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Logo (top) by Rik Rawling
DURING THE EARLY 1960s, rock music in America was considered entertainment. Elvis was the image of innocence while shaking his hips and breaking loose from the constrictions of the uptight generation before him. He was the pet of his loving mother. He was the sensitive boy who could make girls cry.
Enough of that! My heroes were jazz players like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. They had taken the blues to a new level, long before groups of European guitar players worked very hard to put a white face on it. And all of a sudden, the blues was everywhere. To escape the overindulgence, I became a refugee from the blues. If you know what the blues is, then you know this for sure: Misery ain’t got no lasting satisfaction. A reaction was already setting in.
It was about this time that I, with four other young men, all exiles from one place or the other, were discharged from the army, having served our time as required, defending the creed of greed, or to put it another way, the wonderful values of Capitalism. We were just waking up.
Germany was a hotbed of musical activity. Unlike how it was in the United States, rock and roll was a cultural activity, and the Germans took the words seriously. There were rock groups playing everywhere; seven nights a week; four hours, six hours, and eight hours on stage. Working in such an environment, how could any group not get tight? And there we were, right in the middle of it.
The Monks were a group of five individuals who came from different backgrounds and different musical interests. Gary Burger, a country boy from the woods of Minnesota, was just getting into the sounds of the Ventures. In Renton, Washington (Hendrix’s hometown), Elvis caused Dave Day Havlicek to be reborn. In fact, belief in Elvis saved him. Ever heard that message before? Larry, the “ Chicago Kid,” learned to play music the old fashioned way, evolving into an organist who, quite frankly, could be called crazy. Roger Johnston was a refugee from Texas who wanted to do more than just ride a horse and say, “Yippee!” His favorite drummer was Louie Belson and because of that, he became a drummer for the Monks. I was a brash, foolish kid from Nevada, who dreamed I would be an important jazz musician someday. Instead I became a minimalist, playing my own base part.
Actually there were seven monks. Two of them, Karl Remy and Walther Niemann, guided us across the border to the void. It was all preordained. None of us wished for this. It was a matter of musical evolution. Words are the beginning of lies. In the beginning was Hamburg, and the words were I Want To Hold Your Hand. At the end of the Hamburg era, were the anti’s with silly shaved heads, shouting, “Be a liar everywhere, Shut Up! Don’t cry!” It was a cause of concern for those with the silly long hair.
There had to be a reaction and we were it. It wasn’t necessarily fun or easy. It had become time to tear things down. Smash the grandmother style of schmaltz. Time to deconstruct. Time to destroy the words that lied. It was time to pray for liberation and tear down the barrier between the stage and the audience.
I think we did it. Now we’re all Monks. We’re all lovers, buggers, and thieves.