New Audio: Third Man Records Releases Un-released Material from a Cult Favorite 1960s Avant Garde/Garage Rock Band

Formed in 1964 by five American GIs station in Gelnhausen, Germany — Gary Burger, Larry Clark, Eddie Shaw, Dave Day and Roger Johnston — as The Torquays, before a name change to The Monks, the garage rock/avant garde rock quintet had quickly become bored of the already cemented, traditional rock format, and as a result, they were inspired to create what was considered a highly experimental sound and aesthetic comprised of hypnotic and driving rhythms, which minimalized the role of melody, innovative sound manipulation, copious feedback, shrill vocals and guitarist David Day’s frequent use of the six string banjo. They were also well known for their shocking appearance as they would frequently dress up like Catholic monks, complete with black habits, cinctures tied around their waists and their hair worn in partial tonsures.  And although they horrified and baffled audiences of their day, in the 50 years since their last known release, the members of the American-born, German-based quintet are now largely considered pioneers both of the avant garde movement and of punk rock, as their socially charged material — material, which had the band voicing objections to the Vietnam War and criticizing what they viewed as the increasing dehumanization of modern society and modern life.

As The Monks, the American-born, German-based quintet released a handful of singles during 1966-1967 — most notably “Complication,” which coincided with the release of their only full-length album Black Monk Time. Though the material released during that period achieved limited commercial success or attention, over the past few years, the band has become a cult-favorite act, thanks to a newfound interest in Black Monk Time by collectors and music obsessives looking for art rock and psych rock of the 60s and 70s, and appearances on several compilation albums, including Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 — and along with that bands like The Dead Kennedys and The Beastie Boys have publicly cited The Monks as an influence on them.

With the release of 1999’s Five Upstarts Americans, a collection of rarities, B-sides and demo’d tracks from the Black Monk Time sessions, the members of the band reunited for a reunion show and a series of sporadic tours throughout the 2000s. For the better part of five decades, it was assumed that The Monks quietly split up after a handful of releases; however in a strange bit of a serendipity, the folks at Third Man Records were sent a treasure trove of unreleased and barely released, original photos of the band, newspaper clippings, business cards, letterhead, contracts, postcards and analog tapes, which contained unreleased material recorded sometime in early 1967, sometime around the time of the recording sessions of their final single “Love Can Tame the Wild”/”He Went Down to the Sea,” and after hours in the Top Ten Club, just before the band’s breakup.

From what the folks at Third Man Records could determine, the Hamburg Recordings 1967 EP, the EP’s first single “I’m Watching You” would have most likely been recorded on February 28, 1967 during the same sessions in which they recorded their final single — and while sounding completely of it era, nodding at the blue-eyed soul of The Righteous Brothers, the mod rock of The Who and The Kinks, as well as The Beach Boys and The Doors, the song possesses a swooning urgency that feels wild and unhinged, evoking the thoughts of someone who’s madly, desperate in love; but just under the surface, there’s an obsessive menace, as though the narrator may stalking his object of affection.

 

 

 

 

 

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