To quote Reverend Lovejoy from “The Simpsons.”

Oh, short answer, “yes” with an “if.” Long answer, “no” with a “but.”

For the sake of this blog, and subsequent blogs to follow, I am going to lean towards “yes.” It might not be too much of a stretch. Fellow writers on this site seem to struggle with topics to cover in modern music. Admittedly, I shy away from current music. There is a certain attraction to older music.

If you dig deep enough, there are some gems that become lost as time marches on, and when you discover an album that few have heard, you feel like you have discovered the Ark of the Covenant.

The right album will give you hope that history will repeat itself, and the right group will come along and give a middle finger to what is mainstream. An album to make music exciting. An album worth writing about. “Black Monk Time” from 1966 is one of those albums.

What? Who? Huh?

Exactly. To casual music fans, it is an unknown album. The name might sound familiar. Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra have praised it in past interviews. If for nothing else, the history behind the album should be an alluring tale for music fans.

1964. Five American soldiers stationed in Germany form your typical band of the day, building a set list of Rhythm and Blues, and music from the British Invasion. A set list that would become boring and stale. A set that would cause five musicians to revolt, but the revolution would kick off with a bathroom break. Before answering his other call of duty, guitarist Gary Burger would place his guitar on his amp.

A low hum came from the amp, and quickly evolved into ear splitting feedback. In a moment of either pure brilliance or boredom, drummer Roger Johnston started to drum to the sound of what Bassist Eddie Shaw described as “the sound of the Titanic scraping along an iceberg.”

Conventional chord progressions, melody, and instrumentation were dropped. Instead of suits, the band wore all black, and shaved a stripe down the middle of their heads. The band sought to be the “anti-Beatles.” They called themselves The Monks.

1965 saw the band gigging in Germany and the year ended with the recording of their only album “Black Monk Time,” which would get released in March 1966.

The band would continue to gig, often to confused or hostile crowds. The Monks would share European shows with The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix and even Bill Haley & The Comets. In the meantime, their album began to get noticed by European press, but attention on a grand scale eluded the band. No material would be released in the United States or England.

Then the typical ending to a 60’s band decided the group’s fate. Stress from touring, drugs, and disagreement over Vietnam drove a wedge between the members. The band broke up in 1967. The year The Velvet Underground started gaining attention for a “daring new sound in Rock music.” What some critics or fans might see as the beginning of Punk Rock, not knowing five bored Americans already kicked started the notion a year prior.

It is easy to dismiss the album upon an initial listening experience, and it is certainly not for everyone. I recommend the album and ask that the following be kept in mind.

This album was recorded in 1965. The Beatles became popular in England in 1962, then debuted in the United States in 1964. For The Monks to watch The Beatles achieve such fame and declare “eh f**k that” is pretty ambitious.

It’s an ambition that I feel lacks in modern music. No one seems to stand up and go “f**k this” and take action. Following trends seems to be encouraged. Back in my day, Taylor Swift sang Country music. Sorry, “Country” music. There WAS a time when music was created by rebels. Sometimes, those rebels were five Americans stationed in Germany who didn’t get all of the recognition they deserve.

If you are looking for something different, give “Black Monk Time” a spin. It’s not for everyone. Knowing that exists should restore some faith in music. The possibility of history repeating itself just adds to excitement.

The Band: The Monks

Gary Burger: Lead guitar, lead vocalist

Larry Clark: Organ, vocalist

Eddie Shaw: Bass guitar, vocalist

Dave Day: Banjo, vocalist (yea, Banjo.)

Roger Johnston: Drums, vocalist

Recommended Listening:

“Complication.”

“I Hate You.” (Anyone that has been dumped, think back to that week immediately after the break up. If you can’t relate to the lyrics “Well I hate you with a passion baby, but call me “you are a liar.”)

“Monk Chant” (You know The Righteous Brothers? They did that song “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Imagine those two stumbling into a studio tripping on LSD and just kicking over all of the instruments.)

 

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