Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let's Talk About Girls! - Music From Tucson 1964-1968

The Tongues of Truth/The Grodes&The Dearly Beloved.

Let's Talk About Girls compiles tracks from the two leading Tucson bands from 1964 to 1968, the Grodes and the Dearly Beloved. These groups were rivals in their time; the Grodes could be considered the Stones to the Dearly Beloved's Beatles. Both bands are versatile enough to appeal to pop and punk fans, but in general, the Grodes had a harder rock edge, while the Dearly Beloved had stronger vocal harmonies. There are, however, exceptions in both cases. The title track, the Grodes original "Let's Talk About Girls," was released as the only record by the Tongues of Truth, a spontaneous joke-name change given by the band's manager, DJ Dan Gates. For years, the Tongues were thought to be an alias of San Jose's Chocolate Watchband, who also covered that song. The Dearly Beloved nearly broke nationally on the strength of their single "Peep Peep Pop Pop," which led to a contract with Columbia Records. After an album's worth of recording sat on a shelf, the band sued to get out of the contract but broke up soon after. Several of the unreleased Columbia sessions tracks finally see the light of day here.

This 1997 release collects original sides from Tucson's two major garage bands of the mid-60s, The Grodes (also briefly known as The Tongues of Truth) and The Dearly Beloved (also known as The Intruders and Quinstrells). Perhaps the greatest claim to fame of either band is that The Tongues' "Let's Talk About Girls" (included here in its original form) became a garage classic in the hands of the Chocolate Watchband. 

The Dearlys, as they were called by locals, ended up with the bigger helping of fame, signing with Columbia before getting shelved. They resigned with White Whale, but before they could consummate the relationship, the band's lead singer, Larry Cox, was killed in a car accident. Both bands left behind a fine legacy of blues-inspired garage-band singles, the occasionally crackly vinyl versions of which served as the source for this CD. 

In addition to the seminal "Let's Talk About Girls," The Grodes had plenty of tough garage material, but also played fine harmony rockers. This was clearly a band that cut its musical teeth performing live at frats and teen dances. The same is true for the Dearly Beloved, whose debut "Every Time It's You" sounds like it was recorded in the same single-mic studio as The Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie." They're a tad bit punkier than The Grodes, but could also sing four-part harmonies (sadly, the original 45 version of "I've Got a Girl" has been replaced here by an alternate version; see Bacchus' compilation ""Think of the Good Times" for the vastly superior single). 

This is a disc full of great guitar (6- and 12-string, with and without fuzz), organ and blues riffs reverberating around the garage. It's not a complete history of either band, as B-sides and various singles are missing, but what's here (including a cheeky radio promo written to The Beatles' "A Hard Days Night") is great fun for fans of garage band heroes like The Standells, Leaves and Pandoras. Detailed liner notes (including a lengthy interview with Grodes lead singer Manny Freiser) and vintage promo photo reproductions fill out a full package. ~ Hyperbolium

The Dearly Beloved

Along with the Grodes, the Dearly Beloved were Tucson, AZ's top group in the mid-'60s. They started out in 1963 as a surf music combo called the Intruders, who were heavily influenced by the Ventures, and added singer Larry Cox to their lineup in early 1964. The Intruders cut one single, "Everytime It's You" b/w "Let Me Stay," as a result of winning a battle of the bands contest. The single wasn't much, although it had a vaguely Beatlesque quality and showed a band with a lot of potential, and this was borne out by their local reputation -- by the spring of 1964 they were one of the hottest bands in Tucson. The quintet was forced to change their name when they learned that there was a vocal group of the same name based in Detroit -- they existed very briefly as the Quinstrells and then, at the behest of Dan Gates, a local disc jockey and producer-manager who came in to help guide the group's fortunes, they became the Dearly Beloved. 

The group broke out of Tucson in 1966, playing clubs as far away as Los Angeles and teen fairs throughout the west and southwest. They also cut a strange novelty single, "Peep Peep Pop Pop," which had been foisted on them by Gates, which became a number one hit in Tucson when issued on the local Boyd label, which got Columbia Records interested in the band. A Columbia version of the single was issued and scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, even getting onto American Bandstand's rate-a-record segment. They also recorded a complete album for the label that stayed in the can for 30 years. One lawsuit later, they were on White Whale, with a lot of promise before them, and then it all fell apart when Larry Cox was killed in a car crash that took place while the band was driving back to Tucson, to get Cox to his wedding the next day. The group never recovered, despite getting an unexpected regional hit out of the song "Flight 13," the B-side of their one attempt to cut a record after Cox's death. 

Their seven singles are passable period pop/garage rock that don't measure up to the standards of literally hundreds of better obscure '60s garage groups throughout the country. The evidence from their unreleased Columbia LP, part of which was issued in 1997 on Dionysus Records' Tucson garage band collection Let's Talk About Girls, shows that they did have a good ear for hooks, a hard attack on their instruments that translated well in the studio, and that Cox was a strong singer. Had he lived, the Dearly Beloved might've been White Whale's answer to the Leaves. Bassist Shep Cooke went on to join the Stone Poneys briefly, before returning to the Dearly Beloved during their final days, and went on to play on albums by Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne.

The Tongues of Truth/The Grodes

In honor of the Chocolate Watchband playing the Underground Garage festival in NY this weekend, I'm featuring the original version of their most famous tune, Let's Talk about Girls.
The Grodes and Tongues of Truth were two names for the same band - originally from Tucson, Arizona, but often recording in L.A. They were renamed Tongues of Truth without their knowledge by their manager and promoter, Dan Gates, dj at local KTKT in Tucson. Gates didn't bother to tell the band about the rechristening until he announced the new single, Let's Talk About Girls, over the airwaves. They stuck with it while the 45 had it's time on the charts (#37 locally), then returned to being the Grodes. "Cry a Little Longer" is an earlier 45 on the Tri-M label, and one of their best.

One of the more talented garage bands of the mid-'60s, with a more professional and pop/rock bent than the average garage outfit. The Grodes cut a half-dozen singles between 1965 and 1967, several of which charted in their hometown of Tucson, AZ. They sported a pleasantly driving, melodic sound with obvious debts to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Zombies, the Kingsmen, the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, and frat rock, but ultimately didn't offer anything original enough to make them stand out from the pack. Their most lasting contribution arose when they briefly changed their names to the Tongues of Truth and cut the uncharacteristically tough punker "Let's Talk About Girls," which was covered in a much more famous version (later anthologized on Nuggets) by the Chocolate Watchband. The Grodes broke up in 1968 after briefly adding female singer Patti McCarron; lead singer and songwriter Manny Freiser married her and teamed up with her professionally in the soft rock duo Fire & Rain, who released an album for Mercury in 1973.

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