Wednesday, December 29, 2010

U. P. garage bands recognized

The Excels from Marquette are among
12 vintage Upper Peninsula bands included
in the newly-published book "Fuzz, Acid and
Flowers Revisited (Expanded Edition)" by
Vernon Joynson.


It may have taken decades, but Upper Peninsula-based garage bands are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve.

A dozen of those regional groups have been included in the newly published book "Fuzz, Acid and Flowers Revisited (Expanded Edition)" by Vernon Joynson.

The 1,398 page tome, abbreviated here as FAF, is a detailed guide to U. S. psychedelic, garage and hippie-rock recordings of the 1963-1977 era.

Started by Baby Boomers in the wake of the Beatles-led British Invasion, countless garage bands from around the country went undocumented and unheralded, despite leaving records in their wake.

Published by Borderline Productions, Joynson's book goes a long way in correcting that oversight.

Newly included are the Excels (Marquette) Renaissance Fair (Sault Ste. Marie) and Prophets of Doom and Riot Squad (both from Escanaba).

The Escanaba bands each issued a single on the local Peninsula Records label, while the Excels released five 45s on Detroit's Carla imprint. Renaissance Fair had three 7-inch discs, including "In Wyrd," considered a garage band classic.

They join eight U. P. bands covered in previous editions of the book: the Fastells (Negaunee), French Church (Marquette), Joey Gee and the Blue Tones (Iron Mountain), Henchmen VI (Ontonagon), Kinetic Energy (Houghton), Rob Kirk and the Word (Sault Ste. Marie), Lexington Project (Kingsford) and the Ravelles (Iron Mountain).

I got a copy of Joynson's book not only because it covers a subject I enjoy, but also because I was asked to contribute to it.

Last January I was contacted by Max Waller, a long-time record collector and amateur researcher for FAF as well as a CD series called "Psychedelic States," issued by the Gear Fab label.

The U.K.- based Waller was familiar with my Rock 'n' Roll Graffiti website and book and sought my input concerning U. P. groups of the garage band era.

Waller told me he's involved in record research for the fun of it. "I do this purely because it's a fascinating and enjoyable hobby."

Actually, I was familiar with Weller because he contributed to a previous edition of FAF which I already owned.

"My mission has always been to 'spread the word' to others who enjoy the same sort of music. I've sought out and engaged many other regional experts to improve the quality and authority of data for this project so that we can try to do the bands' legacies justice," Waller told me.

"When I started collecting U. S. garage/psych, way back in the early-mid 70s, I knew absolutely no one else who did, so it was a steep and rocky learning curve with nothing to help guide me along the way."

Collecting relatively obscure 45s from across the Atlantic Ocean provided another challenge for Waller.

"I've always been more into U. S. 60s bands than U. K. My all-time fave band is The Electric Prunes."

Retired since 2005, Waller worked for British Airlines and made numerous trips stateside in the 80s and early 90s for record hunts and bowling tournaments. In fact, Waller nearly took a job with American Airlines in Kansas, but finally decided on London.

With emails and the internet, Waller no longer needs to travel to indulge his record collecting hobby.

Waller and I exchanged a number of emails early in the year to beef up the U. P.'s representation in his friend Vernon Joynson's book.

The 6th edition of FAF finally reached U. S. shores just a few weeks ago.

Weighing in at eight lbs., the book is an impressive compendium of discographies, personnel details and band histories representing thousands of U. S. groups.

I purchased my copy from the internet book seller Amazon for about $69.

While the volume's massive size dictates the price, the information it contains is indeed priceless.

"I hope you'll find it a useful and entertaining read, ideal for when you're snowed in," Waller stated.

The book "still tends to concentrate on bands who released LPs, because Vernon is an LP collector. I've tried over the last two decades to plug gaps by covering some of the countless and lesser-known but equally worthy local bands who only made it onto 45, although I'm well aware that I've barely scratched the surface," Waller stated.

"At least in this edition your neck of the woods is better represented," he added.

Author Joynson was kind enough to thank me in the book's credits for information on "Michigan's previously undocumented Upper Peninsula scene."

As long as can be bound at its size, FAF looks like a big city telephone directory.

Although a dozen U. P. garage bands are included in the new book, a number aren't.

While the Galaxies (Ironwood), Rhythm Rockers (Alston) and Vigilantes (Ontonagon) cut 45 rpm singles, they were omitted because they predate FAF's timeframe which concentrates on the 1964-1969 era for this style of music, Waller said.

He also chose not to include an entry for Mike "Cub" Koda, who cut a solo single while a student at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. The book does have a listing for Koda's early band, known as the Del-Tinos. The guitarist later founded Brownsville Station, famous for the hit "Smokin' in the Boys Room."

But for lack of space other U. P. combos would have made the grade, including Infinite Blue (Menominee) and Walrus (Marquette).

Of course such a giant book can never be perfect, considering the wealth of information it contains.

FAF is prolifically illustrated with albums covers, many in color, and sections concerning CD compilations and re-issue labels.

During its heyday, the garage band scene in the U. S. received very little official notice.

Today, record collectors scour the marketplace for vinyl remnants of a bygone era when largely local bands hoped to make it big on poorly financed and distributed independent labels with blasts of unpretentious home-grown rock 'n' roll.

Now FAF has gone a long way toward assembling the the minutiae of what became a second American Revolution, involving every area of the country, including the Upper Peninsula.

1 comment:

CedarElkWoman said...

Wow Steve, you ROCKNROLL!!!! Garage Bands - how fascinating, how significant, and how neglected. You keep us learning about music - every time we thing we know it all - and you keep our musical love light burning even stronger than we ever thought possible. THANK YOU!!!!
Keep on Truckin'
Jeni (Jennifer) Lehmann