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Here are the Sonics
The Sonics - A 1960s Seattle Area Garage Band
Back in the 1960s, what has been called "the garage band sound" was very popular where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest region of the US. Some of the popular bands from the area at that time included the Wailers, the Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Don and the Goodtimes to name a few.
These bands played at dances in school gyms, church basements, the halls at fraternal organizations and at dance clubs. Some of the bands became famous and had recordings that became well-known national hits. One of the most popular local bands was not well known outside of the Seattle -Tacoma area. That band was The Sonics.
The Sonics are said by some to have been the first grunge or punk rock band and many musicians who came later credit the Sonics with being a strong influence on their music. But outside of the Pacific Northwest and the world of music insiders, few people ever heard of the Sonics.
Then in a curious twist of fate, the national and international fame that eluded the Sonics back in the 1960s has started to be realized almost 50 years after they released their first album.
Here are the Sonics - a group of influential musicians that you've probably never heard of.
Who were The Sonics?
Young musicians from Tacoma, Washington
The Sonics were formed by Larry Parypa and some friends in about 1960. Supposedly the name they chose for their group was inspired by both the Boeing jet airplane factories in and around the area and the sound they wanted to produce. Some of the original members came and went and although they played at some local venues, they didn't become locally well known until about the time they recorded their first single "Witch" in 1964.
As seen in this photo on their first album cover the band members were
Gerry Roslie - lead vocalist and piano/organ
Andy Parypa - bass
Larry Parypa - lead guitar
Bob Bennett -drums
Rob Lind - saxophone
Witch - First Single Released November 1964
The Witch was the Sonics first single, released November 1964 on the Etiquette record label. Witch was an original work composed by the Sonics. They recorded their version of Little Richard's "Keep A-Knockin" on the flip side.
Although it may seem tame by today's standards, "Witch" was controversial when it was released. The lyrics were dark and raunchy, Gerry Roslie's vocalizations and screams were amazing and Bob Bennett's drums were loud and driving. After listening to this You tube recording, of "Witch" and comparing it to the top 5 hits of 1964, the others sound pretty tame. It is obvious that the Sonics were different.
Here were the top 5 hits of 1964
1. You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling - Righteous Brothers
2. My Girl - Temptations
3. You Really Got Me - Kinks
4. House Of The Rising Sun - Animals
5. Where Did Our Love Go - Supremes
At the time the Seattle radio station that most teens listened to was KJR 950 am. The most popular DJ in Seattle was Pat O'Day. He became the station manager at KJR and helped to promote the music of Pacific NW bands. At first he wouldn't play the Sonics music because of the lyrics. Local teens who had heard the Sonics play at places like Tacoma's Curtis High School, the Red Carpet, the Evergreen Ballroom, Olympia's Skateland, Pearl's in Bremerton, the Spanish Castle and St. Mary's Parish Hall began a campaign of relentless requests to KJR to play "Witch".
Eventually the station relented and played "Witch", but not until after 3pm - after kids got home from school. The Sonics became the Seattle bad boys of rock.
"Witch" went on to become the biggest selling single in recording history in the Pacific Northwest.
Witch by the Sonics
Psycho - Another popular hit
Psycho was another original recording from the Sonics. It was composed by Gerry Roslie, the Sonics and Leon Payne. Gerry Roslie has been referred to as a "white Little Richard" because of his similar style of vocalizations.
Psycho by the Sonics
Strychnine was yet another original piece composed by the Sonics with more of the dark lyrics favored by Gerry Roslie. The opening line says it all.. "Some people like water. Some people like wine. But I like the taste of straight Strychnine”
Strychnine by the Sonics
It was released on the Etiquette label in 1965. It included the following cuts:
2."Do You Love Me"
3."Roll Over Beethoven"
6."Have Love, Will Travel"
8."Money (That's What I Want)"
9."Walkin' the Dog"
10."Night Time is the Right Time"
12."Good Golly Miss Molly"
This is the CD version, but you can also buy a vinyl version.
Here Are the Sonics - The First Album
Early in 1965, The Sonics began recording their first LP, "Here Are The Sonics". It was recorded at Audio Recording in Seattle, WA by famed Pacific Northwest recording engineer Kearney Barton.
It was recorded on a two-track tape recorder, with only one microphone to pick up the whole drum kit. It was here that they began to pioneer some of their infamously reckless recording techniques.
Boss Hoss - Another Sonics Original
2. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
3. Skinny Minnie
4. Let the Good Times Roll
5. Don't You Just Know It
6. Jenny, Jenny
7. He's Waitin'
8. Louie, Louie
9. Since I Fell for You
10. Hitch Hike
11. It's All Right
12. Shot Down
13. The Hustle
14. The Witch [Alternate Take]
15. Psycho [Live]
16. The Witch [Live]
The Sonics Boom - The Second Album
The Sonics released a second LP in 1966. It was recorded at the Wiley/Griffith studio in Tacoma, WA which normally recorded country western groups. The Sonics reportedly wanted a louder sound so they ripped egg carton soundproofing off the walls and worried the sound technicians by having all of the equipment registering up to the max.
Some people think that the Sonics' version of Louie Louie included on this album is the best one that was ever done.
He's Waitin' by the Sonics
What Do You Know About the Sonics?
Had you ever heard of Sonics or listened to their music before reading this page?
1. The Witch
2. You Got Your Head On Backwards
3. I’m A Man
4. On The Road Again
5. Psycho / Love Lights
6. I’m Going Home
7. High Time
8. I’m A Rolling Stone
9. Like No Other Man
10. Maintaining My Cool
11. Bama Lama Bama Loo
12. Leave My Kitten Alone
13. Dirty Old Man
14. Diddy Wah Diddy
The Sonics Influence in Music
In late 1966, the Sonics recorded a third album named "Introducing the Sonics" under the Jerden Records label. It was recorded in Hollywood away from their native northwest. Whether as band members claim, they were pushed into smoothing their rough edgy sound into something more polished and tame, or if they themselves were convinced to try to do something that would be more commercially successful nationally, the music on the album wasn't the same. Not long after the group began to disintegrate. The name "Sonics" was still being used by a group of musicians but the five members who had created the Sonics had all left by 1968.
Many musicians have credited the Sonics with being an influence in their music including Pacific Northwest native musicians Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain and Mudhoney but also numerous other musicians from around the world including, The Rolling Stones, The Dead Boys,The Fall, The Thingz, Eagles of Death Metal, Cut Off Your Hands, Japandroids,The White Stripes,The Hives, The Cramps, The Flaming Lips, The Fuzztones,The Fleshtones and LCD Soundsystem.
Have Love - Will Travel - Composed by Rick Berry
This is the recording by the Sonics from 1965 that finally made more people aware of their music. "Have Love, Will Travel" has been recorded by several different artists since the Sonics original recording, but the Sonics version was used in a Land Rover LR3- Edge Ad and it was also featured in the soundtrack of the film RocknRolla in 2008.
Have Love Will Travel by the Sonics 1960s
Andy Parypa Larry Parypa, Gerry Roslie and Bob Lind from the 1960s Sonics along with old friend Ricky Johnson on drums with them for the last 20 years reunited in the studio to record four new songs - the first new material from The Sonics since the 1960s. Four live tracks from recent performances are also included in this 2011 release.
The Sonics Reunited in 2007 at Cave Stomp
The Sonics were reunited at the Cave Stomp in 2007, 35 years since their last performance together in 1972. They have been back together for several appearances since then including two tours of several European countries in 2009 and 2010.
You can also hear a "Then" and "Now" of the Sonics performing "Have Love - Will Travel". The previous video (above) is a recording from back in the 1960s and the second one (below) is a more recent performance at the Cave Stomp in 2007
From the original group, Andy Parypa and Bob Bennett have retired from touring and have been replaced by friends and fellow musicians, Dusty Watson on drums and Freddie Dennis, on bass and vocals. The group still does a limited number of performances each year, usually to sell-out crowds. Maybe the Sonics were just 50 years ahead of their time.
Have Love Will Travel by the Sonics 2007
Links for Sonics Fans - Link to the Sonics Official Website
- The Sonics Official Website
The official website of the influential 60s garage Punk band the sonics
It Was All Just Rock 'n' Roll, II by Pat O'Day
As someone who grew up in Seattle and listened to Pat O'Day on the radio every day, I enjoyed reading this memoirs. He discovered and helped promote the careers of many of the musicians of Pacific Northwest in the 60s and 70s. Later through his company, Concerts West he met all of the giants of Rock n Roll and had lots of interesting behind-the-scenes stories to tell. I definitely recommend this as a great read for anyone who is interested in classic rock n roll music.
No story about bands and musicians from the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s and 1970s would be complete without mentioning Pat O'Day. Pat O'Day first gained fame as the top DJ in the '60s in the northwest at KJR the most popular radio station in Seattle. Considered by many the most important person in the development of rock 'n' roll in the region, O'Day influenced the musical tastes of an entire generation of listeners. Later he founded Concerts West, at one time the largest concert promotion company in the world.
© 2010 Vicki Green