I’m sure that most of you will know Tacoma, Washington’s legendary Sonics, famous for their raw garage and frat sound, often with distinctive over-driven vocals that give them a feral edge over other bands of the period. ‘Psycho’ was of course one of their classic releases (January 1965 on the Etiquette label) and it may at first seem a little superfluous to cover an already masterful number. But it appears that The Swamp Rats from McKeesport, Pennsylvania were on a mission to produce even more raucous versions of top tunes of their day.
Their debut 45 comprised a bone-crunching reading of ‘Louie Louie’ backed with a high-speed, fuzzed up ‘Hey Joe’, and they followed this up with their frenetic cover of ‘Psycho’ in October 1966. The band underline their no-nonsense approach by dropping the sax that features on the original and ramping up the fuzz factor on the guitars to the max (thanks to their Vox Super Beatle amplifiers). And then just about the two minute mark, after shouts of “psycho, psycho, psycho” from singer Bob Hosko, all hell breaks lose, with a chaotic sound-scape of instruments played backwards, then forwards, then finally a slightly more restrained backwards outro (all spliced together by the band’s producer and manager Terry Lee). I am sure you will agree that the band make the song their own!
‘Here, There and Everywhere’ is of course a version of the famous song by The Beatles from their 1966 Revolver album. The Swamp Rats had apparently worked out a harmony vocal arrangement but after disagreements in the studio it was left to bassist Paul Shalako to pick up the pieces and turn in his first lead vocal performance for the band. His nerves are apparent but this didn’t stop the song from being heavily requested on Terry Lee’s local radio show.
The Swamp Rats evolved out of The Fantastic Dee-Jays who had released a self-titled album in 1966, along with several singles including a strong version of garage favourite ‘Fight Fire’. Both bands were very successful locally, and The Swamp Rats took a limo to gigs and hired bodyguards to protect them from the sometimes overzealous attention of fans!
Reissues: Most of the single sides and unreleased material are collected on Get Hip’s retrospective Disco Still Sucks CD. You can also find ‘Psycho’ on Back From The Grave Volume One.
- Louie Louie / Hey Joe (St. Clair, 1966)
- Psycho / Here, There & Everywhere (St. Clair, 1966)
- Two Tymes Two / Mr. Sad (St. Clair, 1967)
- No Friend of Mine / It’s Not Easy (St. Clair, 1967)
- It’s Not Easy / In the Midnight Hour (Co & Ce, 1967)