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Garage rock

Music Sound

Garage rock

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Garage rock
Stylistic origins: Early Rock'n'roll, R&B, British Invasion, Blues, Surf Rock
Cultural origins: late 1950's United States
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums - Keyboards
Mainstream popularity: Mid 1960's United States, but has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.
Punk rock, Hardcore punk, Proto-punk, Paisley underground, Frat rock, Psychedelic rock, Power pop, Indie rock, Britpop, Mod revival, Psychobilly, Surf rock, Garage punk
Regional scenes
Seattle, Detroit, and Texas
Other topics
Timeline of alternative rock

"Garage rock" is a raw form of rock and roll that enjoyed wide success in the United States and Canada from 1963 to 1967.



The style had been evolving from regional scenes in the USA as far back as 1959. “Dirty Robber” by the Wailers, from Tacoma, Wash., is often cited as the first “garage rock” song. Aside from the Wailers, in these early years very few American bands could truly be called garage artists. The Rumblers, from Downey, Calif., came close in 1962 with their grungy take on surf music with “I Don’t Need You No More” released on Dot (a national label).

In 1963 garage bands crept into the national charts. These bands were all products of local scenes, and included: The Kingsmen (Portland), Paul Revere and the Raiders (Portland), The Trashmen (Minneapolis) and the Rivieras (South Bend, Ind.). This was before the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show (Feb. 1964), which mitigates somewhat the theory that the British Invasion was solely responsible for the emergence of garage bands.

Nevertheless, the British Invasion of 1964-1966 did greatly influence the garage band sound as many local American bands (often surf or hot rod groups) began augmenting a British Invasion sound. The British Invasion also inspired new, and often very amateurish, bands to form. Garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically in 1966. It went into a slow, but irreversible, decline beginning in the Fall of 1967.

One reason, perhaps, it declined is that that it was not an identified genre in its own time. The style was first identified in the early 1970s by record collectors. Originally it was called “punk rock.” However, when the Sex Pistols/Ramones era dawned, it was renamed "1960's punk" to avoid confusion. Eventually, likely in the 1980s, the punk rock tag was dropped altogether in favor of "garage rock."

"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, quite simplistic to conclude that all garage bands met this demographic dynamic.

The best songs of the genre conveyed great passion and energy. The performances were often amateurish or naïve. Typical themes revolved around the traumas of high school life, and lyin’ and cheatin’ girls. Superficially, this implies that the music was very limited. In reality, "Garage rock" performers 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). There were also regional variations in many parts of the country with the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon having the best 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 "Psychotic Reaction" by The Count 5 (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), "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963-64), and "Dirty Water" by The Standells (1966).

A larger number produced regional hits. Examples include: "Where You Gonna Go" by the Unrelated Segments in Detroit (1967), "The Witch" by the Sonics in Seattle (1965) and "Girl I Got News for You" by the Birdwatchers in Miami (1967). As one would expect, the vast majority of garage bands were commercial failures. This is despite most of the better bands being signed to major or large regional labels.

By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts (“Question of Temperature” by the Balloon Farm was a notable exception), and was only being played as a trace element 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.

Record collectors began to document this music beginning in 1970 as first reported in Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine. In 1972, rock critic Lenny Kaye assembled a collection of some of the more commercially successful songs of the era on a compilation LP called “Nuggets.” This record, with decent record sales, reacquainted many of these mid-sixties bands to the attention of collectors and mainstream rock fans for the first time. It also helped to coalesce an identity for the genre.

In the later 1970s and early 1980s, compilation LPs surfaced which more deeply explored the extent of garage rock than Nuggets ever did. These records became widely known to record collectors. The better of these are the Pebbles, Boulders and Back from the Grave series. Largely because of the success of these compilations beginning in the late 1970s a full-scale revival of the music occurred. This revival peaked around 1987, but the garage rock revival continues into the present, and has helped influenced a similar form of music, garage punk.


The first garage rock revival occurred in the mid-1970s, when bands such as The Dictators, DMZ, The Hypstrz and The Fleshtones emulated the look and sound of sixties garage rock. Several of the "punk" bands that emerged in the later seventies, notably The Ramones, were heavily influenced by the sixties garage acts, as were proto punk bands of the early '70s like Iggy and The Stooges and The New York Dolls. Iggy had even been in a mid-sixties garage band, The Iguanas, who released a fab version of "Mona" in 1966.

In the 1980s, another garage rock revival saw a number of bands 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 Seattle 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 Thee Mighty Caesars, The Gories, 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). Garage rock 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, In The Red, Telstar, Crypt, Dionysus, Get Hip, Bomp! and Long Gone John's Sympathy for the Record Industry. Also in the early 2000s, a few bands playing garage rock actually gained mainstream appeal and commercial airplay, something that had eluded garage rock bands of the past. These included The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Vines, The (International) Noise Conspiracy and garage-punkers The Hives. Other lesser-knowns such as The Detroit Cobras, The Young Werewolves, The's, The Dirtbombs, The New Bomb Turks, the Oblivians, Teengenerate, The Makers, Guitar Wolf, Lost Sounds, and others enjoyed moderate underground success and appeal.

In the late '90s, Steven van Zandt ("Little Steven") became a torchbearer, spokesperson, and proponent for garage rock, promoting concerts and festivals in New York City and also, in 2002, starting a syndicated radio program called Little Steven's Underground Garage and also launching an Underground Garage channel on the Sirius Satellite Radio network.

See also

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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