The Sonics

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sv:The Sonics This article is on the garage rock band The Sonics; see Seattle SuperSonics for the basketball team.

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The Sonics

The Sonics were a garage rock band from Tacoma, Washington.

The Sonics were a member of the wave of Pacific north-west American garage rock groups in the early and mid-1960s, pioneered by The Kingsmen and The Wailers (not to be confused with Bob Marley's backing band). Among The Sonics' other contemporaries were The Drastics, The Regents, and Paul Revere and The Raiders. This movement is credited with founding Seattle's well-known music scene which survives to the present.

The Sonics' sound is noticeably rougher, cruder, and more brutal than that of their musical peers. Although they had a fairly standard instrumental line up for the time, The Sonics made their unique sound with wild arrangements, often disturbing lyrics, peppered with screaming and howling, and electric guitars played through amplifiers customized to achieve the harshest tones possible. Although their chief period of success was coincident with the release of Gibson's first fuzzbox, The Sonics' fuzzy sound was their own creation.

The songs they played were a mixture of garage rock standards ("Louie, Louie"), early rock and roll ("Jenny, Jenny") and original compositions such as "Strychnine", "Psycho", and "The Witch", all based upon simple chord sequences, played hard and fast.

The lyrics of The Sonics' original material dealt with early '60s teenage culture; cars, guitars, surfing, and girls (in songs like "The Hustler" and "Maintaining My Cool") alongside darker subject matter such as drinking strychnine for kicks, witches, psychopaths, and Satan (in the songs "Strychnine", "The Witch", "Psycho", and "He's Waiting", respectively).

Contents

Band members

The classic Sonics lineup, as recorded on Here Are The Sonics and Boom:

Career

The history of The Sonics begins in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington. Larry Parypa played the guitar at that time with a drummer, Mitch Graber, another guitarist named Stuart Turner, plus a saxophonist and an acoustic bassist. In 1961 Parypa's older brother Andy replaced the bass player and Tony Mabin took over as their new saxophone player.

Stuart Turner left for the army and Rich Koch (who had previously played with The Wailers) joined as new lead guitarist and Marilyn Lodge joined as the band's first singer — they had been an instrumental combo until this point. A new drummer, Bill Dean, then replaced Mitch.

Koch and Lodge left the band in 1963. The local star Ray Michelson became the band's singer after having sung with a handful of other popular bands on the local scene. Larry began looking for a drummer to replace Bill Dean, whom he felt uncommitted to the band, and found Bob Bennett playing in a band called The Searchers with Gerry Roslie and Rob Lind. Ray Mitchelson was looking to leave the band, so the Parypas hired Bennett, Roslie, and Lind and let go their previous saxophonist Mabin. The well-known lineup was in place, but the Sonics' career as loved by their continuing cult following did not begin until 1964, when Gerry Roslie started singing lead vocals.

With Roslie as lead singer the band started playing gigs at local halls, at such venues as the Red Carpet, Olympia's Skateland, the Evergreen Ballroom, Pearl's, the Spanish Castle Ballroom and St. Mary's Parish Hall.

They were soon scouted by Buck Ormsby, bassist for The Wailers, and signed to The Wailers' own label Etiquette Records. The first single they cut was "The Witch" (with Little Richard's "Keep A-Knockin'" as the B-side), in November 1964. This was immensely popular with local kids, and went on to become the biggest selling local single in the history of the north-west, despite its radio airplay being restricted because of its bizarre and possibly mysogenistic subject matter.

Early in 1965 The Sonics began recording an LP, Here Are The Sonics, which they did on a two-track tape recorder, with only one microphone to pick up the whole drum kit. It was here that they began to pioneer some of their infamously reckless recording techniques. The next album, Boom followed in February 1966. During the recording The Sonics ripped the soundproofing off the walls at the country and western-oriented Wiley/Griffith studio, to "get a liver sound".

This heyday began to wane when the band transferred to Jerden Records in late 1966, and headed to Hollywood to record the poorly selling album Introducing The Sonics with Larry Levine in the Gold Star studios. The band later called this cleaner, slicker recording "the worst garbage".

The original band fell apart between 1966 and 1968, members leaving to go to university or to join other bands. During this time their sound changed, incorporating string and horn sections, but this proved unpopular and The Sonics passed into obscurity.

The original Sonics reunited briefly in 1972 for a Seattle Paramount live show, with the recording of this show was released as Live Fanz Only by Etiquette.

Quotations

  • "We were a wild, dirty, kickass band." - Bob Bennett
  • "We were nasty. Everything you've heard people say about us is true." - Larry Parypa
  • "If our records sound distorted, it's because they are. My brother (Larry, guitar) was always fooling around with the amps. They were always overdriven. Or he was disconnecting the speakers and poking a hole in them with an ice pick. That's how we ended up sounding like a train wreck." - Andy Parypa

Influence

The Sonics had an often overlooked but notable influence on subsequent rock music, not just in the Washington area. They are often-cited contenders for the title of 'the first punk band', due to their wild and unconventional style. Gerry Roslie was the first white man to record a frightening rock 'n roll scream in ernest, 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 punk bands such as The Sex Pistols and 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. As well as all these, there have been whole generations of garage rock revival bands (such as The Things) who make no bones of plagiarizing The Sonics and their ilk.

Discography

LPs

45s

  • "The Witch"/"Keep A-Knockin'" (Etiquette 11) (1964)
  • "The Witch"/"Psycho" (Etiquette 11) (1965)
  • "Psycho"/"Keep A-Knockin'" (Etiquette 13) (1965)
  • "Boss Hoss"/"The Hustler" (Etiquette 16) (1965)
  • "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark"/"Shot Down" (Etiquette 18) (1965)
  • The Sonics' "Don't Believe In Christmas"/The Wailers' "Christmas Spirit" (Etiquette 22) (1965)
  • "Cinderella"/"Louie Louie" (Etiquette 23) (1965)
  • "You Got Your Head On Backwards"/"Love Light" (Jerden 809) (1966)
  • "Like No Other Man"/"Love Light" (Jerden 809) (1966)
  • "The Witch"/"Like No Other Man" (Jerden 810) (1966)
  • "Psycho"/"Maintaining My Cool" (Jerden 811) (1966)
  • "Love-itis"/"You're In Love" (Jerden 909) (1967)
  • "Lost Love"/"Any Way The Wind Blows" (Piccadilly 244) (1967)
  • "Any Way The Wind Blows"/"Lost Love" (UNI 55039) (1967)
  • "Dirty Old Man"/"Bama Lama Bama Loo" (Burdette 106) (1975)
  • "The Witch"/"Bama Lama Bama Loo" (Great Northwest 702) (1979)
  • "The Witch"/"Keep A-Knockin'" (Norton 811) (1998)
  • "Psycho"/"Have Love Will Travel" (Norton 813 ) (1998)
  • "Cinderella"/"He's Waitin'" (Norton 815) (1998)
  • "Boss Hoss"/"The Hustler" (Norton 816) (1998)
  • "Strychnine"/"Shot Down" (Norton 818) (1998)
  • The Sonics' "Louie Louie"/The Wailers' "Louie Louie" (Norton 819) (1998)
  • "Don't Believe In Christmas"/"Santa Claus" (Norton 066) (1998)
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