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Garage rock is a raw form of rock and roll that was first popular in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker from about 1963 to 1967. During the 1960s, it was not recognized as a separate music genre and had no specific name. In the early 1970s, some rock critics retroactively labelled it as punk rock. However, the music style was later referred to as garage rock, protopunk, or 60s punk to avoid confusion with the music of late-1970s punk rock bands such as the The Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Clash.

History

Origins

The term "garage rock" comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in a family garage. Some bands were made up of middle-class teenagers from the suburbs, but some were from rural or urban areas, while others were composed of professional musicians in their twenties.

The performances were often amateurish or naïve, with typical themes revolving around the traumas of high school life and songs about "lying girls" being particularly common.. The lyrics and delivery were notably more aggressive than was common at the time, often with growled or shouted vocals that dissolved into incoherent screaming. Instrumentation was often characterised by the use of guitars distorted through a fuzzbox. Nevertheless, garage rock acts were diverse in both musical ability and in style, ranging from crude one-chord music (like the Seeds and the Keggs) to near-studio musician quality (including the Knickerbockers, the Remains, and the Fifth Estate). There were also regional variations in many parts of the country with flourishing scenes particularly in California and Texas. The Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon had perhaps the most defined regional sound.

The style had been evolving from regional scenes as early as 1958. "Tall Cool One" (1959) by The Wailers and "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963) are mainstream examples of the genre in its formative stages. By 1963, garage band singles were creeping into the national charts in greater numbers, including Paul Revere and the Raiders (Boise), the Trashmen (Minneapolis) and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana). Other influential garage bands, such as the Sonics (Tacoma, Washington), never reached the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. In this early period many bands were heavily influenced by surf rock and there was a cross-pollination between garage rock and frat rock, though the former is sometimes viewed as merely a sub-genre of garage rock.

The "British Invasion" of 1964-6 greatly influenced garage bands, providing them with a national audience and leading many (often surf or hot rod groups) to adopt a British Invasion lilt. The Invasion also inspired new, and often very raw, bands to form. Garage rock bands were generally influenced by those British "beat groups" with a harder, blues-based attack, such as The Kinks, The Who, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, The Pretty Things, Them, and The Rolling Stones. A handful of British garage bands were formed, the most successful being the Troggs. Another influence was the folk-rock of the Byrds and Bob Dylan, especially on bands such as the Leaves.

Peak of popularity

Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era and hundreds produced regional hits. Examples include: "I Just Don't Care" by New York City's The D-Men (1965), "The Witch" by Tacoma's The Sonics (1965), "Where You Gonna Go" by Detroit's Unrelated Segments (1967), "Girl I Got News for You" by Miami's Birdwatchers (1966) and "1-2-5" by Montreal's The Haunted. Boston's Remains, though only able to make it onto Billboard's Bubbling Under charts, had enough of a following and reputation to open for the Beatles during their 1966 U.S. tour. Ohio's Shondells released a minor regional hit in 1964 before disbanding; when it was unearthed by a Pittsburgh DJ in 1965, the resulting success of "Hanky Panky" revived the moribund career of Tommy James, who formed a new group of Shondells and went on to chart seven more Top 40 singles. Several dozen of these produced national hit records, including "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen (1963), "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963-64), "Psychotic Reaction" by The Count Five (1966), "Pushin' Too Hard" by The Seeds (1966), "Gloria" by the Shadows of Knight (1966), "96 Tears" by Question Mark and the Mysterians (1966), "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine (1966), "Dirty Water" by The Standells (1966), "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" by The Swingin' Medallions (1966), "Respect" by The Rationals (1966), and "Little Bit O'Soul" by The Music Explosion (1967).

Decline

Despite scores of bands being signed to major or large regional labels, most were commercial failures. For instance, "Going All the Way" by The Squires was issued on a national label (Atco) and is now regarded as a genre classic, but was not a hit anywhere. It is generally agreed that garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically around 1966. By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts (the minor hit "Question of Temperature" by The Balloon Farm being a notable exception). It was also disappearing at the local level as amateur musicians faced college, work or the draft. New styles had evolved to replace garage rock (e.g., progressive rock, country rock, Bubblegum, etc.). In Detroit garage rock stayed alive until the early 70s, with bands like the MC5 and The Stooges, who employed a much more aggressive style. These bands began to be labelled punk rock and are now often seen as proto-punk or proto-hard rock.

Revival

The revival of garage rock can be traced to the release of the two disk Nuggets compilation in 1972 by future Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, which drew together both commercially successful and relatively obscure tracks from the mid-1960s and whose sleeve notes helped coin the phrase "punk rock" to describe the phenomenon. Iggy Pop and the Stooges, arguably the last garage band, carried garage rock into Proto punk in the early '70s. The mid to late 1970s saw the arrival of the quintessential garage punk bands, most notably The Ramones, who are usually considered the first of the American punk bands.

In the 1980s, another garage rock revival saw a number of bands linked to the underground music scene earnestly trying to replicate the sound, style, and look of the '60s garage bands, including The Chesterfield Kings, The Fuzztones and The Lyres. This trend coincided with a similar surf rock revival, and both styles fed in into the alternative rock movement and future grunge explosion, which some say was partially inspired by garage rock from the Tacomamarker area like The Sonics and The Wailers, but was largely unknown by fans outside the immediate circles of the bands themselves.

This movement also evolved into an even more primitive form of garage rock that became known as garage punk by the late 1980s, thanks to bands such as The Gories, Thee Mighty Caesars, The Mummies and Thee Headcoats. Bands playing garage punk differed from the garage rock revival bands in that they were less cartoonish caricatures of '60s garage bands and their overall sound was even more loud and raw, often infusing elements of proto punk and 1970s punk rock (hence the "garage punk" term). The garage rock revival and garage punk coexisted throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s with many independent record labels releasing thousands of records by bands playing various styles of primitive rock and roll all around the world. Some of the more prolific of these independent record labels included Estrus, Get Hip, Bomp!, and Sympathy for the Record Industry.

In the early 2000s, a garage rock revival gained mainstream appeal and commercial airplay, something that had eluded garage rock bands of the past. This was led by four bands, The Hives (from Sweden), The Vines (from Australia), The Strokes (from New York), and The White Stripes (from Detroit), christened by the media as the "The" bands, or "The saviours of rock 'n' roll". Other products of the Detroit rock scene included; The Von Bondies, Electric 6, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras Elsewhere, other lesser-known acts such as Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from Britain, The Noise Conspiracy from Sweden, The 5.6.7.8's from Japan, and the Oblivians from Memphis enjoyed moderate underground success and appeal. Other notable bands that enjoyed commercial success, were The Libertines, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Datsuns and the Kings of Leon.

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