The Sonics - Here Are The Sonics (Etiquette, 1965)
Call their style of music what you want – rock and roll, garage rock, proto-punk – The Sonics were punk through and through. They were punk before punk even existed, and back in 1965 their wild and unconventional style made them the most vicious and threatening band on the planet. Here Come The Sonics was as significant a debut album as any at the time of its release, and its impact has not diminished during the last fifty years. The sound the band created - a feral cocktail of raw blues and rock and roll, characterised by distorted guitars, sexually charged, shrieking vocals and shocking subject matter – had a decidely marked influence on both punk and grunge, and it still stands loud and proud alongside the most untamed acts around today.
Using a two-track tape recorder (and just one microphone to pick up the entire drum kit) producers Buck Ornsby and Kent Morrill, with the help of legendary recording engineer Kearney Barton, captured The Sonics at the peak of their live intensity: recording artists have been trying and failing to replicate its basic intensity ever since. Even The Cramps in all their blistering psychobilly debauchery couldn’t match the primitive punk snarl of the original on the version of Strychnine that appears on their debut album Songs The Lord Taught Us. It’s just so damn nasty and deranged. The influence of that one song alone can be heard directly in Mudhoney, The White Stripes and The Hives, and L7, The Flaming Lips and The Fall are just a few of the bands that have covered it.
The greatest thing about Here Are The Sonics though is how many absolute tunes are on the album. It’s the best rock and roll set you’re ever likely to hear. There’s Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Richard Berry, Rufus Thomas and Barrett Strong, plus some of the most urgent original garage rock stompers ever recorded. The blueprint for releasing albums of rock and roll, R&B and Motown cover songs padded out by original compositions had already been pioneered by British Invasion bands like The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, but The Sonics took it into a totally different dimension. They only cared about one thing: ferocious, unadulterated rock and roll. And whilst they may have not written all the songs on their debut album, the reckless abandon with which they’re delivered make all of them utterly their own.Their version of Have Love Will Travel is the best you will ever hear, and this collection of songs right here set in motion a chain of events that gave us everyone from Iggy Pop to Kurt Cobain.