Psychedelic-Rock'n'roll: The Monks - Black Monk Time (60s GARAGE PUNK US 1966)

9 February 2009

The Monks - Black Monk Time (60s GARAGE PUNK US 1966)

the_monks,black_monk_time,psychedelic-rocknroll,punk,cavestomp,polydor,1966,front"THE MONKS - BLACK MONK TIME" (60s GARAGE PUNK US 1966)

"The Monks" were "Gary Burger" (guitar, lead vocals), "Dave Day" (electrified banjo, vocals), "Larry Clark" (organ, vocals), "Eddie Shaw" (bass, vocals) and "Roger Johnston" (drums, vocals).
They were five American ex-servicemen who met in post-war Germany, which makes sense because you'd have to have a German severity to write this music and a military training to play it.

In 1966, "The Monks" came out with an album called "Black Monk Time": it features the tightest, loudest, heaviest Music ever put on record, then or now or ever, most likely.

the_monks,black_monk_time,psychedelic-rocknroll,punk,cavestomp,promo_shot"The Monks" started off as a very traditional Rock'n'Roll outfit.
Initially called "The 5 Torquays", the band played the standard beat music of the day and 1965 saw their switch from being an off-beat band to channeling chaos as "The Monks", the band's new moniker.

The 5 Torquays: "There She Walks" / "Boys Are Boys", 1964 SCH 73/74, Germany

By the end of the year, Johnston had begun playing his cymbal lines and accents on his tom-toms; Clark, who was playing the bulk of the solos in their repertoire, had done away with melody as a guiding influence; Day had eschewed the six-string guitar in favor of the six-string banjo; and Burger played what few notes he deemed necessary through Fuzz boxes (and doing it so loudly that he went through twelve of them before the band's demise).
And Shaw played whatever the hell he felt like.
It is also worth mentioning that to promote their pious and humble NEW IMAGE, they had shaved tonsures into the tops of their heads and were wearing black clothing with rope ties.

the_monks,black_monk_time,psychedelic-rocknroll,punk,cavestomp,polydor,1966,backThe Monks: "Black Monk Time",  Germany 1966, International Polydor Production 249 900

The backbone of "The Monks"' music is in Roger's drumming.
The thudding of his omnipresent toms is constantly accenting and coloring his SHARP snare work and sparse use of cymbals.
He is always in control. It sometimes sounds as if he is directing the band, which is a rhythmic experiment in itself, from the rear.

Dave, whose banjo is exclusively rhythmic, usually takes his cues from Roger's snare, often playing at twice the drummer's speed.
The hollow, mad clacking sound of Dave's banjo is at times evocative of a locomotive that has dropped its cars and cargo in favor of a faster pace.

the_monks,black_monk_time,psychedelic-rocknroll,punk,cavestomp,GERMANY,hamburgPlaying somewhere in between the two is Eddie's overdriven bass seeking to put everything into some kind of harmonic perspective.
Gary and Larry play what might be viewed as the "melody" of the song as well as the solos.
Gary's soloing technique is to rip sheets of feedback out of his guitar, which yammers and howls in protest, before slapping it back into the framework of the, er... 'groove'.

the_monks,psychedelic-rocknroll,Complication,Polydor_52951,single,1966The Monks: "Complication" / "Oh, How To Do Now", March 1966 Polydor 52951

Larry usually skitters across the keyboard allowing occasional glimpses of fat cathedral-esque tone. His infrequent chords show the kind of caterwaul his organ would actually be capable of, if he slowed down long enough.
The overall effect is maddening. It is without a doubt the most uncompromising stuff ever to call itself Rock 'n' Roll.

the_monks,black_monk_time,psychedelic-rocknroll,punk,cavestomp,GERMANY,hamburg,live"The Monks" WEREN'T hippies: they were vets.
Most songs are made up of a single verse at most, if not just a few words, yet you can feel the swirl of conflicted thoughts running through them.
"Complications", in all its brevity, points to the band's unique perspective on the country's protests of U.S. military action.

Recorded in the waning days of 1965, "Black Monk Time" (Polydor Germany 249900, March 1966) was an anomaly.
Harsh and ABRASIVE, the music has not only withstood the test of time, it's grown more pertinent with every passing year.
A grotesque and fantastic tale precedes the release of "Black Monk Time", though.
"The Monks" began experimenting with their sound, focusing almost solely on rhythm.
"We got rid of melody. We substituted dissonance and clashing harmonics", bassist "Eddie Shaw" said.
"Everything was rhythmically oriented.
Bam, bam, bam. We concentrated on over-beat".

One of the components in this alchemy of sound was Feedback.
Burger discovered Feedback independently of the many English players who have all been heralded at one time or another as the inventor of said effect.

the_monks,psychedelic-rocknroll,Love_Can_Tame_The_Wild,Polydor_52958,single,1967The Monks: "Love Can Tame The Wild" / "He Went Down To The Sea", Germany 1967 Polydor 52958

"Gary Burger" quickly learned to control the Feedback.
Playing a Gretsch guitar, his lead lines were run through an audio ATOM-SMASHER that masqueraded as a "Fender amplifier".
A thick and distorted cacophony of black sound emerged.
Burger trashed the speakers so often, however, that he had to switch to a heavy-duty "Vox Superbeatle" that had a custom-made 100 watt amp.

"The Monks"' album cover reflected the music's stripped down minimalism.
The word 'monks' appeared on an all black cover, anticipating "The Beatles"' famed "White Album" by over two full years.
Most remarkable, perhaps, is the fact that every song on the record is an original.


Anonymous said...

One of the greatest 60s albums and truly ahead of their time. Amazing how little credit they get. Thanks for posting this gem!