It was 1966. As far as both hipness and the sales of rock ‘n’ roll records went, the British were still outclassing their upstart counterparts from the States. Naturally, we agitated as a nation to summon up a dignified response to the British Invasion – something that would channel all our twitchy, obsessive energy. It’s arguable whether we ever quite generated that same amount of fervor with the American teenyboppers. But our boys were, in the meantime, imitating the British bands to the best of their abilities – or, at least, taking characteristic glee in deconstructing the Brits’ handiwork.
Three American garage bands here – all doing mutated cover versions of British Invasion hits.
1. The Malibu’s, I’m Cryin’ (Quill)
One of the great attractions of the garage band phenomenon is that breakneck velocity and pure teenbeat spirit assume a greater significance than musical proficiency. And how much amphetamine died to make this record? This version of the oft-covered Animals song came from the Malibu’s (sic) – an unknown Chicago band, circa ’65.
2. The Swamp Rats, It’s Not Easy (St. Clair)
These Pittsburgh malcontents had a minimalist streak that would have made the Velvet Underground proud – and the good taste to reduce the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Not Easy” to a driving one-chord drone.
The Swamp Rats released a handful of brilliant punky 45s in the mid-’60s.
3. The Evil, Whatcha Gonna Do About It (Living Legend)
Buried somewhere in this racket is a Small Faces hit. Like all of this week’s artists, Miami’s The Evil ratchet up the tempo of the song in question, jettisoning all that is decent and subtle in the name of their art and the pure 1966 American thrill of violence.
Heavyweight Capitol records – home to the Beatles, Beach Boys, and many, many others – later picked this record up for distribution, though unfortunately (but probably prudently) seeing fit to remove that ear-piercing guitar break for its second issue. Either way, Capitol was apparently sensing there was some hit potential in this song. There wasn’t.