Perfect Sound Forever

60's Punk Compilations

by Johan Kugelberg, Part II

13. Crude PA volume 1 (Distortions 1001 USA 1990)
14. Crude PA volume 2 (Distortions 1024 USA 1996)

In the spirit of BFTG, this amazing comp focuses on the crude, crazy and inept, all from Pennsylvania. A popular cliche amongst the '80's garage scenesters was the notion that '60's punk/garage musicians were "wild and primitive cavemen," making "wild and primitive noise" and possibly feasting on "primitive cave grub." This reverberated across the globe, possibly helped along the way by copies of "Be A Caveman" by the Avengers (on Boulders #1) and posters of Raquel Welch in 10 000 BC and ended up being a given for how garage people presented their craft. Well, several tracks on Crude PA actually sound like primitive cavemen making wild and primitive noise. And the PA food from Pat's Steaks to a Shoofly Pie at the Dutch Kitchen in Frackville certainly can be interpreted as primitive cave grub. Both volumes of Crude PA are blistering masterpieces from out of nowhere, no doubt. Primitive and great.

15. Earpiercing Punk (Trash 0001 USA 1983)

When EPP came out, it was a bit of a revelation (after getting past the baffling sleeve wrapped in a pic of a '77-style safety-pin punk babe) that a comp had been released lining up crazed (tough) fifties rockers alongside solid '60's punk tracks. This comp doesn't have the reputation of say, Scum of the Earth or Off the Wall (Ed note: see below- not the Michael Jackson record), but it is pretty damn fantastic, and easy to find as well.

16. Florida Punk (Eva 12026 France 1983)
17. Louisiana Punk (Eva 12051 France 1986)
18. New Mexico Punk (Eva 12047 France 1985)

The Eva Records garage comps that started to flow out of Paris in the early-mid eighties were more often than not put together by Jersey-collector Vic whose ears for sixties punk blaze rivaled those of Tim Warren. The best Eva compilations easily outshine all Pebbles, and rival the best early U.S. private press comps. These three all dive-bomb out of your speakers and enter your brain like a perfect espresso. As we will never hear everything, own everything or remember everything, we should all be glad that there are fellows like Vic out there, who shared his gnosis 25-plus years ago.

19. Garage Punk Unknowns Volume 4 (Stone Age no # USA 1985)

In some ways, this feels like the lost BFTG volume. It is that good. A slew of (still) obscure R&B-punk tracks, this one plays beautifully, the compiler as always avoiding what members of my family refer to as "the hippie quotient", i.e. the presence of incensey/peppermintey clownage intermingling with the hunk of punk on garage comps of an early/mid '80's vintage.

20. Off The Wall Volume 1 (Wreckord Wrack 1025, 1982)
21. Off The Wall Volume 2 (Wreckord Wrack 1301, 1983)

The two volumes of OTW have certain whispered somethings to say about the art of assembly, of sequencing, of compiling and its core mystical and alchemical nature. Some comps work, and some don't. Some playlists do/don't, mixed tapes for pals, mixed tapes for babes, some work and some don't and it seems very difficult to discern what components direct the work in one direction or another. As this whiff is being written, I've been spilling a constant of garage comps on the turntable, and in a manner, waited for myself to react: not only for a particularly crazy record to entice one to start dancing the frug, but for those sanctified moments where every consecutive record in sequence adds exponential critical mass to the previous until the comp becomes a thing unto itself.

OTW 1&2 deliver in spades. The liner notes of OTW 1 consists of as clear and concise a statement of definition and intent that we'll ever get about '60's punk and how it came to be: and as it was written in 1981, fifteen years after 1966, I can but gasp that 15 years ago today was 1995 and what odious jams ruled airwaves mainstream and underground that given year. Oh well. What was once directly lived has receded into a representation.

22. Open Up Yer Door Volume 1 (Frog Death 101 USA 1984)
23. Open Up Yer Door Volume 2 (Frog Death 102 USA 1987)

Both superb, compiled with that rare finesse that showcases not only DJ skills, but also access to a serious collection. In the days of record collecting before the Internet, you knew what you knew and you had what you had. Some dealers provided cassettes, some collectors as well, some most certainly didn't and that most exalted gate-keeper/occult-knowledge tomfoolery as always resulted in less enthusiasm being spread and less people having less fun.

The gent who compiled these two, and who I used to run into at NYC record shops in the late eighties, always came across as one of those men whose fascination for musical marginalia was infused with such much meaning that all other art-forms and means of human expression faded in comparison. I remember his mega-enthused logorrhea devoted to a meritocracy of primitive teenage two-chord bashing and how I could simply not wait to hear the sounds described. OUYD vol. 1 & 2 are standing legacies to this gentleman's ability to enthuse, inspire and share.

24. Scum of the Earth Volume 1 (Killdozer 1001 USA 1984)
25. Scum of the Earth Volume 2 (Killdozer 002 USA 1984)

Oddly enough, SOTE vol 1&2 don't really register as garage comps, nor as consumer guides or party soundtracks or, don't know really, they are things unto themselves, works of abject originality, like the Cramps, or a Kurt Schwitters collage.

Both volumes positively shimmer with punk rock gnosis: that rare insight that it is all the same anyway and that the transient nature of the everyday means that the blasts spilled on the gramophone are something between us and said blasts, hence it don't really matter what the band wears, what decade they are from, their race or their socio-economical strata. Both volumes are loosely divided into a punk-side and a general pre('60's)-punk weirdness side, that are put together with such an insight into the craft of compiling that the natural flow of the comps is so goddamn 24-karat that I think I have the sequence memorized through repeated play over the years.

26. WHAT A WAY TO DIE (Satan 1313 USA 1983)

WAWTD landed in Swedish record shops in the Fall of 1984, after the first couple of volumes of BFTG, and right before the GPU series. Needless to say, me and my snotty little pals hadn't heard of any of the records on the comp, and were yet again blown away by this constant stream of what could only be described as sacred sounds from the USA (where, we had heard, hamburgers sizzled night and day, a concept most dear to us as in Sweden, as our burger joints closed at 4:30 in the afternoon and served up the burgers steamed with a mixture of lingonberry jam and lutefisk on top). I remember wondering if this array of cultural wealth would ever end, and how come most rock (and punk) I'd heard from the sixties to date didn't even come close to the marvelous intensity of the jams on comps like this one. Well: We know now that the early collectors of '60's punk (Todd A and Vince B compiled this one) truly were able explorers and through instinct reached many of the most picturesque areas of the landscape, like Lewis and Clark or so.

27. Pebbles Volume 9 (BFD Records USA 1980 (?))
28. Pebbles Volume 1 (BFD Records USA 197(?), reissued 1979)
29. Pebbles Volume 7 (BFD Records 5024 USA 1980)
30. Pebbles Volume 8 (BFD Records 5025 USA 1980)

The release date for Pebbles volume one varies a great deal. The Midnight book states 1975. Some claim 1977, Wikipedia states 1978, and not that I don't trust them, but hey. They've sold me swampland more than once. Jon Savage says that Greg Shaw sent him a white label in 1978 so somewhere in that where, a compilation called Pebbles came out. Pebbles volume one first came out as a white label with a red insert sleeve and was reissued with an album jacket featuring the image of the pinhead that we've all learned to love a few months later. Either way and any way: the re-release of Pebbles volume one in 1979, and the consecutive 1980 release of the next ten-or-so volumes was timed perfectly with the boost in interest in all-things-sixties, that was a snacky side-dish to the power pop main. The punk-era ears had gotten people used to raunch, and the avalanches of indie 45's had advanced the momentum of obscurity thrill-seeking. The musical language of sixties punk had also nowhere near jelled by 1979.

To most, the sixties was pop and choruses and ringing Rickenbackers, and therefore there wasn't a clear idea of otherness, distinguishing the cutesy stuff from the gruntiest and most primitive. This is certainly reflected in the Pebbles track listings, as is Greg Shaw's personal taste, with its baffling Geoffrey Weissian adoration of melody.
It doesn't feel particularly important or meaningful to point out that the Golem has clay feet. The Pebbles series is ultimately fantastic. Important, meaningful, all that. One of my greatest senses of musical wonders experienced as of yet was the turntable spillage of Pebbles volume 9, hearing "Project Blue" by the Banshees and "At the Rivers Edge" by New Colony Six for the first time, but this needs to be said: it is odd how poor the musical quality control on Pebbles is, especially as one contrasts with the diligent and superb liner notes.*** As the series progressed, the song selections started to include stuff that even the most ardent '60's-fetishist would have a hard time shoehorning down his gullet, and furthermore that an extremely gravel-o-phonic and hap-hazard treatment of the actual sounds compiled, cutting corners in mastering and using versions taken from cassettes instead of masters or original vinyl (performances that were pretty damn low-fidelity in the first place, and quite often pressed up on the vinyl-grade that contains a significant percentage of apple-cores and Chinese newspapers). As you may know, some tracks are pitched (most notably the Squires), and the baffling inclusion of "Action Woman" by The Litter with a big ol' skip in the middle is as blatant an illumination as one can possibly hope for whence an old-timer like myself is cornered to explain the nature of obscurity and the difficulty of location when it came to rare vinyl prior to interwebs and brick and mortar shop shutdowns. I can only explain the sliding quality scale of the series and the somewhat sloppy execution of some of the comps as the victim of enthusiasm verses obsession. I think Greg Shaw's intent, vision and diligence was superb: where the problem lies, is when the scholar thinks that it is within his grasp to comprehend and define a complete and comprehensive chain of events and gathering of materials.

(*** The two part notes on volume 7 and 8 of Pebbles, "The Boy Looked At Roky" is a jaw-dropping, knee-slapping, scotch-spilling slice of equilibrist comical genius where Greg Shaw takes the mega-mickey out of the Burchill/Parsons mega-pretentious speedfreak rant tract on punk "The Boy Looked At Johnny".)

The swell record store Finyl Vinyl had a sign on the wall that bore the legend:

You will...
Never know everything
Never hear everything
Never own everything
Never remember everything

But leaving you, handsome reader, with that sentiment is much too dark. Instead, here's a list of paint-peeling, barn-storming, speaker-annihilating cuts from above comps that I hope will function as a plausible consumer guidance exercise in lieu of statements about rarity, rawness and wildness. All these jams can easily be found on the Web. Send the compilers of Pebbles, Back From The Grave, Nuggets, Off The Wall etc. a warm and cozy thought as you visit or revisit some of the most splendid sounds made on our earth beside (natch) those of moaning women and laughing babies.

  1. The Untamed "Someday Baby" (Off The Wall vol. 1)
  2. Electras "Action Woman" (Open Up Yer Door vol. 1)
  3. Keggs "To Find Out" (BFTG 5)
  4. New Colony Six "At The Rivers Edge" (Pebbles 9)
  5. Avengers "Be A Caveman" (Boulders 1)
  6. The Bitters End "Find Somebody To Love Me" (Crude PA 1)
  7. Keith Kessler "Don't Crowd Me" (Ear Piercing Punk)
  8. Alarm Clocks "No Reason To Complain" (BFTG 1)
  9. Chancellors "On Tour" (BFTG 8)
  10. Belles "Melvin" (GPU 4)

See and hear all of these sounds on YouTube through our exclusive playlist

In case you missed it, see Part I of the 60s punk compilations article

Buy Johan Kugelberg's book Brad Pitt's Dog at Zero Books

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