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"Maybe Monk Time is here at last."
July 12, 2012 8:50 PM   Subscribe

You're a Monk, I'm a Monk, We're All Monks is a short video introduction to The Monks, a band founded in 1964 by five American soldiers in Germany. They put out only one album, the abrasive, noisy, minimalistic Black Monk Time in 1965, that sounded like nothing else at the time. They also dressed in all-black, shaved monkish tonsures in their hair and wore bits of rope as neckties. In 1966 they appeared on German TV shows Beat-Club and Beat, Beat, Beat, and played three songs on each, Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice, Monk Chant, Oh, How to Do Now, Complication, I Can't Get Over You and Cuckoo. Aaron Poehler interviewed The Monks and wrote about their history back in 1999. That same year they got back together to play at the Cavestomp festival. And here The Monks are being interviewed by a hand-puppet on public access television in Chicago. [The Monks previously on MetaFilter]
posted by Kattullus (49 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, hey, we're the Monk... WRONG!
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love the Monks. It's good to see them getting some MetaFilter love. It's Monk Time! I believe I first heard them at Garage Hangover, an excellent site for dirty old garage rock.
posted by gincrazed at 9:16 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thank you, I love this. I like to think my current band takes its song writing and performance cues from bands like this
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:17 PM on July 12, 2012


It's beat time, it's hop time, it's MONK TIME!



It is always Monk Time here. Always. Love them.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:21 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gotta wonder how things would have turned out if these guys had exploded instead of, say, the Beatles.

Also, Gordon Freeman on the keys?!
posted by adamdschneider at 9:28 PM on July 12, 2012


Don't forget The Fall's obnoxious and loud cover of Black Monk Theme.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:31 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Better than the Beatles.
posted by bardic at 9:39 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


So happy here! I have been a Monkhead for many years. Thanks for all of the links.
posted by Isadorady at 9:45 PM on July 12, 2012


My wife met Gary Burger (the guitar player) last year when she went up to Bemidji, MN to teach an art class. The arts council had him film a short video of her talking about her work. When she got back, she said he was very nice and that he played in a band called the Monks. I googled them and we spent an evening grooving to Black Monk Time.

Good to see they're getting some recognition again.
posted by jabo at 9:49 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Love the Monks!
posted by saul wright at 9:52 PM on July 12, 2012


You told! You gave away the secret. Mods, delete this post. No one needs to know about the Monks. They are much better as personal secret awesome band.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


James Bond, who was he?
posted by equalpants at 10:07 PM on July 12, 2012


Oh, man, I hadn't seen those videos in forever--I totally forgot about the banjoist's ridiculous demented grin. Truly one of the all-time great demented grins.
posted by equalpants at 10:10 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stop it! Stop it! I don't like it! It's too loud!

But no, no it's never too loud. And I do like it. Was just grooving along on the way home last night with The Monks.
posted by pupdog at 10:15 PM on July 12, 2012


From the snippet of video I could see this morning, this is a band I need to hear more of.

Gotta wonder how things would have turned out if these guys had exploded instead of, say, the Beatles.

By the time they got started, the Beatles were already big, weren't they?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:38 PM on July 12, 2012


I hate you with a passion - you know I do (but call me!)
posted by item at 10:46 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Monks are one of those bands that makes me sad when I listen to them, because you can imagine a world in which they are just one exemplar of a truly excellent genre of music, and then you realize that you don't live in that world. Question Mark and the Mysterians will never hit the spot the same way.
posted by invitapriore at 11:00 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love the Monks, and they were really so ahead of their time, you know. Great stuff.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:01 PM on July 12, 2012


Nice clear footage on some of those clips from Germany.
...Please Mister Peabody, crank up the wayback machine for 1966!
I'm ready to go.
posted by quazichimp at 11:27 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never heard of them before, but loving it now. Thanks!
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:28 PM on July 12, 2012


Oh, man, I hadn't seen those videos in forever--I totally forgot about the banjoist's ridiculous demented grin. Truly one of the all-time great demented grins.

I was just gonna comment about that grin! I'd heard recordings before but never seen video, and I'd always imagined them looking grim and pissed-off and cooler-than-thou instead of dorktastic and ALARMINGLY CHEERFUL.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:00 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Devo-Whoo-whoo?
posted by qinn at 12:30 AM on July 13, 2012


It's rare that you can say a band is actually ahead of their time, but The Monks were one of them.

Since there are a few here who hadn't heard of them before, note that they have a banjo player. Uniquely, it was played pretty much as a guitar, which gives them that amazing chunky rhythm that no one else ever duplicated.

I cannot possibly sing their praises loud enough. WE LIKE IT.
posted by Palindromedary at 12:31 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I put "I Hate You" on almost every mix cd I make. Nice to see all the Monks love here.
posted by catch as catch can at 2:03 AM on July 13, 2012


WE DO WIE DU!
posted by molecicco at 2:17 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the great lost American bands of the Sixties.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 2:22 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


More background on the monks, plus 1999 tour clips.
posted by zaelic at 3:18 AM on July 13, 2012


Nice Legs, Shame About Her Face
posted by kcds at 4:18 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Nice Legs, Shame About Her Face
posted by Renoroc at 4:31 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


kcds, those are different Monks.

And of course, there's an all-female tribute band, The Nuns. How perfect is that?
posted by scruss at 4:53 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


kcds' Monks featured Richard Hudson and John Ford from The Strawbs which I always thought was a bit strange.
posted by Eyebeams at 6:14 AM on July 13, 2012


This is most highly excellent. Thank you.
posted by slogger at 6:20 AM on July 13, 2012


It's a shame The Monks broke up, because they were off in a weird, new direction. That last single they recorded, Love Can Tame the Wild and, especially, He Went Down to the Sea, sound like Martian pop music. Jebus only knows what they would have made if Polydor had asked them to record a new album.
posted by Kattullus at 6:59 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, his voice is amazing. The melodies all seem so familiar yet fresh.
posted by saul wright at 8:49 AM on July 13, 2012


Which base were they stationed in?
posted by ysangkok at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2012


Gotta wonder how things would have turned out if these guys had exploded instead of, say, the Beatles.

Metafilter threads would be full of people trashing the Monks as overrated hacks and we'd have the occasional thread about this obscure little band called "The Beatles" which everyone would loudly proclaim their love for and marvel over how ahead of their time they were.

The Monks are great, but the notion that they're somehow wildly ahead of their time seems off base to me. The sound their making is unimaginable without the influence of the Beatles, the Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals, the Zombies (the Zombies are clearly a big influence), the Kinks etc. Sure, their taking it in their own direction, but it's not as if the audience is looking at them and saying "WTF is this??"
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2012


their/they're

Sigh.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2012


And of course, there's an all-female tribute band, The Nuns. How perfect is that?

Not to be confused, of course, with The Nuns.
posted by snottydick at 9:46 AM on July 13, 2012


yoink: it's not as if the audience is looking at them and saying "WTF is this??"

There's plenty of people in the German TV clips that do, to me anyway, look like they're wondering "WTF ist das?"
posted by Kattullus at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that's just their "I'm trying hard to look cool in front of the cameras" faces. They're happily dancing away to the music--it's not as if someone just unloaded some avant garde post-industrial noise music on them or something. Watch "Monk Chant" for example, which gives you quite a few shots of the whole dance floor. No one's gasping in shock and horror at this bizarrely futuristic music the likes of which they've never imagined before. They're just happily bopping along to what is still pretty obviously early-sixties "beat" music, even if with a few twists. The most "WTF" part of the thing at the time would have been the haircuts--but it wasn't as if gimmick outfits were all that new either.
posted by yoink at 11:37 AM on July 13, 2012


Ah well, I guess it comes down to different, equally valid interpretations. To me, especially in the latter three clips I posted, from Beat, Beat, Beat, the audience seems rather perplexed by the whole thing.
posted by Kattullus at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2012


You just made my day. And it's been a damn good day, prior. How wonderful that life can be this way, that sometimes some days we can turn a corner and run into something so off-beat, so creative, so ... just fuckin' cool, that's all .. if life didn't have corners that turned like this I just don't know sometimes that it'd be worth It All or whatever -- these guys were doing this so far ahead of time as to be out of a flippin' time machine, dropped into a world of the turtles "how is the weather?" and the archie bell and the drells "do the tighten up, yeah" and kids jerking off stupidly as they sang along to that crap, then here are these characters, completely berserk, smilingly so, absolutely off the wall, having a blast...

Great post. Thank you.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:48 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Monks are great, but the notion that they're somehow wildly ahead of their time seems off base to me. The sound their making is unimaginable without the influence of the Beatles, the Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals, the Zombies (the Zombies are clearly a big influence), the Kinks etc.

Good call on the Animals and the Zombies both.

It's like someone took all the seemingly-incompatible elements of those two bands — the pop harmonies and jazzy organ on the one hand, the garage-ish-ness and distortion and Eric Burdon yowl on the other — and just put them in a jar and made them fight.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:16 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love me some Monks... saw 'em in '99 in New York and they were filled with joy and astonishment at headlining 30 years after anyone had ever heard them. I can only hope to be that cool when I get to their age.
posted by AJaffe at 7:36 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The sound their making is unimaginable without the influence of the Beatles, the Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals, the Zombies (the Zombies are clearly a big influence), the Kinks etc.

Not one of the bands you mentioned (or any other rock band of that era that I can think of) ever did anything remotely like having all band members gathered around a single electric guitar (lying on the floor) and beating it. That's more like some kind of Fluxus/performance art shit, which, for a rock band of their era (or hell, even THIS era) was ahead of its time.

Sure, their taking it in their own direction, but it's not as if the audience is looking at them and saying "WTF is this??"

Even if they're not, that doesn't mean the band wasn't ahead of its time. Also, keep in mind that audiences in Germany were often not bringing the same set of expectations and demands to rock shows. German audiences for rock, pop and jazz have historically been more open to truly adventurous and off-beat stuff than their English and American counterparts.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:11 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really love this bit from the eulogy of Roger Johnston, The Monks' drummer:
I first met Roger when I came to Bemidji to be the minister of the local Methodist Church five years ago, in 1999. It turned out that he was the custodian for our church and had been so, for a number of years prior to my arrival.

Shortly after I arrived, Roger, who otherwise seemed very shy and quiet spoken, came to me to ask for a couple of weeks off work.

I asked him to explain and he cautiously told me that he had been a member of a rock and roll band in the army in the 1960s in Germany and they were having a reunion.
The whole eulogy is delightfully square. I'm really glad all The Monks got to live long enough to see their old work get recognition.
posted by Kattullus at 7:20 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not one of the bands you mentioned (or any other rock band of that era that I can think of) ever did anything remotely like having all band members gathered around a single electric guitar (lying on the floor) and beating it. That's more like some kind of Fluxus/performance art shit, which, for a rock band of their era (or hell, even THIS era) was ahead of its time.

Jerry Lee Lewis played the piano with his feet--which I guess makes him the John Cage of rockabilly. This is just stage business. It's not like they're actually deriving any strikingly new or challenging sound out of the way they're playing that guitar.

In terms of breaking the frame of audience expectations of what a pop song should sound like this is unbelievably tame compared to, say, what the Beatles were doing in the same year as these German TV clips with "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Revolver. It's just that we're so used to "Tomorrow Never Knows" that we take it for granted. "Tomorrow Never Knows"--with its use of the recording studio itself as the major musical "instrument"--really is predictive of the future of rock music: far more so than the relatively minor and quirky innovations that The Monks are engaged in.
posted by yoink at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2012


Sigh... sure, yoink, OK, you win. Compared to the freaking Beatles they were unbelievably tame, OK, got it. Just another run-of-the-mill band, nothing to see here, move along folks. Go back to your Tomorrow Never Knows, everyone.

I'd add, though, that I certainly don't take Tomorrow Never Knows for granted. It turned my 9-year-old head around when I first heard it, and I still happen to think it's one of the most astonishing and revolutionary pop songs in the history of pop song. But not so much for the studio-as-instrument point that you emphasized: more for the fact that it had no chord changes (but rather was based simply on a drone) and no AABA-type form that 90-something percent of pop tunes utilized up til then and no catchy melody, exactly, in the sense of *pop* melody, and a rather unusual beat (for a pop song)... and so on.

But, you know, comparing everything to the Beatles is ultimately kinda boring and narrows the discussion into some tiresomely predictable directions, doesn't it? People keep coming around to the same points, really. Yawn.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:19 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


yoink, I think you're confusing the fact that innovations in production techniques are easier to talk about than innovations in other aspects of musical practice with the notion that those same production techniques are more important. Calling the things they were doing with texture, timbre and aesthetic "minor and quirky innovations" is a pretty ahistorical perspective in light of how similar sounds started to take off five to ten years after Black Monk Time was released (May 1965, before Help! was released, which makes for a more fair comparison in light of the fact that the The Monks didn't persist for long after their debut release).
posted by invitapriore at 5:36 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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