Our Top 10 Songs By The Sonics list presents the best Sonics Songs including “The Witch,” “Skinny Minnie” “Have Love, Will Travel” and more. The musical genre known as garage punk is also referred to as garage rock. The Sonics served as one of the pioneers of this music style after they formed as a band in 1960. Known for their influential aggressive sound, the genres of punk music that have since been enjoyed worldwide got this inspiration from The Sonics’ energetic contribution to the music industry. For The Sonics, while the era of beat rock and surf-style hits were dominating the charts throughout much of the 1960s, this group was busy catering to the audience favoring psychedelia music. After 1968, however, the sophistication of rock music began to win over the radio stations and recording studios, leaving the genre of garage-style rock into virtual obscurity before it would see a revival during the mid-1980s.
At first, the groups catering to garage rock music mimicked the 1960s influence, including the material produced by The Sonics. By the 1990s, the garage music genre improved on its merger between punk and rock which would serve as a new wave of inspiration leading into the turn of the twenty-first century. To this day, The Sonics are still referred to as one of the godfathers of the garage punk rock genre, and deservedly so. Founder Larry Parypa was just a teenager when The Sonics was founded in Bremerton, Washington, in 1960. Parypa’s parents were fans of music and served as key influencers for the young man to embark on a career as an entertainer.
The Sonics’ lineup originally began with Larry Parypa as the frontman, along with his brother, Jerry, taking up the saxophone. Mitch Jaber served as the drummer while Stuart Turner was the guitarist. In the beginning, Parypa’s mother would fill in on bass during rehearsals before Parypa’s older brother, Andy, took over in 1961. Replacing Jerry on the saxophone that year was Tony Mabin. When Turner joined the army, he was replaced by Rich Koch. Up until lead singer Marilyn Lodge joined the group, The Sonics were primarily performing as an instrumental band at that point. By 1963, additional lineup changes occurred, including the replacement of Lodge as the lead singer in favor of Ray Michelsen before he was replaced by Gerry Roslie in 1964.
In 1965, The Sonics released its debut album, Here Are The Sonics!!!, and was followed by the 1966 release of Boom. These two albums did very well, serving as the pioneering musical influence that triggered the genre of garage rock music. Before 1966 was over, The Sonics moved to Hollywood after signing up with Jerden Records. Unfortunately, the third studio album, Introducing the Sonics, served as a commercial flop. The decision to follow the newer influences of what was modern music at that time served as a dismal contrast to the previous recordings that earned The Sonics the fan base they had. This was also during a time period where The Sonics met with additional lineup changes between 1966 and 1968 as members were leaving to embark on other interests. Over time, the original roster of The Sonics was gone, only to be replaced with new talent that simply kept the band’s name going until it was changed to Jim Brady and the Sonics in 1980.
In 1972, the original roster of The Sonics briefly reunited to do a live show in Seattle. In 1980, the new Sonic lineup featuring its frontman, Gerry Roslie, recorded and released the album, Sinderella. It featured versions of the material performed by the original lineup during their heyday, making good use of the punk rock genre that was gaining popularity as a music style during the 1970s. Now known as grunge music in during the 1990s, there was a renewed interest in The Sonics that would give Larry and Andy Parypa cause to perform with the group again. The revolving door of The Sonics lineup still continues to this day.
In total, The Sonic has recorded and released five studio albums, two extended plays (EPs), twelve compilation/live albums, and twenty-four singles. Of all the material released from The Sonics as a group, only This is the Sonics, which was released in 2015, made an appearance on the official US Billboard albums charts, namely at number twenty-one on the US Billboard Heatseekers and at number twenty-five on the US Billboard Tastemakers.
Top 10 Songs By The Sonics
#10 – Cinderella
“Cinderella” was the lead track to the 1966 album, Boom. Sticking with the success formula that made The Sonics’ debut so popular, the energetic impact of this song was what made the group such a favorite among fans who enjoyed heavier sounds than the beachy and pop-rock sounds that seemed like were becoming too generalized for an audience that was starting to want more. According to The Sonics, “Cinderella” was a love interest met at the bar that mysteriously disappeared, giving the screaming vocalist cause to pursue her even further.
#9 – Boss Hoss
“Boss Hoss” served as an inspiration to the formation of a German country music band, adopting the title of this song as its name. Founded in 2004 out of Berlin, The BossHoss has made a career out of covering famous pop, punk, and rock songs with their brand of honky tonk country music. “Boss Hoss” was a single released in 1965 from the album, Etiquette, that revolved around a special car the vocalist couldn’t stop raving about.
#8 – Shot Down
From Boom, “Shot Down” was an explosive Gerry Roslie original that was released with the album in 1966. In this song, the lyrically performed disappointment of a woman’s refusal to give the vocalist the time of day was brought forth with a mix of heavy guitar riffs and background claps as a highly energetic number. Seemingly shocked, The Sonics laid out all the qualities that should have made the woman reconsider her decision as it was relayed the vocalist’s interest in her was genuine enough to deserve a chance.
#7 – Dirty Robber
“Dirty Robber” was a song first recorded in 1955 by The Fabulous Wailers as an R&B number. Performed as a wilder version featured the screaming vocals, piano progression, and saxophone solos that made this song a highly energetic number that earned The Sonics a fan base that loved every heavy beat of it. From the album, Here Are The Sonics!!!, “Dirty Robber” was also released in 1955, winning over a fan base that maybe didn’t connect as well with the R&B version from the Wailers. Both The Sonics and The Fabulous Wailers were from the Pacific Northwest region but only The Sonics remain as a band to this day while Wailers officially disbanded in 1969. Sung as a jilted lover whose significant other ran off like a bandit, where the Wailers laid it out as a bluesy number The Sonics did so as an expression of jet-fueled, finger in the face disbelief that made it a fast dance favorite.
#6 – Strychnine
What made The Sonics so awesome as breakthrough artists of the garage-rock genre were the ability to take classical instruments and turn them into mean musical machines. At the same time, still manage to slip in bluesy accents and lose vocals to an otherwise heavy and energetic progressive “Strychnine.” The album, Here Are The Sonics!!!, served as more than merely a debut album for this amazing rock group but as a needed burst of refreshment to a music scene that had seemed to become too generic. What “Strychnine” did, thanks to The Sonics, was serve as yet another fantastic song that broke the mold of what energetic music should sound like. In the song, “Strychnine” was a beverage of choice while as a song, it was a sound preference of choice by fans who loved this heavy-hitting number.
#5 – Have Love, Will Travel
The edgy “Have Love, Will Travel” was originally performed by Richard Berry in 1959 before The Sonics recorded a harder-hitting version of it for their 1965 album, Here Are The Sonics!!!. The fuzz guitar, paired with screaming vocals, big drum sounds, and a fantastic saxophone solo, served as key reasons why The Sonics were so popular with a fan base that loved this edgier approach to cult favorites. Among the many artists that have since covered this song, it is The Sonics’ version that is copied the most. When Toyota ran a commercial in 2004 for its Land Rover, they used The Sonics’ version of “Have Love, Will Travel,” which wound up fueling a resurgence of garage-style music, as well as the pioneering group responsible for it.
#4 – Louie Louie
As an R&B song, “Louie Louie” was first released by Richard Berry in 1957 before it became a big hit for the Kingsmen in 1963. Since then, it has become a pop and rock standard song that has been covered by several artists over the stretch time. For The Sonics, their 1965 cover version of this all-time favorite can be found on its 1966 album, Boom, as well as newer versions on 1980’s Sinderella, and 2016’s Live at Easy Street. Their approach to “Louie Louie” was an abrasive, hard-edged approach that was regarded as a considerably fiercer and ominous sound. This version may have added a bit more fuel to the fire behind its classification as a cosmically crude number that featured a Jamaican returning to the island to reunite with his lover.
#3 – Skinny Minnie
Originally released in 1958 by Bill Haley and his Comets, “Skinny Minnie” was covered by The Sonics as one of the tracks featured in their 1966 album, Boom. The Sonics made a career out of covering pop standard music, turning most of it into edgier versions that would appeal to a different breed of rock music fans. “Skinny Minnie” was one of many garage-style rock songs that won over the interest of aspiring musicians that found this group’s take on a cult classic wonderfully psychedelic than the original.
#2 – Psycho
As a song, “Psycho” perfectly reflected what made The Sonics tick as a psychedelic band that served as the godfathers of garage punk rock. The circular brass riff, along with the drumming, seemed to add even more energy to the screaming vocals. The Sonics were clearly ahead of their time as musicians but this served as a good thing as their influence sparked the onslaught of fantastic rock groups that strove to follow in their footsteps, one “Psycho” move at a time. Here Are The Sonics!!! featured the original recording of “Psycho” while Boom‘s live performance version is nothing short of musical genius itself.
#1 – The Witch
Immensely popular with the kids, “The Witch” was the first single released by The Sonics in 1964. On the local scene, it became the biggest selling single despite the fact the Pacific Northwest radio stations failed to give it much airtime due to the musical content that fueled this song. The guitar riffs that highlight “The Witch” played a huge role in its popularity, as well as convincing the group to sign up with Etiquette Records. The original intent behind “The Witch” was to serve as a composition about a local dance craze but later was redesigned to lyrically share a tale of a female antagonist.
At the time, this aggressive song was only played after the kids were released from school and became the lead track to the group’s debut album, Here Are The Sonics!!!. Despite the fact that “The Witch” received limited airplay and failed to chart nationally, it remains one of the most important songs in rock history. So many punk rock groups, both nationally and internationally, credit “The Witch” and The Sonics for creating the garage music subgenre, as well as perhaps triggering other rock-related music to step up their sounds as well.
Feature Photo: Donutte, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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