The Monks Biography
The Monks were a Germany-based American garage rock band and are one of the best cult bands of the ’60s.
Initially known as the Torquays, lead guitar and lead vocalist Gary Burger met keyboardist Larry Clark, bassist Eddie Shaw, guitarist Dave Day and German drummer Hans in Germany, while in the army service. They began by performing rock and roll in Gelhausen. Drummer Roger Johnston was later added, completing the line-up.
The Monks’ first singles were There She Walks and Boys Are Boys. In 1965 they moved to Stuttgart started playing in Rio Bar. Here, they started experimenting with various sounds and electronics. Achieving an avant-garde style the group was signed by a German management team. The idea was now to possess high energy and rhythm, and it took them a year to record this new musical direction. Eccentric and mysterious in appereance, their performances were met with confusion from the audience. A reluctant yes came from Polydor Records when The Monks were signed.
Black Monk Time
Recording sessions were challenging as resources were limited, however the band was able release their debut album Black Monk Time. Complication was revealed as the LP’s single. This album was credited as the foundation for the subgenre punk rock, which influenced bands like the Velvet Underground. In addition the album made social and politocal comentaries regarding the Vietnam War, love-hate relationships, and social injustuces. As a result, the album was banned in the US.
A disspointing result in sales, Black Monk Time did not push the band any further. They were pressured, however to change into a soft wave type of music. Resisting the idea at first, The Monks released the love song Cuckoo and I Can’t Get Over You. They were finally breaking into charts and gaining an audicence in Germany. The group attampted a change to psychedelic rock with singles like Love Can Tame the Wild and He Went Down to the Sea. While performing with Jimi Hendrix in 1967, there was a lot of tension between The Monks. After various disagreements, the band eventually disbanded the same year. They were set to perform in Vietnam a day after their break-up.
After 32 years, The Monks, along with vocalist Mike Fornatale released Five Upstart Americans in 1999. They performed for the first time in the US and the live concert was released as a live album called Let’s Start a Beat – Live from Cavestomp. The original band performed for the last time in 2004, followed by Johnston death. The remaining monks perfomred a few more times in England and Germany, before disbanding again in 2007. Day died in 2008, leaving Burger singing some of Monks’ songs. He passed away, as well, in 2014.
Photo credit: The Monks