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Friday, May 23, 2008

Garage Rock

Garage Rock was a simple, raw form of rock & roll created by a number of American bands in the mid-'60s. Inspired by British Invasion bands like the Beatles, Kinks, and Rolling Stones, these midwestern American groups played a variation on British Invasion rock.

Since they were usually young and amateurish, the results were much cruder than their inspirations but that is what made the sound exciting. Most of the band emphasized their amateurishness, playing the same three chords, bashing their guitars and growling their vocals. In many ways, the garage bands were the first wave of do-it-yourself punk rockers.

Hundreds of garage bands popped up around America and a handful of them -- the Shadows of Knight, the Count 5, the Seeds, the Standells -- had hits, but most were destined for obscurity. In fact, nearly all of the bands were forgotten in the early '70s, but the Nuggets compilation brought them back to the spotlight.

In the '80s, there was a garage rock revival that saw a number of bands earnestly trying to replicate the sound, style, and look of the '60s garage bands. The spirit of Garage emboldened Psychedelic Rock, as well.

Psychedelic Rock emerged in the mid-'60s, as British Invasion and folk-rock bands began expanding the sonic possibilities of their music. Instead of confining themselves to the brief, concise verse-chorus-verse patterns of rock & roll, they moved toward more free-form, fluid song structures. Just as important -- if not more so -- the groups began incorporating elements of Indian and Eastern music and free-form jazz to their sound, as well as experimenting with electronically altering instruments and voices within the recording studio. Initially, around 1965 and 1966, bands like the Yardbirds and the Byrds broke down the boundaries for psychedelia, creating swirling layers of fuzz-toned guitars, sitars, and chanted vocals. Soon, numerous groups followed their pattern, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, both of whom recorded psychedelia in 1966.

In no time, groups on both sides of the Atlantic embraced the possibilities of the new genre, and the differences were notable. In Britain, psychedelia tended to be whimsical and surrealistic. Nevertheless, bands -- most notably Pink Floyd and Traffic -- played extended instrumentals that relied on improvisation as much as their American contemporaries the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Love, and Jefferson Airplane. In other corners of America, garage bands began playing psychedelic rock without abandoning their raw, amateurish foundation of three-chord rock -- they just layered in layers of distortion, feedback, and effects. Eventually, psychedelic evolved into acid rock, heavy metal, and art rock, but there continued to be revivals of psychedelia in the decades that followed, most notably in the American underground of the mid-'80s.

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