ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
This is Chapter 26 (day 22):
Written by Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller, and Ron Wilson
Performed by the Sufaris
Recorded at Pal Recording Studios, Cucamonga, California 1962
Drummer: Ron Wilson
Norman sat behind his drum kit and held up his sticks.
“Ready for anything!”
“Okay you animals out there!” said Steve. “Here comes what you’ve been waiting for! Our signature number!”
The driveway kids screamed and came running. The musicians readied themselves in an instant.
“Keep up!” Steve yelled to Norman. He whooped in a high-pitched cackle that made Molly cover her ears. Then he yelled, “Wipe ouuuuut!” and there were drums.
What local/garage band in the Sixties did not play “Wipeout”? The song is so much a part of that “let’s put a band together” mythology/lore of the Sixties, that I knew I needed it for ANTHEM. Plus, it’s so drum-heavy, there is no way I couldn’t have included it for Norman.
And Chapter 26 is the perfect place for it. Molly and Norman are marooned in Little Rock while the bus is repaired, their trip temporarily wiped out. And Little Rock, Arkansas was a hotbed of the garage band phenomenon of the Sixties.
There are great websites devoted to these garage bands. The one I used most extensively is Garage Hangover, where you can read all about the bands Kyle’s band talks about as their competition, in Chapter 26, including the Romans, who sometimes came to their gigs wearing togas.
I listened to “Wipeout” over and over, trying to understand how the drums worked, so I could describe them in this pivotal Norman chapter — I want you to see that he really is a drummer. I watched videos! Here are The Ventures (who are perhaps better known for the song) playing “Wipeout” live in Japan in 1966 — great for drummer-watching.
So is this fabulous, more recent, video of The Ventures playing “Wipeout” with guest drummer Max Weinberg. TWO DRUMMERS! The energy and their joy at the collaboration is infectious. I watched this video on repeat while I tried to describe how two teenaged drummers would play “Wipeout” during band practice in a suburban garage in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Wipeout” is the perfect song to display Norman’s growing drummer chops. He has a blast here, in Steve’s (actual) garage, playing his drums (the drums Molly couldn’t understand why in the world Norman would need to bring on the road, but Norman insisted on having them with him) to “Wipeout.”
And, for the first time, Molly can see that Norman really is a drummer. A drummer without a band, but a drummer, nonetheless. An important development for our heroine, who heretofore in this chapter was more interested in Dennis, the keyboard player, being, perhaps, her one-hour boyfriend in Little Rock.
From the Allman Brothers’ integrated band in Georgia, to race records listened to through an Alabama night, to FAME Studios integrated band and R&B, to the funk of STAX Records in Memphis, to the very-white world of Little Rock garage bands, Molly and Norman are making their way across the country.