to itself at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle.
One very important point: the Sonics' tracks on REQUIRED ETIQUETTE are taken for the first time directly from the 2-track tape that the band actually recorded onto. The resulting ambience is so real, so dynamic, you can almost smell the amps overheating on Shot Down, and visualize the veins in Gerry Roslie's neck bulge as he turns his throat to hamburger on the extended ending to Psycho. Rock'n'roll dementia in hi fi."
by ALEC PALAO