Ranting, Raving, and Rocking by Sal Canzonieri
This was my first column in AMP magazine, it is different from all the subsequent columns. This one just gives a rave on the history of High Energy Punk Rock & Roll music!
(February 2005 issue #30)
Sal Canzonieri from Electric Frankenstein here. I'm introducing my new
regular column for AMP. As the column name says, I'll be ranting, raving, and
rocking about lots of things, from the state of Rock & Roll, what's cool and what's not, why things suck (about music, politics, etc.), and about things that might be interesting for all to know. So, let's get the ball rolling with this short history of High Energy Rock & Roll, what I consider the last bastion of what's left of Real Rock & Roll. Lots of people just know about The Hives, and maybe Turbonegro (though both are great bands) and THINK that The White Stripes are Rock (ha!), but the real stuff has been brewing for a while and I'd like to present many bands that new kids into modern Rock (not Emo, not pop, not The Knack-like crap pseudo-punk bands like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte spew) might not know about but should!
"I wish the music business had one big neck, so I can choke it!". Yep, in today's world where music is 90% business and only 10% art, it is easy to get discouraged and just want to give up on it. But fear not, Real Rock & Roll lives again in today's High Energy music, where Punk meets Hard Rock by smashing together what was best about such greatly inspiring bands as The Dead Boys, NY Dolls, Ramones, The Misfits, Sex Pistols, and Damned with AC/DC, Kiss, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Blue Cheer, MC5, and The Stooges, add a pinch of Black Flag and another pinch of The Count Five, Music Machine, Blues Magoos, and a dash of Motorhead! Now that's REAL Rock & Roll! Well, get ready, I'm going to trace things to today like a lightning bolt is shaped:
Since the 1950s, great Rock & Roll bands have been coupling primitive emotional rawness with well crafted melodic arrangements, with the main ingredients being a strong driving back beat, big riffs and hooks, heavy pulsating rhythm, and loads of melody. Sure there was the soppy Doo-Wop slop, kinda of like wimpy rap, and even wimpier Pat Boone style poop, but the best, REAL Rock & Roll was forming a uniquely amped-up BIG & EXCITING over the top sound that went beyond the simple Rock (or false commercial Rock) music of that day.
You can first trace the origins of today's High Energy Rock sound, with the emergence of such wild 1950s acts like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, BB King, Larry Williams, Gene Vincent, Eddy Cochran, Link Wray, Chuck Berry, and such. (Yes, I know there was Jump Blues before Rock, and granted Jump Blues is the Granddaddy of High Energy Rock, but for now I am concentrating on post-Elvis Rock & Roll music)
Soon after this time of Rockabilly and Jumpy Rock, there was the grand entrance of James Brown, Screaming Jay Hawkins, etc., who hands down added a huge dose of High Energy to all music, let alone Rock. The Girl Groups sound gave a brief hint of being energetic in songs, as certainly did a lot of Motown music, providing the foundation for the Detroit Rock that was to come much later. Surf music, especially by the Ventures, The Surfaris, The Trashmen, The Challengers and others started to up the ante on what Rock and Roll was going to sound like in the 1960s. Things were a bit perky during the Instrumental Bands days of the early 60s, with Duane Eddy, Davie Allan, and so on pumping out totally energetic guitar-driven songs. Really soon after the Northwest Rock scene exploded when bands like The Sonics, Wailers, The Raiders, and The Kingsmen added words to this guitar driven rock and essentially created the first taste of teenage garage punk rock. These bands sped up the tempo dramatically, added screaming over the top emotional vocals, wrote about being nuts or going nuts, and still sound great today!
After laying the ground work for the mid-1960s Garage Band boom, bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on sounded very tame compared to the explosive sound that TOP 40 (!) bands from 1966 from both the US and abroad like The Count Five, Music Machine, Blues Magoos, The Litter, Easybeats, Troggs, Kinks, Budgie (yes, BUDGIE! They first came around in Wales when the Beatles were popular and some clubs refused to book them cause they played too loud, too fast, and too heavy! For real.), Yardbirds, The Who, Creation, The Misunderstood, etc.., were all generating. Not only were these bands the next evolution of High Energy Rock but the very beginning of Heavy Metal to tell the truth. By the way, ONLY music from 1966 is really GARAGE PUNK ROCK, anything before or after 1966 is not quite it, if you have a discerning ear. AND, only about 250 such albums (not singles, mind you) actually were recorded. (Which strikes at another pet peeve of mine: there are TOO many bands today and NO ONE can keep up with all the many thousands of bands that exist today and most of them suck and shouldn't exist at all, but they do thanks to major labels with too much money on their hands. Things were way better when tons of people were into about 100 or so bands, than now when 100 people are into any one particular band, if that!)
Anyway: Next came the avalanche of Rock Music that was the1970s, where every kind of Rock and almost Rock came into being (jazz rock, blues rock, pop rock, progressive rock, etc.). This was the best of times and the worst of times. By 1975, Rock music kept coming and going in waves that lasted 2 or 3 years at the most, and do you know which bands are mostly the ONLY ones that people still remember? YEP, you guessed it! The ROOTS of the High Energy Rock bands, of which were: the Proto-Punk sounds of Detroit Rock (Brownsville Station, Amboy Dukes, MC5, SRC, The Stooges, etc.), Glam Rock (Slade, TRex, Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Silverhead), and Hard Rock (Blue Cheer, Cactus, Crow, Sir Lord Baltimore, Haystacks Balboa, Mountain, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Pink Fairies, Deep Purple, Mott the Hoople, Crushed Butler, Grand Funk, Aerosmith, Kiss, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Black Oak Arkansas, etc.). Of course, the critics mostly hated these bands, and championed all the arty farty commercial bands, of which most are barely remembered at all. Good riddance.
Now since the main stuff on the radio by 1976 was highly produced super professional grown-up people's Adult Rock (like James Taylor, Loggins and Messina, Kansas, Journey, and the rest of that boring stuff. Oh, and there was Disco too.), the original late 70s Punk Rock came roaring in to crash the party, laying their farts around the cocaine soaked, disco dancing Adults and continued on to the grab what was the last chance to keep the High Energy theme alive with such bands as NY Dolls, Dictators, The Ramones, Dead Boys, The Plasmatics, Pagans, DMZ, Runaways, Weirdos, Germs, F-Word/Rik L Rik (R.I.P.), The Saints, Radio Birdman, Hollywood Brats/The Boys, Sex Pistols, Damned, Buzzcocks, Rezillos, Count Bishops, Gorillas, etc. The shot heard around the world, indeed. Once the door was opened and the kids were "allowed" to Rock again, the door stayed open for a long time with tons of cool kids from everywhere, just like back in the1950s with Rockabilly, looking to start their own noise. If necessity is the Mother of invention, then here is solid paternity proof that BOREDOM is the Father! When Punk Rock hit the suburbs of America, in the Early 1980s, Hardcore Punk Rock (yes, that's what it was called) and bands like the Angry Samoans, Shock, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Adolescents, TSOL, Bad Brains, The Teen Idles, SOA, Government Issue, Meat Men, The Misfits, and The Necros also maintained a High Energy element to their sound by making their music faster, louder, meaner, and crazier! At the same time, some influence creeped in from a few 1980s Punk-like Heavy Metal bands that raved loud and wild AND fast like Motorhead, Rose Tattoo, Raven, The Rods, Tank, (and Venom actually!). All these 70s bands provided the parentage to the earliest pure High Energy bands that later combined all these elements of loud, heavy, energetic, and emotionally exuberant music together into one big combination of Punk Rock and Hard Rock. They were the atom bomb, and what followed were their mutant progeny.
Thus, inspired by both heavy metal and punk/hardcore, the earliest TRUE founding fathers of High Energy Punk Rock & Roll came into being during the late1980s and early 90s with such bands like Redd Kross, White Cross, The Lazy Cowgirls, The Joneses, Painted Willie, Legal Weapon, Fearless Leader, Chemical People, The Nomads, The Dwarves, Otto's Chemical Lounge, Blue Hippos, Celebrity Skin, Flower Leopards, Creamers, Gargoyles, Trashcan School, Tommy knockers, Big Chief, Junkyard, Freaks, Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Action Swingers, Bullet Lavolta, The Fluid, Voodoo Gearshift, Knifedance, Swingin Teens, Poison Idea, The Digits, U-Men, The Melvins, Green River, Mud Honey, Poison 13, Lee Harvey Oswald Band, The Wildhearts, etc. All great bands with nary a hit amongst them. By this time, Rock & Roll and "popular" music have gone their separate ways.
Somehow, during the early 90s, Green Day, The Offspring, Social Distortion, and others kicked a hole in the wall with a more, well, let's say "polished" Punk, and starting hitting not only the streets but the radio waves and the chain stores too. I don’t consider them High Energy Rock bands at all, though. Like a slow volcano, the Northwest was again alive then, and just prior to then too, with Alice in Chains, Green River, Poison Idea, Coffin Break, The Melvins, Mud Honey, Nirvana (there! I said it!), and Sound Garden bringing back what was their idea of Rock meets Punk (not actually Punk meets Rock.). And it was Popular, strangely enough.
Taking their cue from these bands, by the mid-90s High Energy Punk Rock & Roll finally evolved, was hatched, popped out of the belly, was belched, and became as we know it today. Something that has quietly, to the masses of radio friendly college-age morons, grew to feature packed clubs all over the world where real GIRLS actually go. Cool ones that look like the sexiest Joan Jetts and Chrissy Hyndes, that drink (but not get drunk, please)! Whole rows of leather and denim jacketed girls with black mascaraed eyes, singing along! No Brittany Spears crapola here! Girls who start their own bands. Why did they chose Rock out of all of the tons of other kinds of music out there today? Cause Real Rock & Roll is sensual, exciting, moving, emotional, unpredictable… well… just like a real girl is! Without any "official" warning or permission from NME or Kerrang, like all the other NON-ROCK scenes need, this new High Energy Rock erupted all over the world when fed up people sought to revitalize Rock & Roll by infusing the attitude and energy of Punk Rock with the song arrangements of Hard Rock, creating the defining thing that High Energy Punk Rock & Roll actually is: Hard Rock played ineptly by real Punks. But that inept High Energy "Punk / Rock" sound is exactly what is so endearing about what's left of Real Rock & Roll of today. It's so wrong that it's great. Like an independently made, non-Hollywood Horror film! Nope, no major labels here in the world of High Energy Rock & Roll, no need for them, "they hate us, we hate them" (as Black Flag/ Henry once said). Whole villages in Sweden (Malmo!) started bands! Whole carloads in the UK! Whole neighborhoods in the USA! Guitar Armies! By the turn of the century Rock Lives again, as worldwide bands like Teengenerate, The Makers, Rocket From the Crypt, New Bomb Turks, The Supersuckers, Zeke, Humpers, Lemons, Electric Frankenstein, The Gaza Strippers, Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, Gluecifer, Turbonegro, The Robots, Puffball, The Rockets, Nashville Pussy, Toilet Boys, The Dragons, American Heartbreak, The Donnas, Trash Brats, Ironboss, Adam West, Black Halos, The Upper Crust, Texas Terri, Screaming Bloody Marys, The Candysnatchers, Thee STP, etc. all loaded up their vans, hit the clubs, put out SINGLES (vinyl singles!!), again, and did it. But, ONE BIG THING different is that most of these bands, however retro they were in sound, totally embraced the INTERNET of all modern things and built a huge underground network of web sites, fan clubs, poster art, merchandising, mutual admiration societies, that allows the smallest bands in the smallest towns anywhere in the world to have fans from anywhere else in the world, getting the latest news out there, and selling records and t-shirts and posters, so that a band, lets say from Whippany NJ, can get to play in the middle of France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Australia, to hundreds of hot girls and cool guys that know the words to all their songs, to thousands of such kids at festivals in Spain, Sweden, Finland, and get to be the Top 2 out of Top 500 most featured bands in the Indie press. Hell, there are even Rock bands in Iran, thanks to the Internet! (don't believe me? look it up). Today, in early 2005, there are loads of great High Energy Rock bands like The Hives, D4, Datsuns, The Super Bees, Camarosmith, Dirty Rig, Ironhead, Bad Dog Boogie, and hundreds more as featured on the "A Fistful of Rock & Roll" compilations (compiled by yours truly) and at amazon.com! Go out and dig it all up!!!
(c) 2005 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri