Friday, September 17, 2004

parked in a chicago garage

Much has already been written about Johnny Ramone already. I'll leave it to others to properly eulogize him, but suffice to say it's yet another in a long line of losses to those of us who came of age in the 70's and 80's. Much sadness.

So, in honor of Johnny, and in honor of my new hometown, I'm going to put up some songs from a great little unheralded label from Chicago, Dunwich. Everyone's familiar with the wonderful Nuggets Box Set from Rhino, of which I own both. Dunwich was one of the leading exporters of the garage rock movement (whatever that is) at the time, and several of their artists, most notably the Shadows of Knight, are well represented on the Nuggets albums. To quote the afore-linked site:

"The Chicago-based Dunwich Label was owned by Bill Traut, Eddie Higgins, and George Badonsky and, after trying to distribute their first hit, "Gloria" by themselves, they quickly struck a deal to be distributed by Atco. Traut started as a jazz musician, playing saxophone and other instruments in sessions around Chicago in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He teamed up with Eddie Higgins, a jazz pianist, and eventually (early 1960s) both went to work for Seeburg Corporation. Seeburg was a juke box maker, and Traut and Higgins were busy producing background music. Seeburg rented a small space at Universal Studios, the top recording studios in Chicago, and Traut had a small office there. The two decided to produce jazz records, and approached Nesuhi Ertegun of Atlantic, who let them work on some Atlantic jazz recordings, in addition to having them record a couple of albums by Eddie Higgins himself. In 1963, Bernie Clapper, who ran Universal at the time, offered Traut the use of Universal during "down time" to make recordings, and if anything was successful, Universal would be paid back for the studio time. Traut and Higgins decided that they wanted to leave Seeburg and start producing their own records, and met George Badonsky, a sales representative for Atlantic, who was interested in joining them in a new venture. They produced a few songs, and put one out called "Silverthumb" on their own Amboy records (named for Badonsky's home town). Second thoughts about a Chicago company named for a city in New Jersey led them to change the name to Dunwich, after an H.P. Lovecraft novel, "The Dunwich Horror." The three started as Dunwich Productions in 1965. They hit the pavement around town looking for acts to sign. They latched onto the Shadows of Knight when they were playing teen nightclubs in their suburban hometown, Arlington Heights. Chicago disc jockey Clark Weber mentioned to Traut in 1966 that if he could find a "clean" version of Van Morrison's "Gloria" (which had been out by Morrison's group, Them, but censored off the airwaves), he could sell a million. Traut took him up on it and had the Shadows of Knight record it in a "teen-clean" vein, and it indeed sold a million, putting both the group and the first single for Dunwich Records on the map."

Dunwich lasted a little longer than one could reasonably expect, putting out some delicious slices of vinyl fuzz and Brit-beat, but, as all good things, finally fell. Luckily for us, the marvellous Sundazed Music has rescued several of their titles, most notably putting out two great compilations, Oh Yeah and If You're Ready. I've pulled a couple tracks off each, and you can find them below.

The music is typical of the time, short and full of sex, drugs 'n' rock and roll. But it goes to show that a city known for it's blues and "indie" rock, was also responsible for some of the best balls-out, organ-drenched rawk, too.

And, on a sidenote, go to Little Steven's Underground Garage webpage for great links, news and streaming radio broadcast. The man knows his shit. great site. Great tunes. Also check out a great music blog, Garage Hangover. He's got some great downloads and info. One of my favourite blogs.

Things To Come: 'Til the End (mp3)

Saturday's Children: Born on Saturday (mp3)

Shadows of Knight: Lightbulb Blues (mp3)

Banshees: Project Blue (mp3)

(As usual, click on link...go to briefcase for downloadin' fun)

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