The Sonics are rightfully considered to be one of the earliest bands on the family tree of punk (which I believe stretches back as far as Link Wray's seminal track Rumble) due to their wild and unconventional style with bloodcurdling screams, neanderthal drumming and heavily distorted guitar. The lyrics of The Sonics' original material dealt with early '60s teenage culture; cars, guitars, surfing, and girls alongside darker subject matter such as drinking strychnine for kicks, witches, psychopaths, and Satan.
They combined classic Northwest-area garage band raunch (see the first Nuggets compilation to hear other bands in this style such as Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs; The Kingsmen; The Seeds and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators) with early English band grit (they were particularly influenced by the Kinks). Their relentless rhythmic drive and unabashed '50s-style blues shouting (in the style of Little Richard) created a sound that makes their brand of rock & roll perhaps the rawest and raunchiest ever captured on wax.
Gerry Roslie was the first white man to record a frightening rock 'n' roll scream in earnest, thus influencing Iggy Pop and the rest of protopunk, such as The New York Dolls. The band also have a clearly marked influence on golden age American punk bands such as The Dead Boys in their brash, immature, masculine style and posturing, and on the nineties grunge bands (who originated in the same area), especially Mudhoney, who adopted some of the darker themes from Sonics music, and a lot of their groundbreaking techniques on over-driving and distorting electric guitars.
The Sonics started in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington as an instrumental combo and after several line-up changes 1963 saw the beginning of the band the world know as the Sonics. They were still working as an instrumental combo with Gerry Roslie playing electric piano, but in early 1964 Gerry Roslie began to sing.
The Sonics first recording was the classic "The Witch" in 1964, which would become the all-time best-selling local rock single in Northwest history. Their follow-up single "Psycho" was quickly released and also became a big hit locally.
The band recorded the classic "Here Are the Sonics" in 1965. The album was recorded on a two-track tape recorder with only one microphone for the whole drum kit. To get the distortioned and aggressive sound the band members had to overload the amps and redline the studio deck's VU meter.
Their second album "Boom" was recorded in February 1966 and during the recording session the band began to tear down half the egg cartons that lined the ceilings and studio walls "to get a liver sound".
In 1966 the Sonics were the opening act for the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Jay & the Americans, Ray Stevens, Herman's Hermits, the Righteous Brothers, the Kinks, Lovin' Spoonful, Liverpool 5, Shangri-Las, Mamas & Papas and the Byrds. But still they were only ever recognised in their own backyard and national/international success eluded them.
They went to Hollywood and had Larry Levine at the Gold Star Studio to produce the album "Introducing the Sonics". This 1967 release resulted in a much more polished sounding lp because the band didn't have the same freedom and possibilities to overload the amps etc. The band members themselves describe the record as "the worst garbage"!
The last 45 recorded by the original line-up was Any Way The Wind Blows. After this members departed to go to college or join other bands - with Rob Lind being the last original member to leave in 1968.
The influence of the Sonics can be seen in the number of bands who have recorded cover versions of their songs; The Fall, The Cramps, Nomads, The Mono Men, The Fuzztones, They Might Be Giants, The Flaming Lips, Screaming Trees, Thee Headcoats ...
So here is a collection of covers of Boss Hoss, plus the original by the Sonics. This selectoon includes a live version by The Hoovers, the band I played in when I was living in Perth.
A friend is about to celebrate his 40th birthday and is getting together friends from a number of the bands I have blogged about over the last few years (The Waltons, The Volcanics, the M-16s, the Marigolds, The Hoovers and As Is). I will be there at the same time and will be happy to join in and jam with some old buddies again, perhaps Boss Hoss will get another airing live - I'd like to see that!
The Sonics - Boss Hoss
The Mono Men - Boss Hoss
The Hoovers - Boss Hoss
The Fuzztones - Boss Hoss
Ray Daytona And The Googoobombos - Boss Hoss
Dirty Lovers - Boss Hoss
Kings Of Rock - Boss Hoss
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