Garage rock

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"Garage band" redirects here. For other uses, see Garage band (disambiguation).
"Frat rock" redirects here. For the album with a similar name, see Frat Rock! The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Party Tunes of All-Time.

Garage rock is a style of pop music, a raw genre of rock and roll that developed in the United States and Canada in the mid 1960s.[1] At the time it had no specific name and was not recognized as a separate genre, but the 1972 compilation album Nuggets did much to help define and memorialise the style. The term derives from the perception that many groups were young amateurs who often rehearsed in a family garage.

The style, though a precursor to psychedelic rock, is characterised by aggressive and unsophisticated lyrics and delivery, often using guitars distorted through a fuzzbox. Surf music and beat music characteristic of the "British Invasion" of 1964-66 motivated thousands of such bands in the USA and Canada during the era: hundreds produced regional hits and a handful had national chart hits. By 1968 such records largely disappeared from the national charts and the style declined as more sophisticated forms of rock music developed.

In the early 1970s some critics began to refer to the style as punk rock, the first form of music to bear this description; and it is sometimes called garage punk, protopunk or 1960s punk to distinguish it from the punk rock of the mid and late 1970s.


The term garage rock comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in a family garage.[2] Some bands were made up of middle-class teenagers from the suburbs, others were from rural or urban areas or were composed of professional musicians in their twenties.[3]

Performances were often amateurish, naïve or intentionally raw, with typical themes revolving around the traumas of high school life and songs about "lying girls" being particularly common.[4] 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.[2] Instrumentation was often characterised by the use of guitars distorted through a fuzzbox.[5]

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 with flourishing scenes, particularly in California, the base of Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Electric Prunes, The Music Machine, The Standells, and Texas, offering bands such as Sir Douglas Quintet, The 13th Floor Elevators, Sam the Sham (whose "Wooly Bully" reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was charted for almost four and a half months in 1965), and Fever Tree.[4] The north-western states of Idaho, Washington and Oregon had perhaps the most defined regional sound with bands such as The Bootmen, The Sonics and Paul Revere & the Raiders.[6] Florida had a significant amount of near studio quality bands, such as The Impacs, The Tropics, The Tempests and The Outlaws.



The D-Men (later The Fifth Estate) in 1964

Precursors can be picked out as early as 1958. Link Wray, with his innovative use of power chords and distortion, was an early influence.[7][8][9][10] "Tall Cool One" (1959) by The Fabulous Wailers and "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963) are formative examples of the genre.[11] By 1963 several such singles were creeping into the national charts, including Paul Revere and the Raiders (Boise),[12] the Trashmen (Minneapolis)[13] and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana).[14] Other influential garage bands, such as the Sonics (Tacoma, Washington), never reached the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[15] In this early period many bands were heavily influenced by surf rock and there was a cross-pollination between garage rock and energetic and upbeat party frat rock, though the latter is sometimes viewed as merely a subgenre of garage rock.[16]

The "British Invasion" of 1964-66 greatly influenced garage bands, providing them with a national audience and leading many (often surf or hot rod groups) to respond.[4][17][18] 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,[19] and The Rolling Stones. A handful of British garage bands were formed, the most successful being the Troggs.[20] Another influence was the folk-rock of the Byrds and Bob Dylan, especially on bands such as the Leaves.[21]

Peak of popularity[edit]

Paul Revere & the Raiders pictured in 1967

Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era and hundreds produced regional hits.[4] Usually thought to be the first to enjoy national success were The Beau Brummels with "Laugh, Laugh" and "Just a Little", which both reached the top 15 in 1965.[22] Other examples include: "Fortune Teller" by Des Moines's The Image (1967), "The Witch" by Tacoma's The Sonics (1965), "Where You Gonna Go" by Detroit's Unrelated Segments (1967), "It's Cold Outside" by Cleveland's The Choir, "Girl I Got News for You" by Miami's Birdwatchers (1966), "Dirty Water" by Los Angeles-based The Standells (1966), "I Need Love" by Canton, Illinois', The Third Booth,[23][24] and "1-2-5" by Montreal's The Haunted. The November 12, 1966 issue of Billboard cited that sales of the "96 Tears" single by Question Mark & the Mysterians, a band from Michigan, had attained sales of one million copies. 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.[25]

Michigan's Shondells released a minor regional hit in 1964 before disbanding. When it was unearthed by a Pittsburgh Disc Jockey in 1965, the resulting success of "Hanky Panky" revived the moribund career of Tommy James, who formed a new group of Shondells. Tommy James And The Shondells followed up with twelve more top 40 singles.[26] Tommy also had three top 40 singles as a soloist.

The 1965 song "¡Demolición!" by Peruvian act Los Saicos is considered a South American classic. Allmusic, writing about Los Saicos, noted "The guitars sound like nothing so much as fountains of sparks, the drums have a tribal post-surf throb, and the vocals are positively unhinged" and "These guys were a punk rock band, even if nobody outside Lima knew it at the time".[27]


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 under (Atco) and is now regarded as a genre classic, but was not a hit anywhere.[28] It is generally agreed that garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically around 1966.[4] 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.[4] New styles had either evolved out of garage rock or replaced it, such as psychedelic rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, country rock, and bubblegum.[4] In Detroit, garage rock stayed alive well into the 1970s, with bands like the MC5, The Stooges, The Up and Death, who employed a much more aggressive style. These bands began to be labelled punk rock and are now often seen as protopunk or proto-hard rock.[29]


Main articles: Garage punk and Post-punk revival
Iggy Pop of The Stooges onstage in 1977

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.[30] Iggy Pop and the Stooges, arguably the last garage band, carried garage rock into protopunk in the early 1970s.[5] The mid-to-late 1970s saw the arrival of the quintessential garage punk bands, most notably The Ramones, who are usually considered the first punk band.[31]

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 1960s garage bands, including The Chesterfield Kings, The Fuzztones, The Pandoras, and Lyres.[32] 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 Tacoma area like The Sonics and The Wailers, but was largely unknown by fans outside the immediate circles of the bands themselves.[citation needed]

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.[33] Bands playing garage punk differed from the garage rock revival bands in that they were less cartoonish caricatures of 1960s garage bands and their overall sound was even more loud and raw, often infusing elements of protopunk 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,[34] Get Hip,[35] Bomp!,[36] and Sympathy for the Record Industry.[37]

The Black Keys performing in 2011

In the early 2000s, a garage rock or post-punk revival[38] achieved the airplay and commercial success that had eluded garage rock bands of the past. This was led by four bands: The Strokes of New York City, The Hives of Fagersta, Sweden, The Vines of Sydney, and The White Stripes from Detroit, Michigan, christened by the media as the The bands, or "The saviours of rock 'n' roll".[39] Other products of the Detroit rock scene included; The Von Bondies, Electric 6, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras[40] Elsewhere, other acts such as Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from Chatham, England,[41] The (International) Noise Conspiracy from Umeå, Sweden,[42] The's from Tokyo, Japan,[43] and Jay Reatard and the Oblivians from Memphis, USA[44] enjoyed moderate underground success and appeal. A second wave of bands that managed to gain international recognition as a result of the movement included The Black Keys,[45] Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Killers, Interpol, and Kings of Leon from the US,[46] The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Editors, and Franz Ferdinand from the UK,[47] Jet from Australia,[48] and The Datsuns and The D4 from New Zealand.[49]

The mid-2000s saw several underground bands achieve some mainstream prominence. Bands such as Black Lips[50] and Jay Reatard,[51] who initially released their records on traditionally garage punk labels such as In The Red Records, began signing to larger, more well-known independent labels.[52] Several bands followed them in signing to larger labels such as Rough Trade[53] and Drag City.[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Garage Rock". About Entertainment. January 2015. Retrieved January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b R. Shuker, Popular music: the key concepts (Routledge, 2nd edn., 2005), p. 140.
  3. ^ E. J. Abbey, Garage Rock and Its Roots: Musical Rebels and the Drive for Individuality (McFarland, 2006), pp. 74–6.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (Backbeat Books, 3rd end., 2002), pp. 1320–1.
  5. ^ a b N. E. Tawa, Supremely American: Popular Song in the 20th Century: Styles and Singers and what They Said about America (Scarecrow Press, 2005), p. 179.
  6. ^ N. Campbell, American Youth Cultures (Edinburgh University Press, 2nd edn., 2004), p. 213.
  7. ^ Cub Koda & Steve Leggett (2008). "Link Wray" Biography, AllMusic.
  8. ^ "Link Wray Obituary". New York Night Train. 2005-12-01. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  9. ^ "link wray". Sound Citizen. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  10. ^ "The Rumble Man, Link Wray". Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  11. ^ S. Otfinoski, The Golden Age of Rock Instrumentals (Billboard Books, September 1997), ISBN 0823076393, p. 36.
  12. ^ W. E. Studwell and D. F. Lonergan, The classic rock and roll reader: rock music from its beginnings to the mid-1970s (Routledge, 1999), p. 213.
  13. ^ J. Austen, TV-a-go-go: Rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol (Chicago Review Press, 2005), p. 19.
  14. ^ S. Waksman, This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (University of California Press, 2009), p. 116.
  15. ^ F. W. Hoffmann and H. Ferstler, Encyclopedia of recorded sound, Volume 1 (CRC Press, 2nd edn, 2004), p. 873.
  16. ^ R. Sabin, Punk rock: so what?: the cultural legacy of punk (Routledge, 1999), p. 159.
  17. ^ "Overhauling the British Invasion (part two)". Office Naps. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  18. ^ "THE HULLABALLOOS – Self Titled – (Roulette) – 1965 | WHAT FRANK IS LISTENING TO". 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  19. ^ "Them: Gloria", Allmusic, retrieved 8 September 2011.
  20. ^ Buckley 2003, pp. 1103
  21. ^ R. Unterberger, S. Hicks and J. Dempsey, Music USA: the Rough Guide (Rough Guides, 1999), p. 385.
  22. ^ V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books, 3rd edn., 2002), ISBN 0-87930-653-X, pp. 80–1.
  23. ^ Mike Dugo. "The Third Booth". Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  24. ^ "WLS 890 Hit Parade". 1968-07-08. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  25. ^ C. Tichi, High Lonesome: The American Culture of Country Music (UNC Press, 1994), p. 222.
  26. ^ R. Shuker, Popular Music: The Key Concepts (Routledge, 2nd edn., 2005), p. 75.
  27. ^ ¡Demolición!: The Complete Recordings Allmusic review
  28. ^ V. Joynson, Fuzz, Acid and Flowers: A Comprehensive Guide to American Garage, Psychedelic and Hippie Rock (1964–1975) (Borderline, 4th edn., 1997), p. 309.
  29. ^ G. Thompson, American Culture in the 1980s (Edinburgh University Press, 2007), p. 134.
  30. ^ Smith, Chris (2009). 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 96–8. ISBN 978-0-19-537371-4. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  31. ^ N. Rombes, Ramones (Continuum, 2005), p. 26.
  32. ^ J. DeRogatis, Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips (Robson, 2006), p. 35.
  33. ^ Thee Mighty Caesars -biography. allmusic. Retrieved 1-2-2014
  34. ^ P. Blecha, Music in Washington: Seattle and Beyond (Arcadia, 2007), p. 121.
  35. ^ D. R. Adams, Rock 'n' Roll and the Cleveland Connection: Music of the Great Lakes, (Kent State University Press, 2002), p. 469.
  36. ^ S. Frith, ed., Popular Music: Music and Identity (Routledge, 2004), p. 98.
  37. ^ E. True, The White Stripes and the Sound of Mutant Blues (Omnibus Press, 2004), p.73.
  38. ^ J. Stuessy and S. D. Lipscomb, Rock and Roll: Its History and Stylistic Development (Pearson Prentice Hall, 5th edn., 2006), ISBN 0-13-193098-2, p. 451.
  39. ^ C. Smith, 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 240.
  40. ^ Buckley 2003, pp. 1144
  41. ^ Buckley 2003, pp. 189–90
  42. ^ "Review: The (International) Noise Conspiracy, A New Morning; Changing Weather", New Music Monthly Nov-Dec 2001, p. 69.
  43. ^ C. Rowthorn, Japan (Lonely Planet, 8th edn., 2003), p. 37.
  44. ^ E. True, The White Stripes and the Sound of Mutant Blues (Omnibus Press, 2004), p. 59.
  45. ^ "The Black Keys: El Camino | Album Reviews | Pitchfork",, 2 December 2011, retrieved 5 December 2011.
  46. ^ S. J. Blackman, Chilling out: the cultural politics of substance consumption, youth and drug policy (McGraw-Hill International, 2004), p. 90.
  47. ^ D. Else, Great Britain (London: Lonely Planet, 2007), ISBN 1-74104-565-7, p. 75.
  48. ^ P. Smitz, C. Bain, S. Bao, S. Farfor, Australia (Footscray Victoria: Lonely Planet, 14th edn., 2005), ISBN 1-74059-740-0, p. 58.
  49. ^ C. Rawlings-Way, Lonely Planet New Zealand (Footscray Victoria: Lonely Planet, 14th edn., 2008), ISBN 1-74104-816-8, p. 52.
  50. ^ "Signed: Black Lips Sign To Vice Records", retrieved 30 November 2011.
  51. ^ "Red rag: Jay Reatard signs with Matador", Drowned in Sound, retrieved 30 November 2011.
  52. ^ Steve Rose, In The Red Records’ Larry Hardy – Interview – January 2010,, retrieved 30 November 2011.
  53. ^ Justin Jacobs, "The Strange Boys Sign to Rough Trade, Tour With Julian Casablancas, Prep New Album for 2010",, 11 November 2009, retrieved 30 November 2011.
  54. ^ "Ty Segall Signs to Drag City for New Studio Album",, 2 March 2011, retrieved 30 November 2011.

Additional references[edit]

  • Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to More than 1200 Artists and Bands] (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1843531054. 

Suggested reading[edit]

  • Bangs, Lester (ed. Greil Marcus) (1987, 2003). Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Anchor Books (a division of Random House). New York. ISBN 0-679-72045-6 - a partial compendium of Bangs' articles discussing various musical topics, including some of the earliest writings about this genre
  • Hicks, Michael (2001) Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252069153 / ISBN 978-0252069154 - covers garage and psychedelic bands of the 60s
  • Lemlich, Jeffrey M. (2001) Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands: The '60s and Beyond. Distinctive Publishing Corp. ISBN 978-0942963120 - covers 60s Florida garage rock scene
  • Marks, Ian D. and McIntyre, Iain. (2010) Wild About You: The Sixties Beat Explosion in Australia and New Zealand Verse Chorus Press. Portland, London, Melbourne. Foreword by Ian McFarlane. ISBN 978-1-891241-28-4 - covers 60s garage rock scene in Australia and New Zealand
  • Nobles, Mark (2012) Fort Worth's Rock and Roll Roots (Images of America series). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738584991 / ISBN 978-0738584997 - covers 60s Fort Worth garage rock scene
  • Unterberger, Richie (1998) Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks & More. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879305347 / ISBN 978-0879305345 - covers lesser known and overlooked rock artists from the 1960s, including garage and psychedelic
  • Unterberger, Richie (2000) Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers: Overlooked Innovators and Eccentric Visionaries of '60s Rock. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879306165 / ISBN 978-0879306168 - covers more lesser known and overlooked rock artists from the 1960s, including garage and psychedelic

External links[edit]