“I hate you! … but call me …”
Five American GIs stationed near Gelnhausen in Germany in 1964 got bored and angry. And after their military careers ended, they stayed. They gradually formed a band, first called themselves the Torquays, but then shaved the top of their heads in rough tonsures, and dressed, controversially, as Catholic monks, and created one what is now regarded as a lost classic album, 1965’s Black Monks Time.
Humorous, stompy, garage rock came out in bizarre forms, including shrill vocals led by Gary Burger, feedback, guitarist Dave Day and his six-string banjo, and Larry Clark’s eccentric organ sound. I Hate You, summing up a relationship obsession, typifies this style, and continues from yesterday’s ironic, righteous anger in Lou Reed’s Sick of You. The Monks themselves were sick of the Vietnam War, though sadly it was far from over, and the album is full of oblique references to it, but their label Polydor refused to distribute in the US because of this. The Monks disbanded in 1967, and that was it, apart from a brief reunion in 1999.
Yet their legacy is huge. Julian Cope has charted their contribution to the beginnings of krautrock, and said, in his book on the subject: “The Monks' Black Monk Time is a gem born of isolation and the horrible deep-down knowledge that no one is really listening to what you’re saying.” As well as garage, they also had an influence on many other artists from punk to rock, including Iggy Pop, and remain much admired by Jack White and Mark E Smith. Monks songs I Hate You and Oh How to Do Now are covered on The Fall’s 1990 album Extricate, and another, Shut Up, is on their 1994 album Middle Class Revolt. That's quite an accolade.
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