Does Anyone Remember The 60s Band The Monks, Not The Late-70s Monks?

One of the great things about being a real music fan is the thrill of discovery, whether it’s something old or something new. I kept seeing this iPhone TV commercial recently that has this crazy music that was getting in my head: “… boys are boys and girls are choice”. What was this wonderfully unhinged music?

Turns out the music was from 1965, from a band called The Monks, not to be confused with the late-70s fake-punk novelty act of the same name. I’d never heard of the 60s Monks before, but what a discovery. These guys were batshit crazy and way ahead of their time musically, and they’ve apparently maintained a cult following ever since releasing their one and only studio album. We’re talking deep underground.

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The Monks were five American G.I.s stationed in Germany in the early Sixties, and there was nothing normal about them. They used feedback-drenched guitar, one of the first bands to do so, combined it with a feedback-drenched banjo that had two mics jammed up inside, and had them pound out these rigid but irregular rhythms underneath the bizarre yelpy vocals of lead singer Gary Burger. Bassist Eddie Shaw said “we got rid of melody. We substituted dissonance and clashing harmonics. Everything was rhythmically oriented. Bam, bam, bam, we concentrated on the over-beat”.

On top of that these cats had a bizarre stage presence that surely confounded mid-60s audiences and would probably have done the same today. They dressed in black monks robes with a big white rope around their necks, and most bizarre of all, they cut their hair in tonsures, that big bald spot on the top of the head that monks wore.

Needless to say, these lunatics had trouble gaining traction in the mid-Sixties and ended up calling it quits in 1967. A reunion in 1999 brought the band and its legacy back into the public light, and their album Black Monk Time has been re-released a few times. Today only Shaw and keyboardist Larry Clark remain alive, but interest in this strange band keeps bubbling under. Just last week it was announced that a new album containing unreleased Monks tracks was being released by Third Man Records. I’m looking forward to hearing it, this band truly represents one of the more off the wall stories in Rock history.

One comment to “Does Anyone Remember The 60s Band The Monks, Not The Late-70s Monks?”
  1. Rich! I love the Monks. Black Monk Time is an album that I really need to add to my wax collection. Newbury Comics has an exclusive double LP pressing on sale right now. Also, cannot wait to hear the Third Man stuff

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