Before he became Patti Smith’s bass player, Lenny Kaye compiled the 2 album set, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Released in 1972, the two-LP set covered American garage rock and psychedelia from the years from 1965-1968, and was a major influence on punk rock. Rhino Records reissued an expanded version of the set in 1998, with 118 tracks in total. I’m profiling and rating each of these 118 tracks, working backwards.
Track 104: The Witch by The Sonics
Release Date: 1964 (re-released 1965)
From: Tacoma, Washington
Aphoristical Rating: 9/10
The Sonics are another relatively well-known group from the Nuggets set. They were a favourite of Kurt Cobain, and named as an influence by The White Stripes. They were formed in 1960 by teenage guitarist Larry Parypa, initially playing instrumental R&B with his brother Andy on bass. The classic lineup solidified in 1964 with Gerry Roslie, whose frenetic lead vocals resemble Little Richard.
With Roslie on vocals, The Sonics quickly became popular. They signed to Etiquette Records and released their first single in November 1964 – ‘The Witch’, with a Little Richard song on the b-side. It became the highest selling local record in the Northwest.
‘The Witch’ is fast-paced, the drum sound is confronting, and Roslin’s vocals are intense, all creating parallels to punk. At the same time, The Sonics are also a tight R&B band with a saxophone – ‘The Witch’ sounds like a 1964 record, just with more intensity and rawer production than usual.
The Sonics drifted apart in the late 1960s, with saxophonist Rob Lind serving as a fighter pilot in Vietnam and other members attending university. The band continued with none of the classic members involved until 1980. The use of their version of ‘Have Love, Will Travel’ in a 2004 TV ad raised their profile and the band reformed in 2007. Larry Parypa, Roslie, and Lind all returned, and the band released a new album This is the Sonics in 2015. Parypa and Roslie have retired from touring, but the band is still active with Lind on saxophone.