Did The Sonics write their own songs

Punk inventor The Sonics: Celebrate strychnine, sing about psycho

After more than 30 years, the American garage rock band The Sonics is celebrating their reunion. At the weekend they give their very first European concert in London.

Iros up: The Sonics are coming. Image: dpa

Big concerts require big halls. But when legends rise, the place can be modest, the main thing is that it has character - the rest is almost irrelevant. Seen in this way, the location could hardly have been better chosen. In Warsaw, a club on the outskirts of the hip Williamsburg district in Brooklyn, New York, several hundred fans from several parts of the world recently gathered. The occasion was also a paradox. With the Sonics, the original cell of garage punk was back on the same stage after 30 years. And for the first time it was a stage of national importance.

The first European concert of the Sonics on tomorrow Friday in London is already sold out, tickets are still available for the repetition on Sunday. Even at the reunification a few weeks ago in New York you had to stand in line. The leather jackets and parkas in the audience had obviously taken on a patina, and some seemed to have taken them out of the closet especially for that evening. But the young fashion punks had also turned up. The band itself is clearly grayed out and front man Rob Lind wears an aubergine-colored shirt with pleated trousers. An incredibly unglamorous employee garb - as if to say: The Sonics don't need to dress up as rock stars. They are already some.

The five guys from Tacoma established their legendary reputation as the ultimate garage band decades ago. In 1960 the guitarist Larry Parypa gathered a few musicians in a small town near Seattle to play the then popular surf music. Keyboardist Jerry Rosalie joined them after three years. The actual hour of birth of the Sonics only struck years after their formal founding. It was when Rosalie first opened her mouth to sing. In fact, he wasn't singing at all. Rather, the sixteen-year-old was shouting his texts in a voice that sounded like an unleashed madman shouting into a megaphone. Some of the best Sonics tracks start with that primal scream of rock n roll, a high-pitched, ecstatic screech or a hissing "Wow!"

The white boys from Washington State had a preference for black rhythm and blues. But unlike the blue-eyed soul bands of their time, they didn't dwell on imitations. They sent the music through the limbo of an amplifier and hacked it into screams and noises. They christened their songs with names that were as demonic as possible. The first single, released in 1964 on the small label Etiquette, was called "The Witch", the successor was "Psycho". The success was modest: "Psycho" became a regional hit after a concert at Tacomas Curtis High School. Several radio stations refused to play songs that suggested, among other things, the consumption of strychnine ("Some folks like water, some folks like wine, but I like the taste of straight strychnine").

After two long-playing records and lower placements in the charts of local radio stations in Cleveland, Ohio, the attempt to tame the wild boys into a band suitable for the masses with a new recording contract failed. The third LP "Introducing The Sonics" flopped in 1967, the band fell out over trivialities and broke up before they had achieved any notoriety. It was only when a new generation of aggressive amateurs screeched the strings under the term punk in 1977 that some people remembered that all of this had happened before. The Sonics only achieved their late world fame after being re-released. Quite a few consider them to be the first real punk band, Jimi Hendrix was one of their fans, as was Kurt Cobain, and the Seattle sound would probably be inconceivable without the legacy of the Sonics.

This burden of pop history, the call of the living legend, weighed heavily on the New York concert. The eternally young music easily withstands the comparison with its younger heirs. The Sonics have a bigger problem: they have to measure themselves against themselves. Not an easy task, because from the original line-up there are only guitarist Larry Parypa, saxophonist Rob Lind and the brilliant screamer and songwriter Jerry Rosalie, three musicians had to be replaced. But when the first chord of "Boss Hoss" boomed from the amplifier, it threw hundreds of arms in the air. Rosalie's voice is still a natural phenomenon. The Fender bass is still the old one, and the sound almost sounds like vinyl. At some point a tower of boxes fell into the audience in front of the stage. This is exactly how it could have been at the concerts on the Red Carpet or in the Spanish Castle Ballroom.

Of course, there are no more high school kids on stage here, Rosalie's frenetic screams are missing. Nobody in the audience takes this offense, the man has already had a heart transplant and a serious kidney operation. There is therefore a certain tragedy about the historical moment that is now about to occur in Europe. The band's problem was never their music - it was their timing. Back in the sixties, the Sonics were at least ten years ahead of their time. Today, in the 21st century, it is a good thirty years too late for them.