Music in Black &
Year of the Monks
November of 65, the Monks were ready to enter
the studio. They had already laid down some demos,
but now their management secured them a recording
contract with Polydor.
album opened with their theme, "Monk Time."
This song often caused tension when they played it
live for off-duty American servicemen. In it, Burger
waxes inarticulate vehemence, damning the conflict
in southeast Asia. "Why do you kill all those
kids in Vietnam/ Mad Vietcong!/My brother died in
Vietnam." He invokes a pop cultural touchstone,
James Bond. All to no avail. "Stop it/ stop it/
I dont like it!" Burger howls. Nobody can
figure out what the hells going on over there,
least of all the super spy. The Monks are sitting
this one out, but they have garnered one tarnished
nugget of wisdom: "Pussy Galores coming
down/ and we like it!" One must wonder if this
is in reference to 007s nemesis or the groupies
that the band serviced on a regular basis.
second song kicks off with a martial beat, summoning
visions of SS troops massed on Russias borders.
Young mens militant voices demand everybody
listening to "shut up/dont cry!" Make
us feel at home why dont you, fellows. Clarks
organ moans and wails, making way for the scorched
earth policy of guitar and bass. During the break,
the Ukraine burns as Monkish hordes loot and pillage.
Then, Burgers back. His voice strains under
the pressure of reaching for notes out of his range.
Or maybe its just that the whiskey he was drinking
throughout the recording sessions had charred his
vocal cords, leaving lesions and third degree burns.
The name of this tune is "Shut Up." A most
sixties-type mantra, eh?
rhyme lyrics, suffering from delusions of schizoid
simplicity, are next. Yes, we know "girls are
girls/ and boys are boys," but does anybody have
any idea what the hell the rest of the song is supposed
to mean? Mail your answers care of this magazine and
theyll remain confidential. This reviewer often
runs out of toilet paper and grabs whatevers
Gary Burger shouts "Higgle-dy-Piggle-dy!"
Chaos comes down like snipers bullets in Dallas,
converging somewhere near heaven. Insistent, biting
leads from the fingers of Gary Burger, puckering bass
lines and staggered rhythms courtesy of the damn drummer
make for a green fuzz of gunsmoke, which sticks in
your brain like carbolic acid taffy.
then theres the fifth track, which is really
a black mass held incognito. The banjo snickers like
a guillotine. Suddenly, Clarks organ fills cathedrals
in ones head, driving Gary Burger into spastic
exorcisms of contempt and infatuation. "I hate
you with a passion, baby," he squeals. "But
call me!" his demonic henchmen hollowly chant.
"You know my hates everlasting, baby,"
Burger sputters. "But call me!" the sacrilegious
congregation intones again. The keys perform precise
lobotomies as bubonic bass lines spit and hiss. Burgers
feedback snarls like the grim reapers rusty
scythe ripping through mildewed cowls. Congress should
pass a law against Gary Burger. He should be banned
from playing guitar until 2010. Hes armed and
dangerous. Hopefully, by that year hell be hooked
up to a dialysis machine, unable to wreak havoc on
nerve endings ever again, the evil son of a bitch.
How To Do Now" is next in this savage sideshow.
Its a parade of pinheads and Siamese twins, escapees
from Dr. Caligaris cabinet. Theres so
much fuzz in this song, you could make hair shirts
for an entire convent of flagellants. Johnstons
drumming sticks toothpicks under your fingernails.
Once again, enduring Gary Burgers feedback discombobulates
and self-immolates synapses. Eddie Shaw trades in
his bass for a bazooka on this one. Or maybe its a
Panzerfaust. And theres a key change toward
the end that doesnt help matters one bit. The
tension builds and Days banjo clicks like a
pressure cooker rattling on the stove. How many times
do they repeat the damn title? 50! But what hell does
it mean? Finally, the Monks let you off the rack,
just so they can take you into another funhouse.
n roll has never gotten heavier than the Monks did
on "Complication." Hooded night riders gallop
through this tune. Clarks organ caws like a
crow above the skeletal scarecrow terror of lynchings.
For pure white Christianity. Burger, some dreadful
magi, issues orders. First, to his assassins as they
penetrate the night and perpetrate mayhem, all for
the glory of Allah. Thugees crouch in the bushes,
waylaying unwary travelers. For Kali, the bloodlusting
bitch and devourer of mens souls. For the crimson
god, Mars. War, baby, war! Death! Burn them hootches,
Marines! Search and destroy, body counts, kill them
VC! Wallow in it, boys! The way down is the way out!
The first seven songs on "Black Monk Time"
make up the most intense experience a rock n roll
connoisseur will ever encounter. Thankfully, the Monks
sense of humor comes into play on a few of the remaining
next song is some inbred idiot savant offspring of
the Ikettes "Im Blue (the Gong Gong
Song)," which tells you that when these boys
decided to steal something, it wasnt a Willie
Dixon tune that everybody knows they didnt write
(this is a hint for Led Zeppelin; nick something goofy
and occult). Anyway, the song lurches like
some love sick wino, raving and drooling and mewling
all over the premises of the song structure. The bridge
is a visit to an absinthe ward, where all the patients
suffer from eternal kinetic katzenjammer syndrome.
That long guttural word is German for "the squalling
of cats in your head," used in reference to a
hangover. "We Do, Wie Du" is a two week
bender soaked in vodka. Shaws bass stumbles
like the somnambulistic Frankenstein monster with
Johnstons drumming playing the part of Ygor.
Of course, Burger is the mad scientist in this movie.
Day rattles his chains down in the dungeon, demanding
Maria" is a song about some boozy Spanish harlot.
But the Monks are in Germany, damnit! Why are they
doing this to me? Clarks keys, well, have you
ever heard that saying "Support mental health
or Ill kill you"? Thankfully, Shaw bails
you out, depositing you in purgatory.
Came Tumbling Down" like what, the clap? Its
got to be some incestuous ode to groupies and penicillin.
Any other comments would be superfluous. Insights
Messrs. Burger, Clark and co.?
Off" commences with, what else, the roar of engines.
Its early surf music played on a haunted spaceship
as a galactic fleet burns off Orions shoulder.
Clarks ghostly keyboards send frantic SOS morsecode
messages back to earth. Supposedly, space is a vacuum
where sound doesnt exist. Tell it to the Monks.
Thunder rolls around the shores of the Milky Way as
Lucifers host plummets from a schism in time
into uncharted nether regions. The rip in the sky
mends as the Sputnik organ bubbles from beneath the
original album ended with "Thats My Girl."
Its reminiscent of the Whos "Disguises."
Why? Both of the singers cant even recognize
their own girlfriends. But only Gary Burger, supreme
among rock n roll vocalists, can render the phrase
"make love" so it sounds sleazy, like a
piece of gum youve picked up out of the gutter
to chew or a scab encrusted clitoris. Then theres
the break. Its like the Brooklyn Bridge, buckling
in high winds as tidal waves engulf New York. Finally,
the moronic Burger realizes the girl in question is
the LP was recorded with analog technology on a four
track machine. The instruments bleed together, creating
dynamics that digital is sadly unable to achieve.
The bare bones production on the album reflected what
the band sounded like live. There was nothing on "Black
Monk Time" they could not replicate on stage.
"We sounded about the same on the album as we
did live," Larry Clark said.
Burger qualified this statement to a slight degree.
never played a song the exact same way twice. The
structure was similar, but wed really stretch
out," he said. "And the recording process
available really couldnt capture the feedback
right. It was really loud on stage. But yeah, we sounded
similiar live and on the album."
must keep in mind, too, this was an era when rock
groups were beginning to overindulge themselves in
the studio. Mono was giving way to stereo and four
track recordings were considered a hindrance. Lush
production and strings were the name of the game,
with Loves "Forever Changes" and the
Pretty Things "Emotions" being representative
works of the era. The Monks spartan sound stuck
out like, well, a tonsure at a long haired love-in.
albums cover reflected the musics stripped
down minimalism. The word "monks" appeared
on an all black cover, anticipating the Beatles
famed "White Album" by over two full years.
remarkable, perhaps, is the fact that every song on
the record is an original. What other group debuted
with an album comprised wholly of originals in early
1966? Besides the bastardized "We Do Wie Du,"
there wasn't a cover in sight. By mid-67, Syd Barrett's
Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience debuted
with records made up totally of original compositions,
but the Monks seem have been the first rock n roll
unit to do so.
was the music's uncompromising nature, though, that
set it apart from its contemporaries. Whereas the
Yardbirds graphic blues were mutating into psychedelia,
the Monks music had no shadings. It was like an Orson
Welles' movie set in post-war Europe i.e. stark and
grim, shot in black-and-white. In 1966, the Yardbirds
were referring to their music as "images in sound."
If that holds true, then the Monks were producing
music in black-and-white.
original album has gone on to be one of the pricier
pieces of rock n roll memorabilia. An original pressing
of "Black Monk Time" has been rumored to
fetch up to $1000 from some collectors. Finding one
for less than $500 is rare.
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