Some people ask us
if we were visionaries. I cannot claim we were that smart. You might say
we were disciples of Norman Rockwell having a bad day - or we were rebels
without a clue. When we are asked about our words regarding the Vietnam
War - if we were protesting, I don't really think we were. We had a gut
feeling it was wrong, but we didn't know why. As it turned out, 58, 600
of our kids died in that war. Does anyone really know who won, or what
it was about? As GIs, we didn't want to be disloyal, but there were many
soldiers who did not want to go to Vietnam. I remember many of the GIs
talking about it. But in the army, if you're told to put yourself in harm's
way, you do it. That's what you're trained to do. You can't be a coward.
And if you're in a war, you do everything to support your buddies.
On the subject of Vietnam, people were generally confused, just like we
were. It was disconcerting to hear some Germans talk about it, as if we,
the Americans, had not learned any of the lessons they had learned from
their total devastation in World War II. As Americans we had to walk a
very thin line, and as Americans we believed it was right to speak our
minds. In Germany I learned how valuable freedom of speech is. It's the
basic building block of our heritage of freedom. As long as we can speak
freely, we will be strong. We learn what's right. What's wrong with open
discourse? We can sort things out. It was something we had learned without
thinking about it.
The Monks were not political. Gary may have been more outspoken than most
of us. I just knew something was wrong, but I wasn't sure what. Dave really
didn't think about it that much, because he's the kind of guy who loves
Elvis. Roger was a quiet Texan. Larry didn't think about politics at all.
It's strange what history can prove. All we said is that we didn't like
the army. What army? Who cares what army. And we didn't like the atomic
bomb. Who does? And we asked why do you kill all those kids in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese were killing ours. We were kids then. And we, as kids,
were killing theirs. Old men believe in wars, not kids. I thought we were
Who influenced us?
We were influenced by our American musicians. Gary - the Ventures and
some Northern Minnesota country music. Dave - most definitely Elvis. Roger
- some jazz and country. Larry liked Booker T. the best and I was out
of the jazz school of Miles Davis, bebop and Duke Ellington. There were
a lot of groups in the club scene in Germany doing the same things and
we were trying to get past the blues that the British were feeding back
to us. I don't think we were really good enough to copy anyone else. As
for me - who influenced me most in the Monks? Dave taught me how to do
steps when were playing. I had never done that before.
To put our songs together, we worked as a team. All of us, including the
managers. Dave and Gary wrote some of the first songs in the Torquays,
but as the Monks we all edited and re-edited ideas until no one knew who
wrote what. It was a collaborative effort and the managers decided, in
order for us not to fight about it, that we should all share the credits.
It was easier that way and that's the way we worked. Without one monk,
there would be no monks. The five people in the group made the sound together.
Another person would have made it different. And one monk by himself could
not have done it.
To get our sound, it came about by accident. We worked every night, and
in time every band was playing the same songs. It was getting old. Out
of boredom, we sometimes experimented. At first, we thought it was a joke,
but then we began to develop it. It was overbeat. And we broke down the
rhythms, melodies and lyrics to their raw basics, letting the listener
decide what we were singing about. We practiced it for a year before we
played it in public. It was maybe the first minimalist rock. As musicians,
we didn't like the same stuff. We found ourselves together because of
the army. Then we had to adapt to each others styles and preferences.
What resulted was a combination of Dave's interest in Elvis, Gary was
a country influenced surf player, Roger played jazz and country, Larry
did blues, and I had always played jazz. Normally musicians like us would
have never gotten together. And then we had two managers who encouraged
us to be outrageous. We were really a team of seven people. The difference
of our individual playing styles is what caused the hybrid sound. We broke
it down to its most simple elements.
As far as our lyrics are concerned, we thought about them, putting them
in their most elemental structures. As an example: "World is so worried/
be a liar everywhere/ shut up/ don't cry!" Everyone lies at least
twice a day. The most innocent lies are: "How are you?" "I'm
fine." Even monks lie. You're a monk. I'm one too. We're all monks.
About I Hate You - "I hate you/ but call me!" It's a love song.
How many people do you know today who love like that?
We dressed as monks
all the time. We were encouraged to do it. It wasn't always the suits
we wore on stage, but sometimes we would wear black sweaters over other
black trousers, not the normal monk regalia but it was black. Roger liked
to be more incognito than the rest of us. I did have a black bowler hat
which I sometimes wore, thinking it gave me some kind of animity. Dave
had a black homburg which he sometimes wore. We did a photo session in
which Dave and I did wear those hats, but generally we were completely
recognizable, no matter if we were in the train station or a restaurant.
We got used to the appearance, as if we were really what we looked like
(sometimes good, for publicity -sometimes bad, because we could never
leave the stage). In time, we began to believe we were the people we looked
How did our fellow
GIs react? "You guys are really Americans?" Some hated us, because
of the music. I met an ex-GI here in Carson City two years ago, who saw
us play in Hamburg. He had a date with a German girl and she took him
to see us. He told me, when he discovered that I had been one of the Monks,
"I saw you assholes. What the hell kind of music was that? I hated
you, but I never forgot it. It got me pissed the first moment I heard
you play." And then we had good GI friends, medics, who supplied
us with free medicine and treatment.
I played a Gibson EBO
5 (I think). It took time to get used to playing it in tune because of
the short neck, but I liked it because it didn't sound like any of the
other basses. I think the recording people would have preferred that I
play a Fender, even a couple of the monks, but I liked it. I wouldn't
use it today, because there are some other basses that can give even better
sound, with a wider selection of sounds. I still have it, but it was refinished
about 20 years ago, when I broke the neck on it. I used a Selmer amp with
an 18 inch speaker, which rattled. Later I used a Vox Foundation amp and
Our favorite live band
was the Tielman Brothers. They were from Indonesia and they were five
guys all playing Fenders, first guitar, second guitar, rhythm guitar,
bass and drums. They played very quietly and the stereophonic effect of
the group was impressive. They did a few recordings, but for some reason,
didn't sound as good on record as they did live. We would see them anytime
we were in the area of Hanau.
We toured outside of
Germany once. We toured Sweden and played on Swedish national TV. After
being in Germany, they seemed strange to us as we did to them. They reacted
differently from the Germans to us. We played a couple of places where
not one person said a word to us. We spent one night in a seminary (we
didn't know it was), had a couple of girls in the room with us and drank
a lot of whiskey. The brothers there were scandalized by our behavior,
and we couldn't understand why, until our tour director explained what
he had done. He thought it was funny. A few of us were pissed.
We played a lot with
British groups. Casey Jones was our biggest rival, but then his drummer,
Peter, and I hung out together a lot. The Warriors were our friends and
we partied together a lot. The drummer, Ian Wallace, went on to become
the drummer of King Crimson. We also partied a lot with the Remo Four
when they played the Star Club (they were the favorite group in the Star
Club) and we played the Top Ten Club. Gary played a prank on them one
night, by climbing out on a second story ledge and walking to a window
and looking in where they were partying. He pasted himself flat against
the window and scared the hell out of them. A monk, peeping in, way above
the street, like a vampire. Everyone had a good laugh about it.
We played long hours,
every night of the week. Six hours each night and eight hours on Sundays
because of the matinees. We would receive shipments of Dexamil to use.
Theoretically it was for combat soldiers, who used it only if needed.
Then there was Oma, in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, who not only took
care of the Beatles when they were there, but also took care of us, her
boys, as she called us. She had to be in her late 60s. She worked in the
men's restroom, as an attendant, selling everything from gum to aftershave
lotion, then always cleaning the urinals everytime they were used. She
would say, "You boys look tired." Then she would give us little
white pills. I think it was Captigon - or something like that. Peter,
the drummer of Casey Jones, and I used to spend many hours partying after
we worked and would occasionally use it to stay awake.
Then some friends, in Hamburg, began to offer hashish, which we used on
an irregular basis. I wasn't really into it that much, but it did affect
a couple of songs we recorded later in the Top Ten Club. Yellow Grass
(don't ask me what it was about) was never released. And of course, I
suppose, to some extent the last recordings He Went Down to the Sea and
Love Can Tame the Wild were also influenced by it. Our managers didn't
like those songs, but Polydor thought they were the kind of music we should
have been playing. I, personally, never liked those songs. I liked the
original concept of I Hate You, Complication etc. We were constantly experimenting
because we were not being accepted by the main stream record buyers and
we became insecure. We were under a lot of pressure, from Polydor, to
conform. They looked for formulas and we weren't using them. Almost everyone
recording at that time was. To a rock history buff, I suppose that time
could be considered as when major corporations took over pop music.
Yes, Gary was in the wheatfields often. We all were. I don't remember
any violins. I only remember a chorus of sexy nuns. Maybe they were prostitutes
in disguise. Oh, God! Don't print that. Someone will say I called nuns
prostitutes. That's not what I meant. I like nuns and prostitutes. Damnit,
that's even worse. Don't say anything.
copyrighted by the Monks