Interview with George Markou of Gew-Gaw Fanzine

Greece has long had a very active garage/psych scene. Perhaps no one has done more to cultivate Greece’s enthusiastic garage/psych community over the years than George Markou, editor and contributor to Peace Frog and Gew-Gaw fanzines. Many notable bands have appeared on the CDs given away with these fanzines, as well as on the associated Nowhere Street label.

I corresponded recently with George Markou.

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The Droogs on the Live Music Archive

The Live Music Archive is a repository of live shows by a wide variety of bands maintained by etree.org and made available to the public through the Internet Archive. All of the music in this collection is “trade friendly“, meaning that the bands have all approved making their live shows available for non-commercial purposes. After finding some bootlegs of shows by The Droogs, I contacted the Droogs’ guitarist, Roger Clay, about putting these into the Live Music Archive. A few years ago I interviewed Roger about the Droogs and he had related the story of their memorable performance at the 1997 Roskilde Festival in Denmark. The Wu-Tang Clan had been scheduled but they had gotten detained at the Newark airport. The Droogs agreed to fill in but the festival organizers didn’t make that clear to the audience. Despite being pelted with bottles, the Droogs played on and won over the crowd. After hearing Roger’s story I tracked down a bootleg CD of that show. Later on I found some more Droogs bootlegs on the internet of live shows from 1985, 1986 and 1987. I wasn’t sure how the Droogs would react to making bootlegs freely available, but they liked the idea and Droogs vocalist Ric Albin even wrote liner notes for each show, included below. They also sent me a CD of an additional show from 1988 to include in the collection.

So here’s to the Droogs, a great live band. You can find the shows listed below on the Live Music Archive. If you have any additional bootlegs of live Droogs concerts please send them to me so I can add them to the collection.

The I-Beam, San Francisco, CA, August 27, 1984
When the Droogs first played Boston on their ’84 tour, the Lyres were the first to warmly welcome them by opening their premiere. By ’87, the Droogs returned the favor at the I-Beam in the Haight-Ashbury district. If this is the same tape, the mix is a bit bass and vocal heavy, thereby not enough guitar volume which is essential. However, the set opens with a nice jam of Garden of my Mind.

The Nightclub, Boston, MA, March 27, 1985 (Broadcast on WERS-FM)
Droogs bless college radio, the fuel of the alternative fire. This broadcast, one of many performed to promote a gig, a record or create a bootleg, was done at Emerson college; the host of the hour was named Shred.

Zentrum Zoo, Tübingen, (West) Germany, September 29, 1986
A prime example of the liberating force and momentum of the Droogs performance on their maiden European tour. A pivotal encounter with this show’s promoters, the dynamic Music Maniac Records team, headed by avid collector and wunderkind Hans Kesteloo, led to a long and memorable relationship and discography.

Club Lingerie, Hollywood, CA, November 3, 1988
It was a busy year for the Droogs in support of Kingdom Day on PVC. The band began by opening  a dozen dates for Robin Trower in the Southwest through the Midwest, followed by a two week club tour back East and down South. The Droogs also went back to Europe for a round of gigs culminating at Berlin’s Independence Days Festival. The Club Lingerie offered a warm welcome home; soundman Rick Stanley, who had worked with them before, captured a great mix.

Roskilde Festival, Roskilde, Denmark, June 29, 1997
In support of their Atomic Garage CD, the Droogs were a late invite to the granddaddy of all Euro-fests Roskilde ’97, a four day annual event outside Copenhagen, Denmark. Flown in Thursday for their Sunday show opening for Phish and Isaac Hayes, the band were given full access to the multi staged venue with the provision they were on call as a standby act. Returning Saturday afternoon from record shopping, the band was informed that headliners Wu-Tang Clan were a no-show, the 2 am slot in the Green Tent was all theirs. Danish radio quickly negotiated to tape and broadcast that very performance. The next morning national newspaper headlines read: “Droogs bombarded by new rain of bottles.” Reporter Erik Jensen wrote: “Despite dangerous conditions the Droogs played a tight well organized program to the end. When garage rock is done so effectively in a primitive atmosphere, you give in. This audience did as well with calls for encores.” For the Droogs, best gig ever.

The X-Rays!

Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych and Echoes in Tyme (Tuesdays at 10:00 pm eastern) looks back on the garage revival of the 1980s and 1990s. This week the leadoff tracks for both shows are by the same band, the X-Rays! who are from Nottingham, England. Between 1994 and 1998 the X-Rays! put out several releases reveling in sex, drugs and rock & roll–in a general sense, that is–more accurately the X-Rays! reveled in whores, beer and garage punk. But then between 1998 and 2013 the band went on hiatus. I noticed recently that their entire back catalog suddenly appeared on Bandcamp, along with a new single “Jameson Shot”, and that led me to contact Gary X-Ray to find out what was going on.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: So why the long hiatus?

Gary X-Ray: The X-Rays in our original line up split in 1997 when Steve (our drummer and original member of Heresy) left after a European tour in which we had a lot of trouble including Steve getting arrested in Holland. It’s a long story but we carried on for a bit after Steve left with another drummer. It did not really work and we split not long after but reformed in 2002 to play a one off gig with our original line up with Steve to play with the New Bomb Turks. We had played a few UK tours with the Turks and reformed just to play their last ever UK gig. The New Bomb Turks are still one of my all time favourite bands.

Anyway me and Coop played in various different bands after the X-rays but last year decided to get the band back together with me, Coop and Gman original members and a new drummer Benny Ramone. We have a 7″ compilation single out on Big Neck Records, USA which also features Livids (Eric from New Bomb Turks new band). We also have a 7″ single coming out on Big Neck and a 25 track singles compilation album coming out on High Noon Records, Germany very soon. We also have a few other secret projects coming out with other labels but I’d have to kill you if I told you about them hahaha!  ………….only joking!!!!!!!!!!!!

Turn Me On, Dead Man: The New Bomb Turks were my favorite band to see live, hands down. Sorry to say I’ve never seen the X-Rays live. I read Eric Davidson’s book (We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001) and it sounds like X-Rays shows were always entertaining! One of the points he makes in his book is that the punk scene in the 1990s was all pre-internet. You’ve posted the X-Rays catalog on Bandcamp so you’re taking advantage of the internet now. How have things changed between then (before your hiatus) and now?

Gary X-Ray: Yeah New Bomb Turks are still one of the greatest bands that have ever lived and one of the best live bands ever. We were lucky enough to tour with them in, I think, 1996 and they were such great guys. Our last gig, we played before reforming last year, was in 2002 where we actually got back with our original drummer to play the Turks last ever gig in the UK at the Garage in London.

Eric’s book was fantastic and brought back a lot of great memories if the mid 90’s gunk punk scene which was amazing in Europe but was none existent in the UK. The X-Rays were pretty much on our own in the UK during that period of time but we had a great break getting signed to Empty Records in the states.

Back then in the 90s there was no internet…………..and definitely no Facebook. We kinda got known through word of mouth from people seeing us at gigs and fanzines. We were in contact with a whole loada fanzines (sadly most of those DIY photocopied paper fanzines are long gone replaced by blogs etc). Organising gigs and tours in those days meant writing letters, phoning promoters (which was bloody expensive if you were booking tours abroad) and we went high tech by using a fax machine haha. It’s now so easy and quick with the internet. The problem I have with the internet generation of bands is that they don’t really have to work at being a band it’s so easy to just post stuff on Facebook and get your band noticed. As i say we had to work hard sending stuff off to fanzines, promoters etc (I’ve got to be careful i don’t sound like an embittered old man haha). We have embraced Facebook and Bandcamp because it is great for people to be able to hear us and contact us without having to spend a fortune trying to find our out of print vinyl.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: The first time I heard the New Bomb Turks was on John Peel’s show on the BBC World Service (broadcast on my local public radio station from midnight to 5:00–great for insomnia!). I remember he referred to them as a “noisy boys”.

So, being out of the mainstream, has it been better for you to be in Nottingham? Did/do you have a supportive scene there?

Gary X-Ray: when we first started round 1994 the UK was pretty bad for gigs. We really were the only band doing what we did in the UK. We saw the New Bomb Turks play Nottingham in 1993 and that was a massive inspiration but the UK did not seem ready for garage punk at the time. It was only when we went to Europe and the States that we got really appreciative audiences and realised that people did like our style of music. It was also the first time we got proper riders and big crowds. It was strange reforming and playing in Nottingham after 10 years and realising that people had caught up and were ready for garage punk. We re now seen as some kind of originators (even though we weren’t anything new it’s just that people remember us as the first UK band to take on that style etc).

Funny you should mention John Peel. He was one of the few DJs who picked up on us at the time. He played quite a few of our singles and was the biggest influence on me musically. I used to listen to his show as a kid and remember hearing a lot of the early punk rock on his show.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Glad you’re back and that Nottingham (and the rest of us) have caught up with you.

Interview with Wayne Larsen of the Laughing Soup Dish

“Acidland” by the Laughing Soup Dish will be the featured track on this week’s edition of “Echoes in Tyme”, which airs at 10:00 PM eastern time on Tuesdays on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio on Live365.com. The Laughing Soup Dish, long a favorite on Turn Me On, Dead Man, released only a single “Teenage Lima Bean”/”Rainy Day Sponge” (1985) and two LPs We Are The Dish (1987) and Underthrow the Overground (1990) before calling it a day. I came across a note on the Lost In Tyme blog written by Wayne Larsen of the Laughing Soup Dish in which he mentioned a bootleg cassette called Liquid Salad Dinner and other unreleased Laughing Soup Dish recordings. I contacted him and we’ve been corresponding for quite a while now.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: I love the Laughing Soup Dish and I always have a couple of your tracks in the rotation on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio. I’ve seen references to Liquid Salad Dinner in a few places (including your note on the Lost In Tyme blog) and I’ve been looking around for anything from it. Does Liquid Salad Dinner even exist?

Wayne Larsen: Yes, Liquid Salad Dinner. Here’s the story. When the first line up splintered with Marc [Saxton] and Elena [Papavero] forming the Watch Children I felt badly that that era of the band would remain unknown except to the people who might have been at those shows so I went through my tape collection (in ’86) and put together live and basement tracks and gave them to John McBain (later of Monster Magnet). He had a small underground tape only little thing going called Cool Beans Records. Perhaps a 100 cassettes were made with a cover, a few made it overseas. In 2006 I was contacted by George Markou in Greece (Peace Frog, Gew-Gaw) who wanted an interview. I sent him a copy of the tape and he made it into a CD (I have a free standing burner and could have done it myself). A couple of tracks were on his Nowhere Street release. There is an alternate version of “Acidland” on there, too (I like it better than the one I sent to Voxx). Some of the tracks are on the Laughing Soup Dish Myspace page (the basement versions of “Teenage Lima Bean” and “Rainy Day Sponge”). “Pink Stainless Tail” is on there too, as you might tell from the first LP’s segues we were into The Parable of Arable Land [by the Red Crayola] and wanted to string the songs together in places a la free form freak out.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Sorry to say I never saw the Laughing Soup Dish live. Did you tour very much?

Wayne Larsen: We never made it out of the tri-state area (NYC). We did a few shows in Delaware, in Newark.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: The bio on your Myspace page says you recorded a third LP but never released it. Where is all that?

Wayne Larsen: Most of the tracks from the Myspace page are from Liquid Salad Dinner (only “In Pieces” and “Grimble Wedge” are from the second LP). The track “Siamese Cat” and “Z-Man Is Watching” are from the unreleased third album which I finally burned to disc a bit over a year ago. You can see the return to the “house ambience” there. “Grim Finds” is a first LP outtake. Is Turn Me On, Dead Man a podcast or a radio broadcast? Either way, the airplay makes me happy. When I was in my 20’s and writing and recording this music I never would have thought that 30 years later there would still be interest.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Turn Me On, Dead Man is an Internet-only radio station. Recently I started thinking about the definition of psychedelia and that’s what led me to track you down. Most of the record guides and books about psychedelia and neo-psych take a stab at defining the term, but remain vague, perhaps intentionally so. Some time ago I ran across a book that took a different approach by discussing the characteristic features of psychedelic music in terms of how they replicate the effects of LSD. The book is called Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions by Michael Hicks, and he breaks it down to the three Ds: dechronization, depersonalization, and dynamization. Basically he’s saying that psych generally slows down and stretches out the music (dechronization), cranks up the volume and makes heavy use of reverb to make the music seem closer and further away at the same time (depersonalization), and also includes, among other things, the bending, distorting and reversing of sounds that mimics the way objects become fluid while tripping (dynamization). When I read that, I immediately thought of your music, particularly “Acidland,” which is one of my all-time favorite tracks, by the way. The eerie sound effects are great and I love the way the ticking of the clocks gets out of sync, allowing the music pull down the tempo in such a fluid way. I’d like to know what your influences were and how you see the development of your music over time.

Wayne Larsen: I find this information tantalizing to say the least. If I explore a piece like “Acidland” (my creation), I will be open about it. It’s obviously me describing my own experience with LSD. Time, it starts with the element of time, the ticking clocks, layered so that 3 or 4 clocks are going at once (out of sync as they layer in), then spatial sounds come in that sound almost like a demented horns (as on the only We Are The Dish outtake “Grim Finds”) horns (but is really effected guitar very loud, open tuned, through tape echo and turn backwards with varying of pitch), then backwards talking which is how voices sound sometimes in that state, garbled, a disconnect, then the actual lyrics which encourage us to step into this “other place” with talking animals and we can wear a new “open” face. It also trails off with this same sound wash of other worldly sounds (which take us up to heaven). The big influences here are “The Parable of Arable Land” by the Red Crayola (especially the free form freak outs between tracks). The Golden Dawn Power Plant LP (found at a yard sale for a dime in 1980) was another big influence at this time, so those Texas International Artists records had an effect. I made “Acidland” in my house on a couple of 4 track machines and funny but people like it more than the one we went into the studio to do. Less time to experiment, layer etc. I see how the 3 D’s apply to a song like “Acidland”. Heavy reverb, the bending of sounds by varispeeding the tapes. No one else in my little seaside town were doing anything as weird as that. I hope I’ve answered a question if there was one there. Of course I was also loving the [13th Floor] Elevators at this time.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: You mentioned that “Acidland” was your song. How many of the songs were yours? Who were the other songwriters and which songs were theirs? Did you do many songs collaboratively or did you tend to write alone? Also, I was just wondering why your two LPs and single have never had a digital reissue. Laughing Soup Dish has to be the trippiest music ever recorded! I love the trippiness, of course, but the songwriting is consistently strong, as well. My favorites are “Acidland” “No One Home” and “Sunrise”, “Weathering Strangely” and “Underthrow the Overground”, and “Teenage Lima Bean”. By the way, were you aware that comic book character goes by the name of “Lima Bean,” and since she’s a 14-year-old girl, the website is called “Confessions of a Teenage Lima Bean“?

Wayne Larsen: Huh, yeah, the Cure had a bootleg live LP called Laughing Soup Dish and a song that sounds like “Sunrise” written after the dish track, and there was a band called Grimble Wedge. I like that Confessions of a Teenage Lima Bean, time is catching up. As to who wrote what. uh, Marc Saxton and Chris Schnieder wrote BEAN [“Teenage Lima Bean”], Marc wrote Sponge [“Rainy Day Sponge”] the flip side as well. I am playing lead and playing drums as well on that track. The first 45 was a bit of a hit in the N.Y. underground but in the norse countries it was a hit. The first LP was written by me with the exception of “Princess”, which is music Danny Mintz, lyric me. I wrote the rest. had to. so I did. The second LP, I wrote with the exception of “Grimble Wedge” and “Blood Sucking Creatures”, both duets with me and Jon Davies, former lead Secret Syde-r. So mostly I wrote alone but there are a number of songs by me and Jon Davies. Oh yeah, Chris Schnieder’s brother is Fred from the B-52’s, that didn’t hurt the Bean…. Marc wrote few good tunes for LSD that exist only on old tapes, live and basement. “Piece of You” “Entropical Fruit Punch” and a couple of others.

I wrote by myself late at night with a microcassette recorder. There are still many songs undeveloped on microcassette. “Wild Seed” was one. Sometimes I merge a few ideas. Often when it got time to do an album. someone was seeing someone else’s girlfriend and I wind up making the records mostly on my own. With continuous turmoil in the group, a lot was put on me and I guess I liked it that way anyway.

Why no reissues? Who knows, Suzy Shaw has the rights to them. Voxx didn’t re-ish them. Oh well, most of the LPs I hungered for as a kid were outta print, even the Velvets, so it doesn’t bother me. They are not expensive on ebay, they printed a LOT of them and they were available until the late 90s from Voxx. They kept the Lima Bean 45 in print until 2004, then it went around when Greg [Shaw] died. I still talk with Suzy now and then.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Your recordings have a distinctive atmosphere. What effects did you use to get that sound? How did you make those trippy sounds, particularly the ones heard in “Acidland”? How did things change between the first and second album as far as recording goes?

Wayne Larsen: Well, the first LP was recorded by me in a stairwell of an old plaster walled farm house, the Soup Dish house. I play drums on some tracks as well (like Sponge) you or I can tell my drumming from Kyle’s. So the sound of the stairwell and the tiled bathroom were used. The backing masking tracks for the first LP were a long process in itself. I would de-tune my Firebird Gibson to an open chord, through a tape echoplex a big Marshall amp, then slowed it way down and reversed it (backwards). All sorts of sounds were collaged together. The thing that sounds like a big machine is this de-tuned guitar slowed and backwards, then layered with 10 more of the same thing making a wall of sounds. I was able to make almost synth type sounds by using other this method. In the time from 1985 to 2000 we recorded quite a bit. The second LP was paid for by Greg [Shaw] and is a real studio so it sounds completely different.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: How far along did you get on the third album? At what point in the process was it shelved? Any plans to perform or record in the future?

Wayne Larsen: Well, see, by the time I recorded the third album material, grunge was coming in very strong. The trend was towards heavy heavy (not straight fuzz) but different music was coming to the fore. It left no room for the neo psych bands. I know the Ultra 5 went to Mexico and carried on but here it was a changing of the guard. There was a whole album’s worth of material recorded in a friend’s 8-track home studio. It was complete. I only have it on cassette (and a CD made from that cassette). The master might still be around somewhere. I never had it. I called Greg Shaw of Bomp and asked him if they might want to put it out. He had been so encouraging in the past, but at this time he was getting into some strange hybrid stuff and said he was no longer interested in putting out straight psych. After that I gave it up. With no label interest I drifted back into punk, my band the Straight Satans (any satanic reference being a joke) with Jon Davies of the Secret Syde and we carried on playing.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: It seems I’ve been reading a lot about LSD recently. The book Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace was a strange one. The idea was that JFK was having an affair with Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was friends with Timothy Leary. The three of them dropped acid together and the experience made JFK reflect on world peace and that began to affect his foreign policy decisions. According to the book, the CIA assassinated JFK because they had their own agenda abroad and JFK’s actions were interfering with their priorities. Not sure how credible this account is, but the idea of LSD elevating JFK’s consciousness is interesting. Another book that brought up LSD is How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. By the 1970s, Cold War priorities had pushed the discipline of physics away from any philosophical questions about the nature of matter toward functional matters that had defense applications. Rebelling against this atmosphere of “shut up and calculate,” a group of young physicists at Berkeley wanted to revive the more theoretical arguments that had driven the discoveries of relativity and quantum theory early in the twentieth century. They promoted the use of LSD in order to stimulate creative thought. As it turns out their unconventional approach led to important discoveries and they had a profound impact on the field. And then I ran across this quote by Steve Jobs in the recent biography of him by Walter Isaacson, “I came of age at a magical time,” he reflected later. “Our consciousness was raised by Zen, and also by LSD.” Even later in life he would credit psychedelic drugs for making him more enlightened. “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important–creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” And no one can deny that Steve Jobs has had a profound impact on how we live, work, play and communicate with one another.

So I’m curious to get your thoughts on this. In what ways has LSD affected your life?

Wayne Larsen: Ok, welllllllll, I took it for the first time when I was 14, the last time I took it I was 21. I am 53 now so……. it’s been a while but. the effects were profound. The first LSD trip I took was a good one. real “orange sunshine” so it was a really vivid, a lot of hallucinations. It was a pretty profound trip but, I was young and so it was mostly silly until I was alone later on in the trip, then I sat outside and was just feeling the breathing trees and all the green. I went to a Grateful Dead Concert in ’73 and took about 10 hits. I saw everything go black and and then all I could see were wild geometric shapes and just colors flowing. having taken that much LSD at once, I was tripping for 3 days. At one point I had this vision. I was floating closer and closer to this sphere of white light and I was afraid but then as I got closer I could see that the sphere was really made up out of a trillion stars and I felt better. I thought that all of those star point lights blending into a sphere made me think that that’s what the after life is all about. We came back from the concert and in the morning I came back to where I could function. It was 24 hours later when I remember me and a friend of mine went out to the woods by a huge lake with a foot of mist on it and set up a tent. So it was summer and we went out into the water and I could just feel that the water was a direct connection with everything… and the trees and green of it all. I think LSD allowed me to see below the surface of things, of matter and into structure, right down to the atoms. it made me want to hear and listen to music that my friends didn’t really like, they were into Aerosmith and I was into Syd Barrett’s Floyd, Lothar and the Hand People, early Genesis, like Foxtrot and before, Silver Apples Of The Moon etc. so it had a profound effect on me all the way around but for me a special appreciation of music off the beaten path. It kind of gives you that third eye and if you do enough tripping it stays open. You see into a deep understanding of things. If I could handle it I think that a good LSD trip might be a good idea, blow out the cob webs as I used to think. I had mushrooms but I haven’t taken any LSD since around 1981. ‘Shrooms give you a bit of insight and a trippy edge but not that soul ego shaking out and up thing that good LSD will deliver. The book on the 13th Floor Elevators “Eye Mind” is a good read. They took LSD every time they played. I tried to play under acid one time and my mind just kept drifting off and I would just stop playing and stand there lost in thought with the rest of the guys yelling “Play, Play”. I named my band with the initials LSD in homage of what the drug can do, blow the top of the head and join thought with everything down to the last subatomic particle.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: What do you think about the Laughing Soup Dish when you look back on it now?

Wayne Larsen: For a long time I could barely stand to listen to it. Now with 20 or 30 years hindsight, I did ok. All I ever dreamed of was having a reel to reel 4 track and getting to release vinyl. I wished that in 1976. I can die knowing I have done what I set out to do. It was young and uninformed, it was making songs to make songs I had fun with rather than thinking “oh who will like this?” I was lucky to have good musicians to play shows with.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Thanks very much for taking the time to answer all of my questions, Wayne. Here’s a Mixcloud compilation of all of the unreleased Laughing Soup Dish tracks I’ve been able to pull together.

The Droogs

Early in their career, the garage/psych band The Droogs released a single entitled “Ahead of My Time,” an appropriate theme song for this underappreciated band. Several years before it became fashionable, the Droogs were playing what would later be called “garage revival”. The Droogs released several singles beginning in 1973, and their early records were energetic interpretations of little-known 1960s garage-punk songs along with original material inspired by those records. Also, in terms of their artistic independence, the Droogs anticipated the “do it yourself” approach of punk rock by several years, releasing their records on their own label, Plug ‘n Socket. Despite releasing several compelling albums over a thirty-year span, however, the Droogs are little known outside of a loyal following, much of which is in Europe.

A few years back I interviewed guitarist Roger Clay about the long and eventful career of the Droogs. Here is the two-hour show that aired on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio.

Interview with Roger Clay of the Droogs, Part 1
Interview with Roger Clay of the Droogs, Part 2

Ric Albin (vocals) and Roger Clay (guitar) began playing together as kids in the 1960s in a band called “Savage Rose”—only later did they find out a Danish band was using the same name. They formed the Droogs in 1972, taking their name from A Clockwork Orange, a novel by Anthony Burgess (1962) made into a film by Stanley Kubrick (1971). Their first release, a 7″ with cover versions of the Sonics’ “He’s Waitin'” and the Shadows of Knight’s “Lightbulb Blues”, came out the following year. Creem praised this record as the first American independent punk rock single. “Bow down to ’em on Sunday for that alone.” Their subsequent singles included more songs that have come to be regarded as garage/psych classics, but the band quickly shifted the focus to original material. The A side of their second single was “Set My Love on You,” written by Albin and Clay, backed with “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” by the Kinks. The Droogs’ next two singles featured all original material inspired by 1960s garage punk. The Droogs choice of material at this time was certainly out of the ordinary. Lenny Kaye’s original Nuggets compilation came out in 1972 but few, if any, new bands were playing this sort of music in the early- to mid-1970s. In fact, the stripped-down approach of the Droogs was decidedly out of step with the trends toward progressive and arena rock prevalent at the time.

The Droogs had few places to play until the garage revival began in the late-1970s. The difficulty finding an audience and the lack of a stable rhythm section proved frustrating for the band. The Droogs considered packing it in, but with the success of bands such as the Last and the Unclaimed, who also drew on 1960s rock, more venues opened to them. By the time those bands were on the scene, however, the Droogs were already veterans of the genre. Rhino included the Droogs’ “Ahead of My Time” on their 1979 compilation L.A. In noting “if ever a band were ahead of its time, this was the one. Pre-dating the current movement by five years in spirit, attitude, and ideas, Ric Albin and Roger Clay epitomized the late 70’s American New Wave Band.”

The Droogs released two more singles and an EP before recording their first full-length LP in 1984, Stone Cold World. Despite its favorable reception, Stone Cold World didn’t receive the same level of attention that was given to albums by other California bands exploring similar territory. As noted in The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, “Stone Cold World was sadly obscured in the flurry to praise Green On Red, the Long Ryders and Bangles, but Albin and Clay doggedly pursued their chosen direction when the fashion faded.” The Droogs’ second LP, Kingdom Day, which was released in 1987, also received a fair amount of airplay on college radio stations. This album was included in Rolling Stone‘s retrospective section “The Year in Records” as one of a handful of albums representing “highly individual but equally striking contemporary refractions of the psychedelic dream.” Despite critical acclaim, however, the Droogs did not reach a broad audience. Perhaps most frustrating to the band is that they’ve always faced a cool reception in their home base, Los Angeles. “You’re never a prophet in your home town,” says Roger Clay with some resignation. After years of releasing their own records, the Droogs signed to the label PVC/Jem in the mid-1980s, but that label folded while the Droogs were on tour supporting Kingdom Day.

In his review of Stone Cold World in Melody Maker, Ian Gittens remarked that while the Droogs wore their 1960s garage rock influences on their sleeves, they “draw heavily on a whole range of influences to for an approach peculiarly their own; taking from all times”. His concluding remark, calling the Droogs “a curious anachronism”, clearly demonstrates a problem the Droogs long faced. That is, despite the quality of their material, the Droogs have not fit easily into any of the trends that have come and gone during their career, making the band difficult to market to a larger audience. Though Stone Cold World contained a re-recorded version of the Albin/Clay’s “Set My Love on You”, along with a live version of “He’s Waitin'”, the Droogs incorporated influences that set them apart from other garage revival bands. Creem referred to Stone Cold World as showcasing their “new, streamlined moderne approach to punkadelic blues”. Timothy Gassen, author of Knights of Fuzz: The Garage and Psychedelic Music Explosion, 1980 to Now, didn’t consider Stone Cold World—or any of the Droogs’ recordings after 1983, for that matter—to be garage rock releases. Also, despite being included on a couple of new wave compilations, the Droogs weren’t really a new wave band, either. Being from southern California and playing 1960s-inspired music, the Droogs were often associated with the neo-psychedelic Paisley Underground. The Droogs’ sound, however, was always more garage punk than the more psychedelic sound of Paisley Underground groups, such as the Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade. Still, the Droogs had close ties to other bands from the area, particularly the Dream Syndicate. Dave Provost, the bassist for the Droogs since the early 1980s, has also played for the Dream Syndicate. Other Dream Syndicate members have made guest appearances on Droogs recordings. Karl Precoda played guitar on “I Want Something” and Steve Wynn joined Ric Albin on vocals for his song “Maria”, both of which appeared on the 1990 LP Want Something.

Fortunately for the Droogs, the late-1980s brought the band success in Europe. The Droogs’ early singles had become sought-after collector’s items and the Droogs were well received on their European tours. Roger Clay attributes the Droogs’ success there to a European interest in American music and the more varied radio programming available in European countries. Some time ago I got a copy of Where The Bottles Flies!, a bootleg CD of the Droogs performance at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark in June, 1997. The Droogs had their own set to play at the festival, but they agreed to fill in for the Wu Tang Clan, who had canceled because of an altercation at the Newark airport on their way to the festival. Unfortunately for the Droogs, the festival management didn’t do a particularly good job of letting the audience know about the change. According to a story in the Danish newspaper Politiken, the Droogs were subjected to

mean behavior by the audience, throwing glass bottles, filled paper cups, food left-overs and other items at the Droogs, who were replacing the original group…. Though the situation seemed pretty dangerous to the Droogs, the Americans kept playing against the riot, without a word for the first four musical numbers, at which point the singer Ric Albin sarcastically said: “Well, thanks for the shower!”. The throwing also damaged the light control panel in the green tent, so the concert continued in a dark tent…. The Droogs, in spite of the dangerous and unreasonable conditions played a tight and well organized program to the end. When simple garage rock can be played so nicely with varied tempos and primitive atmosphere, you give in. And the audience did the same. At the end of the concert the Droogs received enormous ovations and the request for encores.

“Call Off Your Dogs” and “Puzzled Mynds” from Where The Bottles Flies!

One of the most avid collectors of the Droogs’ recordings was Hans Kesteloo of the German label Music Maniac Records. Music Maniac released Anthology in 1988, collecting all of the Droogs’ early singles and the 1983 EP Heads Examined. Music Maniac also released the Droogs’ follow-up to Kingdom Day, Mad Dog Dreams in 1989. Since PVC had folded, that album was not released in the United States until the following year. After adding a couple of tracks, Skyclad released the album in the United States as Want Something. The Droogs’ label troubles continued, however, and their next two albums, Droogs Live in Europe (1990) and Guerrilla Love-In (1991), were released only in Europe on Music Maniac.

In 1997, the Droogs returned with Atomic Garage, which featured a raw, less polished sound. No covers of 1960s garage-punk classics are included on this album, but the fuzzed-out sound of Roger Clay’s guitar harkens back to the sound of the Droogs’ early recordings. The title of the album signals a return to the energy of garage rock, but using a variety of equipment, vintage and new, the album sounds retro and current at the same. Apart from minor complaints about the drumming, The Bob called Atomic Garage an otherwise “perfect album for lovers of introspective psych-garage-rock.”

Perhaps someday the rest of the world will catch up to the Droogs. In 2006 the Droogs released a career retrospective compilation Collection, and much of their catalog is now available as digital downloads.