Catching up on Sonics news

I obviously haven’t been trying hard enough. This story made Rolling Stone last month, and I completely missed it:

Founded in the early Sixties by refugees from other Tacoma groups, the Sonics were newcomers to a fiercely competitive Northwest scene already ruled by more technically accomplished bands like the Wailers (not the Jamaican group) and Paul Revere and the Raiders. “There was no decision to play more aggressively than the other guys,” Parypa says of the Sonics’ first rehearsals and shows. “A lot of it was lack of ability. We couldn’t play with technique. So we pounded on everything instead” ….

…. “The Witch,” a Number Two hit in Seattle, established the Sonics as regional heroes, and they were soon making a thousand dollars a night in Northwest clubs, huge bread for the day. But the band’s singles, issued on local labels, never charted in Billboard, and the good gig pay kept the Sonics close to home. “We were immature and un-business-like,” Parypa admits. “Our immediate goal was, how many women can we pick up tonight? We’d put our instruments in the van after a show, and not get them out again until we had to play someplace else. If we had a recording session, sometimes we didn’t write the material until we were in the studio.”

Now that is a proud heritage.

“If you come to these shows expecting top musicianship, you’re in the wrong place,” Parypa warns. “But if we can blow your face off, that will be cool.”

Really cool, indeed.

• • •

Also in Sonics news:

• Tony Sachs reviews The Sonics at Cavestomp for Huffington Post
• Knute Berger on The Sonics at Crosscut
• Mary Huhn covers the return of The Sonics for—get this—the New York Post
• And from overeas, the British site ContactMusic did not let The Sonics’ reunion go unnoticed

More on The Sonics

The verdict appears to be in. The Sonics unquestionably rock. Many thanks to Peg, whose note reminded me that there is no time like the present to follow up on the potential return of one of garage rock’s pioneer troupes. I’m so late to the party that all I can do at this point is tick off potential venues and wait for the good news.

Ernest A. Jasmin is tracking the return of The Sonics over at Bring the Noise (@, including some interviews, notes on band history, and video from Cavestomp. There is also a great picture of Jerry Roslie, circa 1968.

After my A1 reunion story ran last Friday, I started getting calls from the friends and family of drummer Mitch Jaber saying he should have gotten a mention. The guy’s sister pointed out that the album cover for the album “The Savage Young Sonics” was shot in their Lakewood home. And she alluded to other band members that had come and gone before the lineup we all know and love solidified around 1963. So I went straight to the source for clarification.

“If you wanna go back far enough, my mother was our first guitar player,” Parypa said with a chuckle.

No way. Really? Your mother? Awesome. (Take that, Kenny Loggins!)

So … right. Um … come on, guys … please? Larry, if I have to, I’ll come track you down and get on my knees and beg. Get up there and kick our asses.

The Sonics

This is interesting.

Forty years. That’s how long it’s been since Gerald “Jerry” Roslie left Tacoma’s most cryptic – and some would argue most influential – garage rock band.

So it was understandable when the 63-year-old rocker – the sole Sonic who still lives in Tacoma – admitted to having butterflies about this weekend’s comeback gigs.

The reunited Sonics will play New York’s Cavestomp festival Friday night and Sunday, with Roslie rekindling the fiery howl that powered “The Witch,” “Boss Hoss” and other oft-imitated garage classics. And during a recent phone interview, the reclusive singer sounded just a tad apprehensive.

“Oh man, you have no idea,” he said, chuckling heartily. “You know, it’s been a long time, and you just don’t know how people are gonna take it. Maybe after we do the first few songs some of the butterflies will leave.”

Roslie will be joined at Brooklyn’s Warsaw music venue by guitarist Larry Parypa, sax player Rob Lind and possibly drummer Bob Bennett from his band’s original lineup. Northwest journeymen Ricky Lynn Johnson and Don Wilhelm will play drums and bass, respectively. But original bassist Andy Parypa – a teacher who lives in Seattle – will not participate because of carpal tunnel problems, according to brother Larry.

And it’s about damn time. I actually used to work with Larry Parypa. It’s not like we were close, or anything. But I did ask him once about a picture at his desk, and he told me it was him with The Sonics, and so the first thing I did when I got home after work that day was dig through my brother’s enormous record collection in search of these albums I’d never heard. And, of course, my first reaction was, “Why have I not heard more of these guys over they years?”

This was around 1999, a couple years after Sam Machkovech‘s scare–

I’m talking about the return of the best thing to happen to Tacoma since glass-blowing—The Sonics, the band whose “Psycho” and “The Witch” rekindled my interest in rock ‘n’ roll right around the time of The Great Electronica Scare Of 1997. Thank you, Nuggets sampler CD at the used music store down the block. You saved me from Decks and Drums and Rock and Roll.

–but I share the sentiment. Listening to The Sonics for the first time, and I mean actually sitting down and listening to the record, instead of ripping a bong at a friend’s with the music turned low and not paying attention to the tunes, really was a strange, and, yes, refreshing experience. Every once in a while, we get these sorts of reminders. Some who followed the post-Nirvana freakout that happened in the early and mid-90s missed the fact that there was at least a decade’s buildup to that point, and if you follow the sounds back far enough, you run into some pretty strange coincidences. One of the first times I sat and listened to a Motorhead album all the way through, I thought I’d discovered the secret influence that nobody ever talks about. I discovered, naturally, that the reason nobody ever talks about the influence is because it’s just that obvious. Nonetheless, listening to a Sonics album eight years ago, two thoughts struck me. First was that I had, indeed, heard these songs before. The other was that I was suddenly confused as to why nobody ever talked about this gem of Northwest musical history. It could not be that, somehow, nobody knew. Because it was like hearing something I didn’t understand about a bunch of the music from before “grunge” broke big.

Or, as Ernest A. Jasmin‘s article notes:

“They really were this kind of proto-punk rock band,” said Experience Music Project curator Jacob McMurray. “I can imagine at the time (their music) came out, parents of kids that were fans of the Sonics being scared of the Sonics.”

McMurray sees an even more blatant connection to grunge.

“You could listen to (Mudhoney’s) ‘Touch Me, I’m Sick,’ and you compare it to ‘The Witch’ and you know – wow – this could be the same band,” he said.

Still, it took years for the Sonics themselves to realize just how much influence they had.

“We just started seeing stuff a long time ago – Patti Smith and then the Sex Pistols and then Nirvana,” he said. “All these major Seattle groups that are millionaires – and we’re not – they all said that one of their primers of rock ‘n’ roll was listening to the Sonics.”

Roslie said he gets a kick out of checking his royalty statements and seeing where Sonics music is being played – increasingly, places like England, Germany, France and Japan.

“The whole thing has just blown our minds,” he said. “When we quit I thought, ‘Well, that’s it, and (we’ll) go do other things.’ It is really mind-blowing because it’s such a rare thing that somebody’s been out of business for 40 years. So needless to say we’re really pleased, and we realize what a lucky break that is.”

Yeah. It really does run that deep. Once you start hearing it … well, it’s kind of scary. You really should check ’em out if you haven’t already. The Sonics rock.

Or, at least they did. As to the rest, we’ll see. Hear. Whatever.

Welcome back, gentlemen, and good luck. Get up there and kick our asses. Please.