There's something wonderfully weird about the NightCrawlers, those Daytona Beach, Florida teens that unleashed The Little Black Egg upon an unsuspecting world in 1965. In a time when most garage bands were thrilled to sound like an amateur Byrds or Rolling Stones, the NightCrawlers honed a recorded style that was distinctly their own.
The NightCrawlers weren't great musicians, but they had a knack for turning their limitations into assets. Local fans made them the biggest attraction in a scene otherwise dominated by the nascent Allman Brothers. One thing they had was original songs - great songs - in a time when very few bands wrote their own material. Their simple yet haunting melodies and propulsive arrangements made the NightCrawlers stand out from the pack.
And then there was Chuck Conlon's uncanny voice, an instrument given to high-pitched coos and hysterical outbursts-anything but a standard rock vocal. It's that voice that drew a million American teens close to their late night radios to try and piece together one of the oddest musical narratives of any era. This insidious little ditty hit regional charts throughout the U.S. between 1965 and 1967, and it's a testament to the uniqueness of their sound that the song could fit on playlists that spanned an eternity in pop years.
The story of the speckled egg that the singer found in a tree might not have "meant" anything - Conlon knocked the words out in the time it took guitarist Sylvan Wells to take a shower - but it sure caught the imagination of listeners. And while 'Egg' is a fabulous single, it was hardly the best or only thing the group ever put to wax. A few lucky folks picked up their posthumous 1967 LP on Kapp and were introduced to a strange and compelling world of girls in tower windows (A Basket Of Flowers), bellyachin' laundresses (Washboard), and lovers who casually suggest you die for them (If You Want My Love), all celebrated in some of the most memorable melodies of the garage era.
The NightCrawlers had always planned to break up as they finished high school and went off to different colleges, and they did, leaving behind a handful of long out-of-print records that don't sound like anyone else.
The time's long been ripe for a rediscovery of the NightCrawlers, and anticipation in the garage scene is very high for this new compilation. Kudos to Ace/ Big Beat for tracking down the band and getting the rights to not only the Kapp album, but also a selection of excellent unheard demos, live rehearsal tracks and rare early singles. The live songs showcase vocalist Rob Rouse, who led the band on stage just as Conlon did in the studio. This is the first time non-Floridians have had a chance to hear just what made the NightCrawlers the top teen club band in their community. Equally interesting on this fine collection are spooky demos of the unreleased Sally In The Alley and an ultra-slow alternate take of their classic If You Want My Love, both as strong as anything on their LP.
By Kim Cooper