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Oldies Music Glossary: "Garage Rock"


The Sonics' first album,

The Sonics' first album, "Here Are The Sonics," 1965

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Definition: What came to be known, decades later, as "garage rock" was not necessarily born in a garage, but the term does help delineate the basics of the sound. That is, it sounds like music a bunch of suburban kids would make in their garages -- raw, driving, undisciplined, guitar-heavy. The rise of guitar groups in the wake of the British Invasion led many Americans to fight back with brash tributes to the hard R&B they had been weaned on; in fact, the "frat rock" craze of the early Sixties directly paved the way for garage's more primitive and yet experimental take. (The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" is often considered the dividing line between these two eras; the original garage era is considered to have lasted from 1965-1966.)

The typical garage-rock song was a cover of an obscure R&B song, or a new song written as a tribute to same, pounded out with two guitars, bass, drums, and a cheap organ. The vocals were usually sullen, angry, defiant, with lyrics to match -- the typical garage song perfectly captured the frustration of teenagers, and was often mixed in with the burgeoning psychedelic music scene, leading to 45s (often one-hit wonders) that channeled those feelings into psych's mental confusion and druggy agony.

Despite the popularity of the genre today, many of its songs were at best minor hits, but many were collected on a seminal compilation LP called Nuggets which, when released in 1972, paved the way for the establishment of both the punk and new wave scenes. Indeed, garage had been referred to as "punk" by rock critics like Lester Bangs during the mid-Seventies, but the "garage" term soon surfaced in order to clear up the confusion. Garage rock made a sudden and unexpected revival just after the millennium, when bands such as the Hives, the White Stripes, and the Strokes appropriated the raw sound of the style to their own ends.

Also Known As: Frat Rock, Psychedelic
  1. "Psychotic Reaction," The Count Five
  2. "Pushin' Too Hard," The Seeds
  3. "Gloria," The Shadows of Knight
  4. "Talk Talk," The Music Machine
  5. "Dirty Water," The Standells
  6. "The Witch," The Sonics
  7. "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet," Blues Magoos
  8. "Hey Joe," The Leaves
  9. "Seven and Seven Is," Love
  10. "Let's Talk About Girls," The Chocolate Watchband
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