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Garage rock

"Garage band" redirects here. For other uses, see Garage band (disambiguation).
"Frat rock" redirects here. For the album with a similar name, see Frat Rock! The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Party Tunes of All-Time.

Garage rock is a style of pop music, a raw and energetic variety of rock and roll that developed in the United States and Canada in the mid 1960s.[1] At the time it had no specific name and was not recognized as a separate genre, but the 1972 compilation album Nuggets did much to define and memorialise the style. The term derives from the perception that many groups were young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage.

The style, though a precursor to psychedelic rock, is characterised by aggressive and unsophisticated lyrics and delivery, often using guitars distorted through a fuzzbox. Surf music and beat music characteristic of the "British Invasion" of 1964-66 motivated thousands of such bands in the USA and Canada during the era; hundreds produced regional hits and a handful had national chart hits. By 1968 such records largely disappeared from the national charts and the style declined as more sophisticated forms of rock music developed.

In the early 1970s some critics began to refer to the style as punk rock, the first form of music to bear this description; and it is sometimes called garage punk, protopunk or 1960s punk to distinguish it from the punk rock of the mid and late 1970s.


The term garage rock comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in the family garage.[2] While some bands were made up of middle-class teenagers from the suburbs, others were from rural or urban areas or were composed of professional musicians in their twenties.[3]

Performances were often amateurish, naïve or intentionally raw, with typical themes revolving around the traumas of high school life and songs about "lying girls" being particularly common.[4] The lyrics and delivery were notably more aggressive than was common at the time, often with nasal, growled, or shouted vocals, sometimes punctuated by shrieks or screams at climactic moments of release.[2] Instrumentation was often characterised by the use of guitars distorted through a fuzzbox.[5]

Nevertheless, garage rock acts were diverse in both musical ability and in style, ranging from crude one-chord music (like the Seeds and the Keggs) to near-studio musician quality (including The Knickerbockers, The Remains, and the Fifth Estate). There were also regional variations with flourishing scenes, particularly in California, the base of Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Electric Prunes, The Music Machine, The Standells, and Texas, offering bands such as Sir Douglas Quintet, The 13th Floor Elevators, Sam the Sham (whose "Wooly Bully" reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was charted for almost four and a half months in 1965), and Fever Tree.[4] The north-western states of Idaho, Washington and Oregon had perhaps the most defined regional sound with bands such as The Bootmen, The Sonics and Paul Revere & the Raiders.[6] Florida had a significant amount of near studio quality bands, such as The Impacs, The Tropics, The Tempests and The Outlaws.



Precursors can be picked out as early as 1958. Link Wray, with his innovative use of power chords and distortion, was an early influence.[7][8][9][10] "Tall Cool One" (1959) by The Fabulous Wailers and "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963) are formative examples of the genre.[11] By 1963 several such singles were creeping into the national charts, including Paul Revere and the Raiders (Boise),[12] The Trashmen (Minneapolis)[13] and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana).[14] Other influential garage bands, such as the Sonics (Tacoma, Washington), never reached the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[15] In this early period many bands were heavily influenced by surf rock and there was a cross-pollination between garage rock and energetic and upbeat party frat rock, though the latter is sometimes viewed as merely a subgenre of garage rock.[16]

In the wake of The Beatles' historic 1964 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the subsequent string of successful British acts that followed, the "British Invasion" of 1964-66 greatly influenced American garage bands, leading many (often surf or hot rod groups) to respond by altering their style.[4][17][18] The 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,[19] and The Rolling Stones. A handful of British garage bands were formed, the most successful being The Troggs.[20] Another influence was the folk-rock of the Byrds and Bob Dylan, especially on bands such as The Leaves.[21]

Peak of popularity

Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era and hundreds produced regional hits.[4] Usually thought to be the first to enjoy national success were The Beau Brummels with "Laugh, Laugh" and "Just a Little", which both reached the top 15 in 1965.[22] Other examples include: "Fortune Teller" by Des Moines's The Image (1967), "The Witch" by Tacoma's The Sonics (1965), "Where You Gonna Go" by Detroit's Unrelated Segments (1967), "It's Cold Outside" by Cleveland's The Choir, "Girl I Got News for You" by Miami's Birdwatchers (1966), "Dirty Water" by Los Angeles-based The Standells (1966), "I Need Love" by Canton, Illinois', The Third Booth,[23][24] and "1-2-5" by Montreal's The Haunted.

The November 12, 1966 issue of Billboard stated that sales of the "96 Tears" single by Question Mark & the Mysterians, a band from Michigan, had attained sales of one million copies. 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.[25] The Count Five scored a number five hit on the Billboard charts that year with "Psychotic Reaction,"[26][27] which in turn was featured on their album of the same name.[26]

Michigan's Shondells released a minor regional hit in 1964 before disbanding. When it was unearthed by a Pittsburgh Disc Jockey in 1965, the resulting success of "Hanky Panky" revived the moribund career of Tommy James, who formed a new group of Shondells. Tommy James And The Shondells followed up with twelve more top 40 singles.[28] Tommy also had three top 40 singles as a soloist.

The 1965 song "¡Demolición!" by Peruvian act Los Saicos is considered a South American classic. Allmusic, writing about Los Saicos, noted "The guitars sound like nothing so much as fountains of sparks, the drums have a tribal post-surf throb, and the vocals are positively unhinged" and "These guys were a punk rock band, even if nobody outside Lima knew it at the time".[29]

Female garage bands

File:The Pleasure Seekers (band).jpg
The Pleasure Seekers (Suzi Quatro at far right) pictured in 1966

Garage rock was not an exclusively male phenomenon—it fostered the emergence of all-female bands whose members played their own instruments. One of the first such acts was New York's Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who accompanied Chubby Checker on his 1962 European tour,[30] and later toured with The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Kinks, among others.[31] The Pleasure Seekers from Detroit, later known as Cradle, featured Suzi Quatro and her sisters. Quatro would subsequently go on to greater fame as a solo act in the early 1970s.[32] The Luv'd Ones, also from Michigan, signed with Chicago's Dunwich Records, and are best known for the song "Up Down Sue."[33] San Francisco's The Ace of Cups became a fixture in the Bay Area scene in the late 1960s.[34][35][36][37] The Liverbirds hailed from the Beatles' home city of Liverpool, England, but became best known in Germany, often performing in Hamburg's Star-Club.[38] Other notable female groups were the Daughters of Eve, from Chicago, The Feminine Complex, from Nashville, and The Heartbeats from Lubbock, Texas. In many ways, bands such as these served as a precursor to later all-female acts, such as the Runaways and The Slits, that would be associated with the 1970s punk movement.


Despite scores of garage bands being signed to major or large regional labels, most were commercial failures. For instance, "Going All the Way" by The Squires was issued on a national label under (Atco) and is now regarded as a genre classic, but was not a hit anywhere.[39] It is generally agreed that garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically around 1966.[4] 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 amateur musicians faced college, work or the draft.[4] New styles had either evolved out of garage rock or replaced it, such as psychedelic rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, country rock, and bubblegum.[4] However, in Detroit, garage rock's legacy remained alive well into the 1970s, with bands, such as the MC5, The Stooges, The Up and Death, who employed a much more aggressive approach to the form.

Later developments

Critical recognition

File:Iggy-Pop 1977.jpg
Iggy Pop of The Stooges onstage in 1977

At the time of its original happening in the 60s, garage rock was not thought of as a genre, but merely as typical rock of the period, and had no name. However, in the early 1970s, certain rock critics, such as Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs, Greg Shaw, and Lenny Kaye, began to speak of the mid-60s garage bands (as well bands that they considered continuing in their line, such as MC5 and the Stooges) as an actual genre, which they referred to as "punk rock."[40][41][42] In 1971, conjuring up a more innocent time, Lester Bangs would remark nostalgically about the garage bands of mid-60s: "...then punk bands started cropping up who were writing their own songs but taking the Yardbirds' sound and reducing it to this kind of goony fuzztone clatter...oh, it was beautiful, it was pure folklore, Old America, and sometimes I think those were the best days ever."[43] However, since the advent of the New York and London scenes of 1975-78, the term "punk rock" has become most commonly applied to groups emerging after 1974. Sixties garage bands are now most often described as garage rock, or, especially in the case of successors, such as MC5 and the Stooges, protopunk or proto-hard rock.[44]

Emergence of punk aesthetic and movement

Main articles: Punk Rock and Punk subculture

Along with critical recognition, much of the revival of garage rock, and to a certain extent the emergence of the punk movement in the mid 1970s, can be traced to the release of the 1972 two-disk album Nuggets compiled by future Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, which drew together both commercially successful and relatively obscure tracks from the mid-1960s and whose sleeve notes used the term punk rock to describe the phenomenon.[45][46][47] As a result of the popularity of Nuggets, and critical attention being paid to primitive sounding rock of past and present, a self-conscious musical aesthetic began to emerge around the term, "punk,"[48][49] that eventually, with the arrival of the New York and London scenes, would grow into a subculture, having its own look, iconography, and values.[50][51] Iggy and the Stooges, arguably the last garage band, carried garage rock and protopunk into the early 1970s.[5] But, the mid-to-late 1970s saw the arrival of the bands most often viewed as the quintessential punk rock acts, most notably The Ramones, from New York, some of whose members had played in 60s garage bands,[52][53] who are usually considered the first punk band as the term is now commonly understood, and The Sex Pistols, from London.[54][55] Both bands would spearhead the global 70s punk movement from their two respective enclaves.[56][57] Though garage rock and protopunk would influence many of the bands from the New York and London scenes of this period,[58][59][60] punk rock had now become a movement with a subculture all of its own, [61][62] and the garage band era of the 60s came to be viewed as a distant forerunner.


Main articles: Garage punk and Post-punk revival

Garage rock has continued to be an influence in rock. 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 1960s garage bands, including The Chesterfield Kings, The Fuzztones, The Pandoras, and Lyres.[63] This trend coincided with a similar surf rock revival, and both styles fed in into the alternative rock movement and future grunge explosion, which some say was partially inspired by garage rock from the Tacoma area like The Sonics and The Wailers, but was largely unknown by fans outside the immediate circles of the bands themselves.[citation needed]

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 Thee Headcoats.[64] Bands playing garage punk differ from the garage rock revival bands in that they do not necessarily attempt to replicate the exact look and sound of 1960s garage bands and their overall approach tends to be even louder and rawer, often infusing elements of protopunk and 1970s punk rock. But, the garage rock revival and garage punk have 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,[65] Get Hip,[66] Bomp!,[67] and Sympathy for the Record Industry.[68]

In the early 2000s, a garage rock or post-punk revival[69] achieved the airplay and commercial success that had eluded garage rock bands of the past. This was led by four bands: The Strokes of New York City, The Hives of Fagersta, Sweden, The Vines of Sydney, and The White Stripes from Detroit, Michigan, christened by the media as the The bands, or "The saviours of rock 'n' roll".[70] Other products of the Detroit rock scene included; The Von Bondies, Electric 6, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras[71] Elsewhere, other acts such as Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from Chatham, England,[72] The (International) Noise Conspiracy from Umeå, Sweden,[73] The's from Tokyo, Japan,[74] and Jay Reatard and the Oblivians from Memphis, USA[75] enjoyed moderate underground success and appeal. A second wave of bands that managed to gain international recognition as a result of the movement included The Black Keys,[76] Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Killers, Interpol, and Kings of Leon from the US,[77] The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Editors, and Franz Ferdinand from the UK,[78] Jet from Australia,[79] and The Datsuns and The D4 from New Zealand.[80]

The mid-2000s saw several underground bands achieve some mainstream prominence. Bands such as Black Lips[81] and Jay Reatard,[82] who initially released their records on traditionally garage punk labels such as In The Red Records, began signing to larger, more well-known independent labels.[83] Several bands followed them in signing to larger labels such as Rough Trade[84] and Drag City.[85]

See also


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  29. ^ ¡Demolición!: The Complete Recordings Allmusic review
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  33. ^ Korey. B. "The Secret History of women n Rock--Charlotte and Christine Vinnege of the Luv'd Ones. Girlsinthegarage's Blog.
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  36. ^ Palao, Alec (2003). "Hear Every Sound: The Ace of Cups Story". It's Bad for You But Buy It! (CD). The Ace of Cups. Big Beat. p. 3. CDWIKD 236. 
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  40. ^ Bangs, Lester. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Anchor Books, a division of Random House. 2003. pg. 8, 56, 57, 61, 64, 101: reprints of articles which appeared in 1971 and 1972, that refer to garage bands such as the Count Five and the Troggs as "punk"; pg. 101 associates "Iggy" and "Jonathan of Modern Lovers" with the Troggs and their ilk (as being punk); pg. 112-113 speak of the Guess Who as "punk"--The Guess Who had made recordings (i.e. their hit version of Shakin' All Over," 1965) as a garage rock outfit in the mid 60s; pg. 8 makes a general statement about "punk rock" (garage) as a genre: "...then punk bands started cropping was pure folklore, Old America, and sometimes I think those were the best days ever."; pg. 225 is a reprint from article which appeared in late-70s, that refers back to garage bands as "punk"
  41. ^ Laing, Dave. One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock. PM Press. Oakland, CA 2015. pg. 22-23 - Laing writes that the term, "punk rock" was used "generically" (i.e. as to designate a genre) in the early 70s to describe mid-60s garage rock bands--he quotes Greg Shaw from the late 70s referring to how it was used in the early 70s to designate the genre: "Punk rock in those days was a quaint fanzine term for a transient form of mid-60s music..." [1] >Marsh, D. Creem. May, 1971--from a review of live show by ? & the Mysterions - Marsh refers to their style as "a landmark exposition of punk rock." >Christgau, Robert. Village Voice. October, 1971 - refers to "mid-60's garage rock as "punk" >Shaw, Greg. Who Put the Bomp. 1971. - In 1971 article in Who Put the Bomp, Greg Shaw wrote about "...what I have chosen to call 'punk rock' bands—white teenage hard rock of '64-66 (Standells, Kingsmen, Shadows of Knight, etc.)"
  42. ^ Kaye, Lenny. "Headed, Decked, and Stroked..."--original liner notes for Nuggets LP. (Elektra, 1972): uses the term "punk rock" to describe whole genre of 60s garage bands: "..the name that has been unofficially coined for them - "punk rock" - seems particularly fitting in this case..." >Shaw, Greg. Rolling Stone, Jan. 4, 1973 - review of original Nuggets LP: speaks of whole phenomenon of 60s garage bands as an actual genre called "punk rock": "Punk rock at its best is the closest we came in the 60's to the original rockabilly spirit of Rock 'n Roll..."
  43. ^ Bangs, Lester. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Anchor Books, a division of Random House. 2003. pg. 8 - Taken from article, '"Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung," which appeared in June, 1971 edition of Creem
  44. ^ G. Thompson, American Culture in the 1980s (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), ISBN 0-7486-1910-0, p. 134.
  45. ^ L. Kaye, "Headed, Decked, and Stroked..." - original liner notes for Nuggets (Elektra, 1972)
  46. ^ Unterberger. R. Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-fi Mavericks& More. Hal Leonard Corporation. San Francisco. 1998. pg. 69.
  47. ^ Smith, Chris (2009). 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 96–8. ISBN 978-0-19-537371-4. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  48. ^ Laing, Dave. One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock. PM Press. Oakland, CA. 2015 - pg. 22-23: Laing, discusses beginning of punk aesthetic in the early 70s, which on pg. 22, he describes as at first strictly musical, not cultural; on pg. 23, after providing quotes form Greg Shaw and Billy Altman, he further discusses the genesis of the punk aesthetic: "The construction of punk as a musical type and ideal, then took place in America in the early 70s as part of the reaction against the centrality of progressive rock in its various forms."
  49. ^ M. Blake (ed.). Punk: The Whole Story (Mojo Magazine). Dorling Kindersley Limited. 2006 - Nick Kent (journalist and very early member of the Sex Pistols), in his piece, "Punk Rock Year Zero" describes the origin of the punk aesthetic: "For me, punk didn't start in 1976: it started in 1971 when I first read US rock magazine Creem. The writer Dave Marsh claims he coined the phrase "punk rock" in a review he wrote for the magazine late '71 of a gig by ? & The Mysterions. But it was fellow Creem scribe Lester Bangs who really took the term and and created a whole aesthetic for it. For Bangs and his disciples, punk rock began in 1963 when Seattle quartet The Kingmen hit Number 1 stateside with the deliciously moronic Louie, Louie, grew with the influx of one hit wonders from the US mid-60's that Creem correspondent, Lenny Kaye paid fullsome tribute to with his influential 1972 album Nuggets..."
  50. ^ Christgau, Robert, "Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain" (review), New York Times Book Review, 1996. Retrieved on January 17, 2007.
  51. ^ Rodel (2004), p. 237; Bennett (2001), pp. 49–50
  52. ^ Aaron, Peter. If You Like the Ramones. Backbeat Books (an imprint of Hal Leonard Corporation). Milwaukee, WI. 2013 - p. 53 mentions that three of the original members of the Ramones had been in 60s garage bands:Johnny and Tommy had been members of The Tangerine Puppets and Joey had been in The Intruders
  53. ^ Laitio-Ramone, Jari-Pekka (1997). "Tangerine Puppets (Interview with Richard Adler)". Jari-Pekka Laitio-Ramonen Henkilökohtainen Kotisivutuotos. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
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Additional references

  • Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to More than 1200 Artists and Bands] (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1843531054. 

Suggested reading

  • Bangs, Lester (ed. Greil Marcus) (1987, 2003) Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Anchor Books (a division of Random House). New York. ISBN 0-679-72045-6 - a partial compendium of Bangs' articles discussing various musical topics, including some of the earliest writings about this genre
  • Bhatia, Sidharth (2014). India Psychedelic: The Story of a Rocking Generation. Harper Collins Publishers, India. ISBN 978-93-5029-837-4 - covers the garage and psychedelic beat boom in India during the 60s and early 70s
  • Hicks, Michael (2001) Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252069153 / ISBN 978-0252069154 - covers garage and psychedelic bands of the 60s
  • Lemlich, Jeffrey M. (2001) Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands: The '60s and Beyond. Distinctive Publishing Corp. ISBN 978-0942963120 - covers 60s Florida garage rock scene
  • Markesich, Mike (2012) Teen Beat Mayhem. Priceless Info Press. ISBN 0985648252 / ISBN 978-0985648251 - includes information about more than 16,000 garage rock songs and recordings form the 60s
  • Marks, Ian D. and McIntyre, Iain. (2010) Wild About You: The Sixties Beat Explosion in Australia and New Zealand Verse Chorus Press. Portland, London, Melbourne. Foreword by Ian McFarlane. ISBN 978-1-891241-28-4 - covers 60s garage rock scene in Australia and New Zealand
  • Nobles, Mark (2012) Fort Worth's Rock and Roll Roots (Images of America series). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738584991 / ISBN 978-0738584997 - covers 60s Fort Worth garage rock scene
  • Unterberger, Richie (1998) Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks & More. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879305347 / ISBN 978-0879305345 - covers lesser known and overlooked rock artists from the 1960s, including garage and psychedelic
  • Unterberger, Richie (2000) Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers: Overlooked Innovators and Eccentric Visionaries of '60s Rock. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879306165 / ISBN 978-0879306168 - covers more lesser known and overlooked rock artists from the 1960s, including garage and psychedelic

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