(Various Artists) – “Don’t Press Your Luck!: The In Sound of 60’s Connecticut (Garage and Psych Howlers from the Vaults of Trod Nossel Studios ’66-’68!)” (2008)
Written by my friend Fran Fried for The Fresno Beehive website, May 8, 2008. This comp is definitely worth checking out…
From Our Old Garage to Yours
I had a blast last October when ’60s Lemoore rockers The Brymersplayed their reunion show at a packed Hanford Civic Auditorium. The Brymers were among the hundreds of teen garage bands around the country in the mid-’60s who released one or two singles locally, had a big following in and around their region, and then disappeared — only to be resurrected years later by zealous record collectors, looking for great, raw, obscure rock ‘n’ roll.
These days, high-profile garage festivals such as Cavestomp! in New York (which has rounded up ? and the Mysterians, The Remains, The Monks, The Standells, Richard & the Young Lions, The Chocolate Watchband and The Sonics) are populated by music fanatics and affected hipsters from around the world, many of whom were too young to have seen these bands in their day. However, this Brymers show was much more like what I imagined a mid-’60s show would have been — lots of friends hanging out in a big room, socializing and dancing to good tunes. (Except that most of the people were much grayer and/or balder, teen dances didn’t sell beer, and there were way too many Hawaiian shirts instead of the long-lost groovy threads of 1966.) It was a purely local experience, just as it was in ’66, and a hell of a lot of fun.
So anyway, I had so much fun with your local garage legends that I thought I’d return the favor and tell y’all about a recent compilation of garage legends from my old part of the world.
About about 15 miles north of New Haven, Conn., in Wallingford, there’s a nondescript little recording studio with the unlikely name of Trod Nossel. It was bought in 1967 and owned until his death (New Year’s Day 2005) by a bright and rather unusual guy named Doc Cavalier. He gave up a lucrative dental practice the year before to manage a band called The Shags. They truly were New Haven’s answer to The Beatles; singer/guitarist Tom Violante (a longtime journalist who’s now a spokesman for Yale) once told me about the time they were chased down the street by a horde of screaming girls after a show at Yale. (I thought the screaming-girl thing only happened in Beatle movies and The Flintstones.)
The studio was, and is, very successful, but bands fade away. And for some unknown reason, the early recordings by The Shags and several other bands stayed locked up all these years. But now the songs have been spilling out of the cabinets. And Sundazed, one of the great rock’n’roll archival labels, rounded up quite a few of them into one neat little package called Don’t Press Your Luck!: The In Sound of 60’s Connecticut. And if you like The Brymers and other ’60s nuggest, you’re gonna love this stuff — songs you didn’t know you were missing. And for me, it’s just great having these songs at last without having to spend dozens and hundreds of dollars I don’t have.
The most famous group on the disc — The Wildweeds, out of the Hartford area — was the subject of their own disc a few years ago. When Doc bought the studio, he found an incredible recording on the shelf. It was “No Good to Cry,” and he struck a deal with Chess Records to release the single on its Cadet imprint. The song was written and passionately sung by the teenage Al Anderson (who went on to be one of rock’s best guitarists, played with NRBQ for over 20 years, then became a bigtime Nashville songwriter). It was a blue-eyed soul classic; in the ensuing years, The Hour Glass (Gregg and Duane Allman, pre-Allman Brothers) and The Moving Sidewalks (Billy Gibbons’ band before ZZ Top) took their whacks at it. Anyway, it wouldn’t have been a collection of songs from Trod Nossel without this still-mighty song.
As for the rest of the disc, the two bands that, justifiably, get the most space are the aforementioned Shags and The Bram Rigg Set. Both bands appeared in ’66 on a TV show pilot on Channel 8 in New Haven called The Film with a Very Long Name. (Inspired by the Beatle movies, it predated the TV antics of The Monkees by a few months.) And it’s not hard to imagine that these two bands could have been big in their own right, well beyond theElmCity.
The Shags’ “Don’t Press Your Luck,” driven by some solid drumming from John Tangredi and forceful vocals by Carl Augusto (who has gone on to much more important things), is as defiant as they ever got, which made this song a prized protopunk record. Some of their other well-done sides are here (the Beatle-poppy “Hide Away” and “Breathe in My Ear”), as are a stray radio jingle, a commercial and some unreleased stuff, but two great tunes are inexplicably missing: “Hey Little Girl” (the B-side of “Luck”) and their doo-wop-meets-Beatles debut, “Wait and See.” (Actually, “Hey Little Girl” is on the limited-edition double-LP version of this collection.)
The Bram Rigg Set’s loud, snotty, stomping, snarling version of Van Morrison & Them’s “I Can Only Give You Everything,” long coveted by collectors, leads off the CD, and you can hear why people paid lots of money for the original vinyl. The B-side of their only single, “Take the Time Be Yourself,” also is worth it, as are previously unreleased covers of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” and Willie Cobbs’ blues hit “You Don’t Love Me.”
Anyway, garage collections always come with a bonus can of What If. In this case, what if The Wildweeds instead went with Atlantic Records – where their friend, the late sax great King Curtis, was trying to secure them a deal at he time — instead of Chess? What if The Film with a Very Long Name became a national star vehicle for The Shags and The Bram Rigg Set? Yeah, I know, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d have a merry Christmas. But the music was outstanding — can you think of a current teen band with as much talent and energy as these acts? — and at least we didn’t have to wait till Christmas for this. We Nutmeggers, transplanted or not, have had the chance to enjoy this stuff; hope some of you out here get to dig it, too.