230) The Sonics — “The Witch”
231) The Sonics — “Psycho”
OK, you definitely knew about the Sonics if you lived in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-sixties. But their fame only extended regionally, which is a shame, because if any band can be said to have rocked, the Sonics ROCKED! Mark Deming cuts to the chase in All Music Guide:
Of all the garage bands that made a glorious racket in the 1960s, few if any were louder, wilder, or more raw than the Sonics, a Tacoma, Washington quintet whose over the top style, complete with roaring guitars, pounding drums, and the fevered howls of lead singer Gerry [Roslie], anticipated the mania of punk and pushed rock & roll deep into the red zone during their 1963-1966 heyday. The Sonics were stars in Washington, but it took a while for the rest of the world to catch on, and in time they would become one of the most fabled bands on the Pacific Northwest rock scene.
Nuggets seconds the accolade:
In the Pacific Northwest, a place where bands in the ’60s were renowed for raw, honest, hard-kickin’ rock ‘n’ roll, the Sonics kicked just that much harder and faster, smashing out some of the roughest, toughest, screamin’est rock ‘n’ roll ever heard.”
So, anyway, as the story goes (Mark Deming again):
For their first single, the Sonics took one of their few original tunes and changed it from a number about a proposed dance craze into a cautionary tale about a treacherous female; the results, “The Witch,” had a dark, sinister undercurrent and . . . was louder and crazier-sounding than anything else a Northwest band had committed to tape. Backed with a manic cover of Little Richard’s “Keep A’ Knockin’,” the single was too much for many local radio stations, but eventually it broke through in enough smaller markets that the record became a major hit in the Northwest; enough so that rather than continue to pay publishing royalties to Little Richard for the B-side, the band recorded another original, “Psycho,” that soon turned the 45 into a two-sided hit.
Ahh! Man, I’m feeling supersonic, give me gin and tonic! Yet, sax player Rob Lind remembers that after laying “The Witch” down, “[w]e felt we had totally screwed up.” Maybe because as Bob Bennett remembers, “instead of recording to make something sound good, we recorded just to kick ass!” (quotes from the liner notes to the CD reissue of the Sonics’s first album Here Are the Sonics).
OK, pop quiz, match the Nuggets summary and the lyrics with the song:
Rosalie tear[s] his throat apart, Bob “Boom Boom” Bennett inflict[s] cruel violence on his drums, and [there’s an] utterly destructive guitar break from Larry Parypa.
[O]ne of the most raucous, hard-drivin’ slabs of rock ‘n’ roll mayhem ever waxed, with Gerry Roslie’s screaming vocals and Larry Parypa’s depraved, string-strangling guitar break . . . .
“Say there’s a girl who’s new in town. Well you better watch out now or she’ll put you down. ‘Cause she’s an evil chick. Say she’s the witch. She got long black hair and a big black car. I know what you’re thinking, but you won’t get far. She gonna make you itch. ‘Cause she’s the witch.”
“Baby, you’re driving my crazy. I said baby, you’re driving my crazy. The way you turn me on. Then you shot me down. Well, tell me baby. Am I just your clown? Psycho!! . . . . I’m going out of my head. Now I wish I was dead. Psycho!!”