This is beyond groovy. This is far out, man.
Dave Martens’ continuing adventures into the psychedelic era of 1960s-era garage bands in Montana takes a step into the art realm this week.
Step Friday evening into the Zootown Arts Community Center on Missoula’s Northside and you’ll see what we mean. The gallery features concert art, news clippings, photographs and music from the far-flung community of musicians who didn’t realize they were a community until now.
“Bands were so isolated in those days they didn’t really know each other,” said Martens, a University of Montana grad student and a child of the 1980s. “Now they’re interconnected. Being able to share music from Helena and Billings and Missoula – all over Montana. ... It’s pretty cool.”
Since he and a growing network of accomplices started putting word out last fall, Lost Sounds Montana has accumulated more than 100 recordings – 45s, record albums and reel-to-reel tapes – from many genres and decades. Project No. 1 has been to chronicle those raw days of the late 1950s and ’60s when this state produced a surprising number of garage bands and, yep, Beatles music.
This will also launch the fundraising campaign to put together the first compilation of ‘60s music, said Martens. There’s enough quality material for at least two, and perhaps even three.
“We’re fairly close,” Martens said earlier this week from Rick Kuschel’s downtown studio, where the mixing and transferring from vinyl and tape to digital takes place. “There are a few missing pieces, but we’ve got most of the stuff we need right now.”
You can hear a lot of it for yourself on Friday. Featured music as spun by DJ Collin Pruitt will include Chan Romero’s original version of “The Hippy Hippy Shake.” Romero was a teenager in Billings when he wrote the song and took it to California over summer vacation in 1958. It was released as a single the following year.
As the story goes, an up-and-coming band opened with “The Hippy Hippy Shake” in early 1962 in Manchester, England, the Beatles’ first professional gig away from their hometown of Liverpool. They went on to record it in 1963, but Romero’s song found its biggest audience as performed by another British group, the Swinging Blue Jeans, in 1964.
A tune by Missoula’s The Initial Shock, who opened for Steppenwolf and played with the likes of Iron Butterfly, Pink Floyd and Canned Heat in Bay Area venues in the late 1960s, lent Martens the title for his project. “You’ve Been A Long Time Comin’ ” will make the cut for the first compilation.
“Long Time Comin’ – Lost Sounds from the Treasure State” is what he’s dubbed the Facebook page for his project. In February Martens posted a picture of an ad from a 1967 issue of the Kaimin, the University of Montana newspaper. It touts an appearance by The Chosen Few, as Initial Shock was calling itself then, to preview its latest recordings “Friday and Saturday nights, April 14-15, at The Candle” – Dan Burns’ tavern at the corner of Ryman Street and West Broadway.
“Howard’s Pizza delivered” the ad adds.
“Who was there?” Martens has posted alongside.
In a picture he put up this week, local drummer David Turley hangs a concert poster for “It and the Things” on the wall at the ZACC in preparation for Friday’s exhibit opening.
“Billings is on the east wall,” Martens has posted.
Other posters tout ’60s appearances by John and the Apostles, Mad and the Hatter, Peter and the Wolves, and the Macabres.
As the project evolves, Martens foresees developing “little band wikis” where people with stories and information about the old groups can provide it online.
“Hopefully there’ll be an online archive of recordings, too,” he said. “Some of the stuff is interesting but not to the (recording) quality of some of the other, like a live recording of New Year’s Eve in Billings with the Fugitives.”
To this point, the project has been a labor of love for Martens; that is, it has cost much more than it has paid. Friday’s fundraiser could be a boost toward paying for the digital transferring and mastering and other expenses to get the first compilation put together.
After that, who knows?
“We’ve tapped a rich vein,” Martens noted.