Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Monks - 1965 - on German TV

My favorite song from The Monks – Monk Time

In 1964 several American GI's stationed in Germany formed a rock combo named The Torquays. At the outset their repertoire consisted of British invasion, surf numbers and Chuck Berry covers. It did not take long for the members to grow tired of this routine and began experimenting with sounds that were far removed from the conventional rock and pop styles of the day.

By early 1965 the band had adopted a look consisting of all black, sometimes wearing nooses as neck wear. This was accompanied by shaving the tops of their heads and changing the band name to The Monks. The music took on a dissonant, abrasive and fuzzed sound which was propelled by some heavy hitting and uncomplicated, solid beats. The standard instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums, and organ were assisted by an odd but fitting banjo also in the mix. Lyrically things had mutated as well with themes of nihilism and existentialism, often filtered through absurdity. Quite possibly one of the first "punk" bands, The Monks sounded pissed and they were righteously angry and didn't give a shit if that bothered people. The seething rage and fear at the very real looming threat of Vietnam or nuclear warfare burst through in the lead vocals while the background vox often were delivered with a chant like repetition. Melody is tossed out the window as most of these tunes are all about the rhythms.

Although their discography is kind of sparse, the musical legacy left behind influenced folks like The Fall (who have recorded multiple Monks tunes through the years), Henry Rollins, Rick Rubin (the pair reissued Black Monk Time in the 1990s on their Infinite Zero label) and former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra. Over thirty years later, the band reformed in 1999 and played out to wildly appreciative crowds for years after. Sadly on 10 January 2008 banjo player Dave Day died of a heart attack.

Way ahead of their time, the clips below show The Monks rocking out on German television in 1965.

Oh, How To Do Now

Monk Chant

I Can't Get Over You



Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice


  1. I had never heard of them before. I like their music though. They've got a cool image.

  2. Thanks Keith, The Monks sure didn't sound like most music coming out anywhere in 1965 but I dig 'em.