Music in Black &
Year of the Monks
being discharged from the Army, their image evolved.
They dropped the first name, exchanging it for a new
moniker, the Monks. Momentous changes were ensuing
in their style, both musically and sartorially.
went into a barbershop on the spur of the moment and
either me or Dave Day got our head shaved in a tonsure
like a monks," the drummer, Roger Johnston
recalled. "Then the rest of the guys did. I really
dont know why, but we did it."
was initial reluctance on some of the members
parts. It had taken them many months to grow their
GI haircuts out to an acceptable length that was in
keeping with a hip bands image. Once shorn,
though, the musicians realized they were no longer
just a beat group.
Monks dressed in black at all times, wearing ropes
tied around their necks. Eddie Shaw explained the
unusual reason behind this.
think we all live with ropes around our necks. Ours
were plain and visible. It caused people to stare
at us," he said. "The people with the painted
silk ropes are the ones you have to watch, but even
then, when they get smart, many of them trade theirs
in for either an invisible one or a plain one. No
matter what the ropes look like, they are all used
for the same thing."
image, in conjunction with the musics ongoing
mutation, startled German audiences and induced an
anarchy of perception. The reaction ranged from enthusiastic
paeans in some urban areas to outright hate in the
rural regions. At a provincial show, a young man became
enraged at what he took to be blasphemy; a mere beat
group dressed as religious ascetics.
had a guy jump on stage one night and begin choking
me," reminisced Burger. "He kept it up with
diligence until he received the tuning-peg-end of
my guitar in the chops. That pretty much settled the
band also assaulted the crowds sonically, demanding
their complete and undivided attention. If the audience
tried to interact socially with one another, the Monks
turned the volume up to ear-splitting levels.
didnt want anybody to do anything but listen
to us," Roger Johnston said.
results were electrifying. Phil Spector might have
invented the legendary "Wall of Sound,"
but the Monks hammered out a "Steamroller of
residency at Hamburgs famed Top Ten Club solidified
the bands approach. The Monks gigged incessantly,
playing six hours a night on the weekdays and eight
or more hours a night on the weekend. They still played
some of the standard beat material, but their originals
became the core of the sets. The crowds were perplexed,
to say the least.
of them loved us. But others . . . well," Gary
Burger said, pausing to laugh. "They didnt
have a clue what was going on. I think the image confused
them as much as the music. We were a freak show to
recalled the citys rock n roll fans and their
affect on the Monks.
been the first to recognize the Beatles. The Star
Club and the Top Ten were where the Beatles really
learned to play rock n roll. The same with
us. Hamburgs where we got our education. The
fans made us work hard to entertain them. They knew
their rock n roll, thats for sure."
in jaded Hamburg, though, the Monks were a tad different
than the usual rock n roll fare.
image was sometimes a little too strong, but we got
used to it. We were generally safe on the streets,
even in the worst parts of Hamburg at four in the
morning," Eddie Shaw said. "We looked too
serious and officious to mess with. Strangers were
generally confused by us because our actions didnt
reflect the dress. It was strangely androgynous and
almost artificial looking. Some people told us we
didnt look real. Walking through a crowded nightclub,
I could feel people touching my head to see if everything
was indeed real."
elaborated on the audiences reaction to their
strange garb and coiffures.
a certain person had enough courage they would walk
up and ask if they could touch our heads. Girls would
draw back their hands and squeal. The whores of Hamburg
considered us kinky. They loved us," Shaw said.
this point, the band members had been in Germany for
some time, beginning with their years of service in
been in Germany for so long that some of us even dreamt
in the language," Shaw related.
their off hours, the group sometimes suffered from
boredom and loneliness. As young men far from home
are wont to do, they indulged in sex and carousing.
There were always willing groupies and plenty of beer
and liquor. Larry Clark, however, proved to be an
exception when it came to the intake of alcohol. A
teetotaler, Clark told of the one time he did indulge
just didnt like the taste. I drank too much
one night and decided to never repeat that experience,"
Johnston reminisced about the bands pursuits
all drank. Especially me and Gary and Dave. Eddie
was married, so he didnt hang out with us as
much," Johnston said. "But Larry didnt
party. He was off on his Harley or playing chess somewhere.
Everybody except for Eddie chased girls, though."
there was some friction between two members of the
band. The tension went back to their days as the Torquays.
For a short time, an English girl had sang with the
group. As is usual in these situations, one of the
musicians had sex with her. Then, another one did.
The two members involved in this triad were Dave Day
and Larry Clark. The girl left the Torquays shortly
thereafter, but the damage had been done. Consequently,
Day and Clark sometimes went out of their way to subtly
harass one another.
in the form of speed, entered the Monks world
during their tenure in Hamburg.
be tired, playing all night and drinking late to unwind
when we got off," Roger Johnston reminisced.
"Oma would give me a pill to pep me up, so I
could play a show the next night."
was an elderly German woman, who had also introduced
the Beatles to speed a few years earlier. Johnston
began to rely on the pills to help him get through
the long grinding sets. Some of the Monks, barring
Larry Clark, also took speed on occasion.
indulgence and immersion in German culture had strange
ramifications on the music, which would be apparent
within a short time.
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