From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Garage rock is a raw form of rock and roll that was first popular in the United States and Canada from about 1963 to 1967. During the 1960s, it was not recognized as a separate music genre and had no specific name. In the early 1970s, rock critics such as Lenny Kaye retroactively labelled it as punk rock. However, the music style was later referred to as garage rock or '60s Punk to avoid confusion with the music of late-1970s punk rock bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash. The garage rock revival can be traced to the early 1970s, following the release of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 in 1972.
Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era. Several dozen of these produced hit records in the United States, including "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963-64), "Psychotic Reaction" by The Count Five (1966), "Pushin' Too Hard" by The Seeds (1966). Most bands did not repeat their success and remained one-hit wonders.
The term "garage rock" comes from the perception that many such performers were usually young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in a garage. In this sense garage rock was a forerunner of punk music, which professed the same DIY attitude. At the time of its floruit, the genre was termed punk rock, originally in 1971 by Dave Marsh after witnessing a Question Mark and Mysterians show, today it is also referred to as protopunk.
Typical themes revolved around the traumas of high school life. The lyrics and delivery were notably more aggressive than was common at the time, often with growled or shouted vocals that dissolved into inchoate screaming. Songs about "lying girls" were particularly common.
By 1963, garage band singles were creeping into the national charts in greater numbers, including the Kingsmen (Portland), Paul Revere and the Raiders (Boise), the Trashmen (Minneapolis) and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana). Other influential garage bands, such as the Sonics (Tacoma, Wa.), never reached the Billboard 100.
In this early period, there was a cross-pollination between garage rock and frat rock. Frat rock (another heavy influence and precursor to punk rock) was also a loosely defined genre of rock and roll which featured raw, energetic, usually party-themed anthems. It is sometimes viewed as merely a sub-genre of garage rock.
The "British Invasion" of 1964-1966 greatly influenced the garage band sound, as many local American bands (often surf or hot rod groups) began augmenting their sound with a British Invasion lilt. The British Invasion also inspired new, and often very raw, bands to form. Garage rock bands were generally influenced by those British "beat groups" with a harder, blues-based attack, such as The Kinks, The Who, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, The Pretty Things, Them, and the The Rolling Stones. Another influence was the folk-rock of the Byrds and Bob Dylan, especially on bands such as the Leaves.
Looking back from a later perspective, it is generally agreed that garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically during 1966. It went into a slow, but irreversible, decline beginning the following year, with fewer and fewer examples of the genre being released in 1968 and 1969. From a general interest standpoint, the genre was spent by 1970.
"Garage rock" comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in a family garage. This connotation also evokes a suburban, middle-class setting. It is, of course, inaccurate to conclude that all garage bands met this demographic dynamic. Some bands were made up of middle-class teenagers from the suburbs, some were from rural or urban areas, while others were comprised of professional musicians in their twenties.
The performances were often amateurish or naïve. Typical themes revolved around the traumas of high school life. The lyrics and delivery were notably more aggressive than was common at the time, often with growled or shouted vocals that dissolved into inchoate screaming. Songs about "lying girls" were particularly common. Superficially, this implies that the music was very limited. In reality, different garage rock acts were quite diverse in both musical ability and in style. Bands ranged the gamut from one-chord musical crudeness (e.g., the Seeds, the Keggs) to near-studio musician quality (e.g., the Knickerbockers, the Remains, and the Fifth Estate). There were also regional variations in many parts of the country with the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon having the most defined regional sound.
Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era. Several dozen of these produced national hit records, including "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963-64), "Psychotic Reaction" by The Count Five (1966), "Pushin' Too Hard" by The Seeds (1966), "Gloria" by the Shadows of Knight (1966), "96 Tears" by Question Mark and the Mysterians (1966), "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine (1966), "Dirty Water" by The Standells (1966), "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" by The Swingin' Medallions (1966), "Respect" by The Rationals (1966), and "Little Bit O'Soul" by The Music Explosion (1967).
Hundreds of garage bands produced regional hits. Examples include: "I Just Don't Care" by New York City'sThe D-Men (1965), "The Witch" by Seattle's Sonics (1965), "Where You Gonna Go" by Detroit's Unrelated Segments (1967), "Girl I Got News for You" by Miami's Birdwatchers (1966) and "1-2-5" by Montreal's the Haunted. Boston's Remains, though only able to make it onto Billboard's Bubbling Under charts, had enough of a following and reputation to open for the Beatles during their 1966 U.S. tour. Ohio's Shondells released a minor regional hit in 1964 before disbanding; when it was unearthed by a Pittsburgh DJ in 1965, the resulting success of Hanky Panky revived the moribund career of Tommy James, who formed a new group of Shondells and went on to chart seven more Top 40 singles.
But as one would expect, most garage bands were commercial failures. This is despite scores of such bands being signed to major or large regional labels. For instance, "Going All The Way" by The Squires was issued on a national label (Atco) and is now regarded as a genre classic, but was not a hit anywhere.
By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts (the minor hit “Question of Temperature” by The Balloon Farm being a notable exception). It was also disappearing at the local level as new styles had evolved to replace garage rock (e.g., progressive rock, country rock, Bubblegum, etc.) and as the music industry withdrew its support. In Detroit garage rock stayed alive until the early 70s, but with a much more aggressive style than early garage rock. Among garage purists, these later bands are considered a different genre altogether, however, proto-punk or proto-hard rock.
The garage rock revival is a musical phenomenon largely influenced by the original garage rock of the 1960s. Its earliest roots can be traced to the early 1970s, following the release of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 in 1972 and continues to this day through the Western World as modern youngsters continue to pay tribute to a vanished golden age of rock and roll that was 1960s garage rock. Proto punk bands of the early '70s such as The Stooges and The New York Dolls were arguably garage rock revivalists. Iggy Pop had been in a mid-sixties, Detroit garage band, The Iguanas, who released a version of Bo Diddley's "Mona" in 1966 and recorded many other songs that fit within the genre.
The mid to late 1970s saw the arrival of the quintessential garage punk bands, who inspired all garage rock to come, most notably The Ramones, who are usually considered the first of the American punk bands. A good example of the continuing Detroit garage rock scene of this period is The Romantics.
In the 1980s, another garage rock revival saw a number of bands linked to the underground music scene earnestly trying to replicate the sound, style, and look of the '60s garage bands (see The Chesterfield Kings, The Fuzztones, The Milkshakes, and The Cynics as examples of this); this trend coincided with a similar surf rock revival, and both styles fed in into the alternative rock movement and future grunge music explosion, which some say was partially inspired by garage rock from the Seattle area like The Sonics and The Wailers, but was largely unknown by fans outside the immediate circles of the bands themselves.
This movement also evolved into an even more primitive form of garage rock that became known as garage punk by the late 1980s, thanks to bands such as The Gories, Thee Mighty Caesars, The Mummies, and The Devil Dogs. Bands playing garage punk differed from the garage rock revival bands in that they were less cartoonish caricatures of '60s garage bands and their overall sound was even more loud, obnoxious, and raw, often infusing elements of proto punk and 1970s punk rock (hence the "garage punk" term).
The garage rock revival and garage punk coexisted throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s with many independent record labels releasing thousands of records by bands playing various styles of primitive rock and roll all around the world. Some of the more prolific of these independent record labels included Estrus, Hangman, Rip Off, MuSick, In The Red, Telstar, Crypt, Dionysus, Get Hip, Bomp!, Music Maniac and Long Gone John's Sympathy for the Record Industry.
In the 2000s, a garage rock revival gained mainstream appeal and commercial airplay, something that had eluded garage rock bands of the past. This was lead by four bands christened by the media as the "The" bands: The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, and The White Stripes, the last of which came out of the prominent Detroit rock scene which also include; Von Bondies, The Dirtbombs, The Detroit Cobras, The Go, The Sights, The Hentchmen, Fortune & Maltese and the Paybacks. Elsewhere, other lesser-known acts such as The Boss Martians, Sweet Lemons, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Satan's Pilgrims, The 18.104.22.168's, The New Bomb Turks, the Oblivians, Teengenerate, Mando Diao, The Makers, Mooney Suzuki, The Flaming Sideburns, Guitar Wolf, Lost Sounds, The Kills, and The Young Werewolves enjoyed moderate underground success and appeal. Other notable bands that enjoyed commercial success, were Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Maddison Street Riot, The Datsuns, Kings of Leon, Jet, The Black Keys, Cold War Kids, The Pattern, The Hellacopters, The Libertines and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, though some of these bands popped up on the scene a few years following the initial wave. Even younger bands currently on the cusp have ties to the genre, including The Shys, The Parlor Mob, The Wildbirds, and Sikamor Rooney.
In the late 1990s, Steven Van Zandt ("Little Steven") became a torchbearer, spokesperson, and proponent for both garage rock and the garage rock revival, promoting concerts and festivals across the United States, and also, in 2002, starting a syndicated radio program called Little Steven's Underground Garage and has also launched The Boxen an Underground Garage channel on the Sirius Satellite Radio network. Van Zandt has described the music format as "groups that inspired the Ramones, groups inspired by the Ramones, and the Ramones."
- Frat rock
- Garage punk
- Pub rock (UK)
- Pub rock (Australia)
- Group Sounds (Japan)
- List of garage rock bands