Net Nuggets 31: Dan's Garage

If there's one thing worse than nostalgia, it's irony. Yet sometimes there are people—you might know some—who actually manage to combine these two forms of escapism into one exceptionally annoying way of running from reality. They play and listen to retro music that makes them feel warm and safe due to a (mistakenly) perceived innocence of
the «good old days», while at the same time guffawing at the naffness of it, lest they be perceived as corny by their peers—the cardinal sin of uptight, hung-up, self-conscious hipster doofi everywhere. (If you're wondering, yes, «doofi» is hereby plural for «doofus».) It's like a bulimic's version of having your cake and eating it too. In this way, they distance themselves from the relentlessly confronting nature of reality, both through lulling themselves into believing in something nice that never was and by not taking anything seriously.

And it's hard to like vintage music (or vintage anything) without being accused of nostalgia—or of taking the piss. Yet all decades and centuries offer at least some music that is still valid. «Trendiness» is just another word for «dated», but sometimes—and despite itself—even something easily dated possesses some kind of timeless quality. Believe it or not, there are songs from past decades that aren't guilty pleasures, nor quaint and cosy mementos for people to run to when they're feeling vulnerable and they need the safe feeling of something familiar.

There are legions of people moaning about the nowadays. You know the ones, prone to «they-don't-make-'em-like-they-used-to» type arguments. With '60s garage rock music, for instance, the subculture is lousy with DJs and compilers who always focus on the most saccharine examples of the era—the bubbly harmonies, the anthemic melodies, the feelgood vibe, the puppet-like shaking of bobs—giving the entire decade a false and pathetically rosy hue, colouring its music output innocent and naïve. The nostalgic person is always a revisionist, and we don't approve of that stuff here on this blog.

No, sir. We like our '60s music alive and kicking, as sweaty and scruffy now as it was back then! We want rude 'tude and rawness with our garage rock! We prefer the stuff that doesn't merely sound cute, 50 years on. We want balls, wet with sweat, and possibly other fluids. We want mean drums, nasty guitars and snarling vocals. And if you love that too, you'll like today's Toilet Guppies comp:

Somewhere on the interweb, there's a mysterious man by the name of Dan who possesses in his garage a collection of old 45s that you simply have to take your hat off to. 1960s amateur rock from North America, Europe, Australia, &c. that probably only a handful of autistic record collectors who were punks in the '80s are already familiar with. Dan rips these neglected little vinyl babies and graciously shares them with '60s rock enthusiasts on his blog, detailing info on each forgotten (and in many cases never known) act.

Quite a few of the 45s have appeared—usually in more doctored, cleaned up form—on various garage compilations: the definitive Nuggets boxes, the overrated Pebbles series, the underrated Garage Beat '66 set, the no-nonsense Back from the Grave volumes, the mind blowingly comprehensive Mindrocker comps, the obscurity-truffling Teenage Shutdown collections… And these are just a few in a confusing and expensive array of multi-volumed series of various artists collections compiling ineptly recorded and incompetently performed inane compositions that, despite and because of it all, blow your mind and kick your arse! Dan also does us the favour of ripping B-sides that in many cases never made it onto the mess of garage compilations for sale out there.

So far, Dan has posted 29 volumes(!) in his ongoing series of rare vinyl rips, each volume containing 28 to 31 tracks. (You do the math.) I recommend you go check them out. By way of introduction, I've compiled some favourites—although I've avoided those songs that are already featured on commercially available digital downloads or CDs (that I know of, at least), such as artist retrospectives or compilations like the ones mentioned above. (The only exception is the inclusion of rip-roarin' «Rich with Nothin'» by the Split Ends, which as far as I know only exists on CD on Trash Box—Wild Psychotic Garage Punk!!!, but in an anti-social vinyl transfer that is so insanely tinny it'll give you instant tinnitus. Dan's rip sounds far punchier.)

Dan's transfers haven't been given the vinyl restoration treatment. These 45s are often scratched and worn, but this excessive surface noise somehow adds to the already poorly engineered, badly played music. This is rock'n'roll, with organic and imperfect textures that the record industry would have you believe is wrong, but which is symbolic of the artists' fun-loving enthusiasm for the energy of music, perfect or no, and which provides them and us with so much unbridled glee. Hi-fi perfectionism is the aural equivalent of anal retentive inhibition, and we can't have that. This scruffy stuff may be a sin against technology and Capitalism, but that only makes it better.

So Toilet Guppies hereby prescribes a submersion of your ears in a sea of warm and fuzzy static. Stomp along to the primitive rhythm, from your heart down to your good foot. Swirl to the distortion! Clap yer hands! Play that air tambourine! This stuff will make you feel alive. Sometimes nasty. In fact, it'll make you feel a little like when your eyes hone in on the holes at the centre of the 45s in the picture above. This is a collection of the best in ultra-rare garage rock—songs so obscure they shouldn't be good! Yet somehow they are… It's a bit of a conundrum how something so mediocre could actually be so great, but it's out of place to overthink these simple songs. Anyway, the tracklist is as follows: (For info on the acts, just follow the links in the artist name to Dan's relevant blog posts.)
1. The Judge 'N Jury: «Roaches»
Dan calls this a novelty song, whereas I prefer to view the lyrics' omnipresent cockroaches as a misanthropic, if humorous, metaphor for people. The narrator ends up marrying one, then fathering several. Could it be a snide attack on the bourgeoisie? In any case, even a novelty song is better than the standard boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl, «I want to hold your hand» type lyrics as prevalent in the genre as cockroaches are in this song.

2. The Hysterical Society: «I Know»
Move over, rap. A surprising barrage of verbiage in this soulful stomp rocker. I can't catch the words, but they sound cool… Then the drummer loses his cool towards the end and the track erupts!

3. The Pineapple Heard: «Valleri»
Normally this would be a tad poppy for my liking. Still, you can't deny that the steady drums, the eminently hummable melody and the dreamy back-up harmonies make the song irrepressibly catchy. And the riff, so cheery and innocent, is delivered nastily enough that it works. If it sounds strangely familiar, the Fall quote/plagiarise this riff on «Barmy», a song off their 1985 masterpiece This Nation's Saving Grace.

4. The Shags: «It Hurts Me Bad»
Again, a little soft for me normally, but the laid back cool, the soul syncopation and the hand claps put it over the edge. The Shags were from the US, but this sounds like a perfect slice of freakbeat, more restrained and stiff upper lip'ed than the garage-psych punk fuzz freak-outs of North America.

5. King Bees: «On Your Way Down the Drain»
Cow bell and hand claps! Probably the most sensational find in Dan's garage is this song which, unaccountably, isn't one of those household hits everyone knows from the '60s. (But then I suppose it doesn't really fit in on the Forrest Gump soundtrack.) Everything comes together in this forgotten recording by a neglected act: the catchy melody, a driving rhythm, scathing lyrics, snarling attitude and biting delivery… It even sports high production values, with varied instrumentation (a harpsichord sweetening the bitterness in the chorus). It's perfect as is. And a remarkable love song: a vitriolic attack on a lover who hasn't even done anything! Never before has a love song been so hateful:

I don't know, and don't wanna find out
'Bout the money you had
I don't know, and don't wanna find out
Good friends that went bad
But if you keep foolin' around
Causin' ev'rybody pain
Don't forget to wave to me, darlin'
On your way down the drain

And I don't know, and don't care to find out
'Bout all the places you've been
I don't know, and don't care to find out
All the chances you've had to sin
But if you keep foolin' around
Talkin' about your losses and gain
Don't forget to wave to me, darlin'
On your way down the drain

I don't know, and don't wanna find out
What a good person you are
I don't know, and don't wanna find out
How you coulda been a star
But if you keep foolin' around
Drivin' ev'rybody insane
Don't forget to wave to me, darlin'
On your way down the drain

I don't know, but if I were to find out
That you cheated on me
I don't know, but maybe I will find out
Then you'll surely see
I won't care to know what you feel inside
Or what's goin' on in your brain
I'll just sit here and wave to you, darlin'
On your way down the drain

Wow. Check out the 'tude! What a hilariously unnecessary bitch slap, with a little paranoid flourish there at the end as well… Well, everyone gets on someone else's nerves sometimes, and a song for when that special someone gets on yer tits can be a good thing to have, I suppose…

6. 'Twas Brillig: «This Week's Children»
A bona-fide floor stomper to have you dancing like it's 1966, complete with the singer's delicious freak-out towards the end…

7. The Mugwumps: «I Don't Wanna Know»
Another mean love song. At least it's honest:

Cry your eyes out over me
Don't you see, don't you see
All the things they said are true
I'll be mean to you

I don't want to know
I don't want to know
I don't want to know
About you

You gave me all the love you had
Made me glad, made me glad
Go find yourself another boy
I'll only make you cry

The singer doesn't say why he doesn't «want to know about» the girl, but the song combines an odd consideration for her future well-being with being brutally unapologetic. All set to a highly danceable tune. Few songwriters write catchy songs delivering unnecessarily cruel rejection anymore. Songwriters these days are too sophisticated (or too dishonest?), I suppose…

8. The Seeds: «Up in Her Room» (radio edit)
A song to celebrate uncomplicated pleasure, as if Christianity never happened. Original flower punks the Seeds' until recently available 1966 album, Web of Sound, closes with an ode to a free love sister, a quarter of an hour-long, entitled «Up in Her Room». This is the short and sweet two-minute radio edit, from the flipside of single «Mr. Farmer». I still recommend the epic full length album version, though. Two minutes wouldn't satisfy a sexually generous original punk hippie chick up in her love nest—not by far.

9. 49th Parallel: «Laborer»
If not one of those boringly polemic, Socialist punk songs, this is an amusingly caustic look at Capitalism. That you can dance to.

10. Sumpin' Else: «Baby You're Wrong»
Another turning-against-one's-love-interest track. One can imagine the singer putting into this song all the things he never dares tell her:

Baby, you tell me that I can't dance
(But you're wrong)
You say that I move like there's sand in my pants
(But you're wrong)
'Cause I can do the Duck and the Temptation walk
In fact, I taught you how to do the Dog!
(So you're wrong)

Also, note the gloriously fuzzy bass lining the song like a static-electric carpet underneath your feet. This was before the Rolling Stones ushered in the unfortunate rock'n'roll precedence of burying the bass way down in the mix. Bill Wyman's doormat ways and subservience to the Glimmer Twins is directly responsible for the tyranny of guitar wankery and cock rock!

11. The Split Ends: «Rich with Nothin'»
Like Paul Revere & the Raiders, only nastier! No sweet harmonies here, the band just yelling in the background. Also, whatever happened to rock's signature scream introducing the guitar solos? I know, I know… Feminism and Grunge made the guitar solo politically incorrect. But the least you scuzzy indie rockers can do is wail and howl a little…

12. Terry Knight & the Pack: «Numbers»
Another mean'n'nasty riff backed by stomping drums, with acerbic (if slightly nonsensical) lyrics that could've come out of Bob Dylan's mordant mouth in 1966, had he been slightly more coherent:

You've got 13 years of learnin'
At the finest schools
They gave you 26 teachers and you made them all
Look like fools
You told 11 good men that you loved them
But you know you lied
'Cause all you ever do is
Lay around your house and cry

13. The Todds: «I Want Her Back»
The singer, drummer and guitarist—even the organ player—are all competing here. Even the lyricist and the guy who wrote the melody must have been competing with each other on this one! The result is rocking. (Creative tension, people!) And I suspect the pogo was invented whilst trying to dance in time to the drummer and organ player on this frantic number.

14. The Bougalieu: «Let's Do Wrong»
«The way you look at me / A man can plainly see / Your eyes are full of lies»! There's that bitterness and disdain again—something civilised and healthy individuals aren't supposed to feel, but which they're allowed in songs such as this, so liberating. Also, the title alone is worth the price of admission. The guitar player sounds delightfully impatient, and the avant garde break sounds like US Maple, thirty years earlier. And surely this singer must be one of the coolest human beings to ever have walked this mucky space rock? He sounds like the kind of guy who could wear sunglasses after dark and get away with it.

15. Don & Jerry w/the Fugitives: «In the Cover of Night»
«All the things I need / Are waiting, yes indeed / In the cover of night»!

16. The Tropics: «As Time's Gone»

17. Boo Boo & Bunky: «This Old Town»
«Boo Boo & Bunky»?! Kudos for the name alone. But the song is actually good. Driving, pounding, stomping drums, simple and primal and made for the dance floor.

18. The Belfast Gipsies: «Gloria's Dream»
Scruffy Murphy rock here, no doubt trying to cash in on Them's monster ode to teenage lust, «Gloria». The party the singer's on about is one party I'd love to attend…

19. The Teddy Boys: «Where Have All the Good Times Gone»
An American cover of the Kinks' original, this performance is indicative of the difference between the more pastoral and restrained British mod/freakbeat scene and its sexier, more unhinged cousin across the pond. This rendition wins, hands down.

20. The Hardtimes: «Fortune Teller»
The Rolling Stones did a decent version of this funny, little ditty, lyrics like a joke, complete with set-up and punchline. But this version is just as good, if not better. Uncomplicated rock'n'roll run-through.

21. Vinnie Basile: «Girl»
Stupid lyrics, inept musicianship, just what the doctor ordered. Proof that obvious rhymes, out-of-tune strumming and hack drumming can create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

22. The Sting-Rays Of Newburgh: «Fool»
Nasty riff, psychedelic organ, echoing harmonies… Can't you just hear the black/strobe lights and the swirling oil projections on the wall? Another party, part debauchery, part existentialism, that I'd love to attend, most psychedelically.

23. The Bluebeards: «Come on-a My House»
The Bluebeards are pushing it, kitsch-wise, with the oriental flavourings in the melody and percussion, but the way they emphasise «candy» when they harmonise, «Come on-a my house, my house / I'm gonna give you caaandy» sounds gleefully wrong and creepy. Wonder if one of these guys is a Catholic priest now?

24. The Four O'Clock Balloon: «Dark Cobble Street»
Another dancer.

25. The Wolf Men: «Watusi Beat»
Sounds like they stole the 13th Floor Elevators' «You're Gonna Miss Me», but with a scuzzy sounding guitar solo like that, who cares?

26. The Troyes: «Rainbow Chaser»
«One day you'll wake and realize / That the love that's in her eyes / Was only a disguise…» Banal lyrics made to sound profound; hypnotic vocal melody, groovy rhythm, great garage-psych. Yeh!

27. The Evil: «Whatcha Gonna Do about It?»
One of those staple garage covers. With the way they drawl, ever-so-suggestively, «whatcha gonna doooh about it?», my money's on the Evil's version…

28. The Myddle Class: «Don't Let Me Sleep too Long»
Pure ecstasy and affirmation of life. We can all sleep when we're dead, so don't let me sleep too long. Dance, Daddy!

29. Corporate Image: «Not Fade Away»
The Rolling Stones' rendition seems to be considered the definitive version of «Not Fade Away», but this relentlessly urgent, driving stomper by the Corporate Image (what a great moniker!) pisses all over it:

How could the Corporate Image's version have ended up such an obscure recording?! Another of Dan's remarkable finds.
For much more of the same, go check out Dan's curation of rock heritage and socio-cultural history over at his virtual garage. Also, Garage Dan has a band, Dan Frank & the True Believers. I don't know whether Dan is the Dan who's the eponymous man in the band, but there you go.


  1. Goill! goill! goill! GaGo- kor teit går det an å bli?!! Magisk, min kjære favoritt-dj!

  2. Takk, takk!

    Men mormor: GaGo er da kuule de. Det står tross alt ikke på viljen...

  3. Thank you Louche. I'm extremely flattered.You're welcome to pick and choose what you like from my blog. I have no problem with you passing it on.