Steals Fire From the Gods Circa 1964
. . .
starring Gary Burger
were practicing a new step and Gary said, "Let's
stop for a minute. I have to take a leak. I'll be
right back." He laid the guitar against the
amplifier, walked to the edge of the stage, jumped
down to the dance floor and began to walk to the
rear of the long room where the restrooms were.
Something happened We were all standing there on
stage, foggy minds thinking about nothing, when
a strange hum began very quietly. At first it was
just an annoying noise. No one made a move to investigate
because we were all tired. Then the sound began
to gather force, as if it had an intelligence of
its own. It began to roar and there were many overtones,
as if a chord had gotten out of control. Gary had
not turned the volume off on his guitar.
You could almost see the sound waves, moving as
an incoming tide across the room. Gary was halfway
to the restroom and stopped to look back. He was
going to say, "Turn off my guitar, somebody,"
but Roger, out of simple boredom, had begun to beat
a rhythm. It had an astounding effect - this yowling
of a wild unleashed electronic noise and then Roger's
heavy drum beat accompanying it. It gave the cacophony
a strange sense of having been arranged.
"What the hell?" I said. I began to play
a bass line along with Roger's drum beat. Dave yelled
across the stage, "Makes a good song, huh?"
Gary ran back to the stage. "I can't believe
this," he shouted. He jumped up on stage, picked
up his guitar and twanged it, still holding its
face towards the amp speaker. Sound exploded. The
effect was instant. It was like discovering fire.
We began to jump up and down, as small children
do when they find something that totally amazes
them and yet could be forbidden. No one would call
this music. We knew that, but time flies when you're
having fun. We began to make the most distorted
layers of sound we had ever heard - and we were
doing it on purpose. All of us went into a frenzy.
The sound was god-awful, as if it was going to rip
the guts right out of our amplifiers. We twanged
and banged, and created all kinds of non-musical
caterwauling. It was an atomic cat fight. Our amplifiers
rattled as if they were going to explode at any
"Whoaa!" I shouted.
"Let's do that again!" Larry was laughing
You couldn't get Gary to stop.
It was not the kind of sound we had ever heard before.
It was as if the genie of the demons had entered
our instruments, working without human help. We
didn't have to do anything. It was there. It was
the invention of the automatic atomic ear blaster
- a very valuable discovery for civilization as
we knew it. We stopped and stared at each other,
grinning from ear to ear. For the very first time,
we then listened to what silence sounds like. It
sounded artificial, believe it or not. Before anyone
could spoil it by saying something, Gary started
it again. "Yes! I can control this sonuvabitch!"
he shouted. He made a sound like a ship, the Titanic,
scrapping its bottom along an iceberg. One could
hear cats screaming on a fence, or even fingernails
dragging across a chalkboard.
"I never knew it would do that!"
"Jeesus, you guys, we're on to something,"
Gary said, amazed that such a thing could happen
right there in practice as if by accident, but then
so controllable. "Roger play that beat! Eddie
join in!" He began fingering the frets while
the most frightening sounds came out of his speakers.
"Wait a minute. Let's try it a different way!"
Gritting his teeth, he pulled the guitar down to
the speaker and swung it back and forth. Phases
of electronic waves swelled in and out with each
pendulum swing of the guitar. Everyone was yelling
with excitement. He swung the guitar in time with
Then we stopped and I adjusted my bass sound, causing
my speaker to almost tear itself out of the box.
To make it pound, I played simple beats over and
over. The bass speakers thumped and protested, giving
an electronic fist to the horrifying waves of guitar
sound, creating explosions of a war zone.
Using this new sound, Gary then tried to play some
"That's too dark, lighten it up!"
Larry began to run his fingers up and down the organ
keyboard as if he was on the verge of a nervous
break down. He was wearing his gloves. He took them
off and more precisely played discordant insanities.
"Try a Gregorian chant!" some said.
"Ahh - ahh - ahh, ahh . . . "
"Ohh! That's scary!"
Dave began to beat the hell out of his guitar. "We
can't do two guitars like that at the same time."
It had turned into pure black sound, creating the
noise of a jet airliner taking off five feet away
from your ear drums. One could get dizzy.
excerpt from the book BLACK MONK TIME by Eddie Shaw.
Used by kind permission of the author. Copies of the
book are available on the Merchandise
contents copyrighted by the Monks
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