Music with Mark!

Garage Legends: The Monks vs The Sonics.

Hey guys, welcome back to another music with Mark! The 1960s are my favourite musical decade and for me, The Monks and The Sonics are two of my favourites. They had relatively short careers but were hugely influential on me, my tastes and how I like to dress. When we're working away in our studio sorting through mounds of vintage clothes or making some handmade treasures, we love nothing more than playing their albums and turning it up to 11.

The Monks: In Monk's Robes

Dave, Larry, Roger, Eddie and Gary were a group of American GIs stationed in Germany and formed The Monks in 1964. They dressed in black, wore winkle pickers, a rope around their neck and even went as far as to shave bald patches on their heads (tonsures). While I'd not go as far as shaving my head, I definitely dug their choice in shoes and along with The Horrors, they inspired me to get myself off to the vintage markets and vintage shops in Camden to hunt for shoes like theirs.

They released their only album "Black Monk Time" in 1966 and their music sounds like an explosion. It's driven along by relentless drumming, primitive guitar riffs, and lyrics that don't take themselves too seriously. Tracks like "Monk Time" and "I Hate You" are almost punk like and it's not too much of a stretch to see that the punks of the 70s and 80s took a lot of inspiration from their music. They also made use of an electric banjo which probably isn't something you can say many bands of the time did so that also drew me in.

While The Monks' time in the spotlight was short-lived, their music continued and continues to inspire bands across genres and eras as their blend of garage, punk, and use of odd instruments was ahead of its time. Towards the end of the 90s and the early 00s, they found a resurgence of interest and played a handful of gigs around the world and, hair lines allowing, they got their tonsure haircuts back! I sadly missed the chance to see them live but I have a sound desk recording of one of their shows and it is an incredible listen. They was also a documentary released about them around this time called "Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback" which is well worth a watch if you can find it.

The Sonics: The Kings of Fuzz

Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, The Sonics were pioneers of "the Pacific Northwest sound" and are often credited with also laying the foundation for punk with their garage rock sound. They formed in 1960 and were around making music until a break in 1968. Slightly more mainstream than The Monks, they released three albums in the 60s.

Their style was a bit more contemporary than The Monks and they inspired my love of the cuban heeled Chelsea boot. I also loved their choice of drainpipe pinstriped trousers. It was off to market again but this time armed with more of an idea of how I wanted my vintage wardrobe to look. Their music is again raw, with a high-energy sound featuring prominent use of fuzz-distorted guitars and primal screams from their singer Gerry Roslie coupled with equally piercing squeals from saxophonist Rob Lind. Songs like "Psycho", "The Witch", "Strychnine" and my personal favourite "He's Waitin'" are clear examples of what I think was unofficial mantra of theirs - hit it hard and play it loud. As I said in my last blog, if the drums sound like a skeleton falling down some stairs in a metal bin, I'm in.

Bands like The Cramps and Nirvana have acknowledged their influence by The Sonics and you can also hear their sound in anything that Jack White has made solo or with The White Stripes. Like The Monks, in the 21st century, The Sonics experienced a resurgence in popularity. They toured and released new music and I was lucky enough to see The Sonics play London back in 2008 and they did not disappoint. They opened with "He's Waitin'" and went on to play one of the loudest gigs I've ever heard. It didn't sound any different to the recordings I've heard from their heyday which is testament to their talent and enduring sound.

So who wins? For me, The Sonics just edge it. Both bands challenged and still challenge norms but The Sonics have an extra edge when it comes to their relentless drum beat. Their style has influenced how I shop vintage clothes and how I like to dress on nights out and I have a healthy addiction to pointy shoes thanks to these bands. Let me know in the comments below if you prefer The Monks or The Sonics, or better yet, have a different favourite band from this genre!


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