Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Skunks - I Need No One

The British Invasion gets the lion's share of credit for the garage rock boom of the mid-sixties and rightfully so. But while The Beatles, Stones, Kinks and others were influencing a lot of American teens to pick up guitars and start bands, some U.S. based combos were doing the same. And The Byrds have to be right at the top of that list. Their brand of jangly guitar, folk influenced, pop rock inspired a lot of imitations. Today's record is a prime example of that.

I'll start by saying that I'm a big fan of The Byrds. "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" is just about my favorite song of all-time. I consider it the perfect pop single. It amazes me that it was only the b-side of a 45. I know that great songs often got stuck on the backside of something less worthy but come on! The Byrds were coming off a #1 smash and someone thought that "All I Really Want To Do" was the better choice for a follow-up? Anyway, I'm getting off track here. The Byrds were a great band and a lot of what they inspired is also outstanding. Such is the case when you choose your influences carefully.

The Skunks were a Milwaukee area band and Teen Town was a local, Wisconsin label. They released a handful of singles, two of which I own. And while you might expect a raw, punky sound from a band called The Skunks, not only is "I Need No One" very much in the Byrds mold, it's also far and away the most garagey and best of what I've heard. A bit more on that later.

"I Need No One" has that classic, Byrds sound. The guitars aren't quite as jangly as the California boys but they're close. The vocals are sung in harmony fashion and the song is full of pop hooks. Stylistically, maybe "She Don't Care About Time", another Byrds favorite that was also relegated to flipside status, is a decent comparison. "I Need No One" is a bit faster though and there's no bridge of any kind, all helping it cross the finish line in an even two minutes. I prefer short songs but this one might be a bit too short. Anyhow, it leaves me wanting more which usually equates to multiple plays.

"I Need No One" is either a 1967 or '68 release which seems a bit late until, that is, you've heard the other side of the record, a song called "I Recommend Her". That side has The Skunks in full BS&T horn rock mode. The less said about it, the better. And, of course, to make this thing come full circle, "I Recommend Her" was the a-side of the single, a far more incongruous fact than any example I might have given earlier.


Larry Grogan said...

Props on mentioning the Byrds as a major influence on the garage movement. They usually get left out, and their influence is incalculable.

Jayster said...

Hi again,

Got anything on the August label...? records? - Info? - Anything?
I've got one record - (not going into details yet), but would love to know more.

Todd Lucas said...

Jayster, I don't believe that I have anything on the August label. Perhaps Brian does though.

JangleRadio said...

I wonder if they are the same group that recorded "Youth Quake" on Mercury in 1965?

Todd Lucas said...

I used to have a copy of the record on Mercury. I'm pretty sure it's two different outfits.

Dennis J. O'Boyle said...

Songs by The Skunks were great hits and part of the fabric of life in Milwaukee and elsewhere during the mid 1960s.

"I Recommend Her" was on the radio and in many juke boxes throughout the city that made beer more famous.

While the music and pop influences are always good to discuss and debate, its also important to consider that great songs are in the ears and mind of the beholder, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What personal memories do you have of songs by The Skunks when the songs were new, fresh, and happening?

I remember hearing the song "I Recommend Her"on WOKY - 920 AM, The Mighty 92, with top DJ Bob Barry announcing it as the intro notes played.

I remember hearing "I Recommend Her" down in the CYO room at St. Rose of Lima school, which I attended (Class of 1969).

When you engage life and music, those songs become part of your memories, part of the tapestry and fabric of those days . . . .

Many good memories and feelings (and some not so good, such as the fiasco in Vietnam) are conjured up by such songs.

We make an association that sticks and somehow, the songs that tie us back to those days become bigger hits as time goes by.

Anonymous said...

The "B" side better than the "A" side? I don't think so. Listen to the remake of "I Recommend Her" on A and M Records and I might agree with you. Randy Klein's bluesy, gritty vocals and the horn section carry the tune . Great take on the Larry Henley penned rocker.