Senior Year, 1967: Fuzz 'n' Freakbeat
If 1966 represented the height of American garage rock (it seemed as if every white teenager in the country was stomping on a fuzz pedal or fiddling with a Vox amplifier), 1967 was when things slowly metastasized into something weirder, the center of gravity shifting from Southern California to places north and overseas. Both the San Francisco and Swinging London scenes helped reframe the discussion, allowing trippy psychedelia to worm its way into every midsized burg and small town from coast to coast.
Not that three-chord stomp was a thing of the past, as witness snot-punk detonations from Levelland, Tex., noisemakers The Sparkles ("No Friend of Mine"); Minneapolis reprobates The Litter ("Action Woman"); or Houston's own Moving Sidewalks ("99th Floor," featuring future ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons on guitar). And Class of '66 titans were still going strong: Check out lesser-known nuggets from The Standells, Music Machine, 13th Floor Elevators, Thee Midniters and the immortal ? and the Mysterians, whose "Girl (You Captivate Me)" found itself banned from airplay thanks to ? himself mumbling his way around lines like, "Girl, you masturbate me."
But change was in the lysergic acid-soaked air. One listen to L.A. also-rans The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band suggests the new direction: shimmering cascades of guitar over wide-eyed wonderings. This is ace time-capsule stuff, from Fullerton, Calif., girl group The Daisy Chain riding a bizarre organ riff over the aptly named "Zzotto" to future blues rocker Johnny Winter sagely opining "Birds Can't Row Boats" and the ludicrous Ultimate Spinach representing the ill-fated Bosstown Sound on "Your Head Is Reeling." But don't overlook healthy strains of surf (The Sunrays), blue-eyed soul (Texas legend Roy Head), and pop perfection (Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Him or Me -- What's It Gonna Be?").
While stateside bands turned to The Rolling Stones for inspiration, rockers across the pond favored The Who's biff-bang-pow (see "My Friend Jack" by The Smoke and "Night of the Long Grass" by The Troggs). As mod slowly gave way to a guitar-heavy British scene dubbed "freakbeat," feedback and studio trickery assumed center stage: Cut in late '67, The Creation's "How Does It Feel to Feel" is world-class noise. And other bands were already looking beyond psychedelia, offering virtual blueprints for prog (the multipart structure of The Pretty Things' "Defecting Grey"), punk (the quasi-"Gloria" meltdown of The Deviants' "I'm Coming Home") and Krautrock (that unwavering drone on The Godz' "Soon the Moon"). Consult this playlist for further proof that 1967 wasn't solely the provenance of flower-power types.