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Reissue CDs Weekly: The Zakary Thaks | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Zakary Thaks

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Zakary Thaks

The ultimate tribute to Texan teenage garage rock titans

The testosterone-driven Zakary Thaks in 1967. Left to right: John Lopez, Rex Gregory, Pete Stinson, Stan Moore, Chris GerniottisCourtesy Ace Records

 

The Zakary Thaks It’s the End The Definitive CollectionThe Zakary Thaks: It’s the End – The Definitive Collection

Galloping with the urgency of a sweat-flecked horse running a steeplechase, the choppy guitar riff takes early Kinks raunch and filters it through a testosterone-driven sensibility that won’t let up. The drums are unremitting. Then, a solo guitar peels off a berserk fistful of notes which Dave Davies would have been proud of. A key change raises the intensity level even higher. And then, at just over two minutes, the relentless performance grinds to a halt. Sixties garage rock at its finest, “Bad Girl” is 126 seconds of breathless, hormone-fuelled excitement.

The lyrics too are something else. “World fell in, I'm washed ashore, Going through a rotten floor. Lovin' thoughts just start to fade, Of the love I tried to make. Mutability was bad, Muted ears thought I was glad. Stab she left has yet to heal, Oh me, oh my, the pain I feel.” Mutabilty was hardly standard to the vocabulary of Sixties pop. This was a record apart.

The Zakary Thaks, the band responsible for this angst-fuelled torrent, were high school kids from Corpus Christi in Texas  singer and writer of cryptic lyrics Chris Gerniottis was 15. Locally, in 1967 they outperformed The Rolling Stones and The Beatles on the charts. The Thaks’ “Face to Face” was number two while “Strawberry Fields Forever” sat at seven. They were the J-Beck label's very own chartbusters. Yet despite a national release of the “I Need You” / “Bad Girl” single on Mercury, they were unknown beyond their south-east Texas stomping ground.

Jeff Beck told The Zakary Thaks that 'you’re the guys with the fucking loud drummer'

It’s the End collects 19 tracks by this dynamic band and supplements them with three on which they back singer Michael. It’s not the first Zakary Thaks’ anthology, but it is the first where all the tracks have been drawn from the master tapes. The fidelity is astonishing. The title track, a new archive discovery, is as good as what they actually released.

In their 1966 to 1969 lifetime, The Zakary Thaks issued six singles. The A-side of the first was a grinding, tough cover of The Kinks’ “I Need You”. But it was the flip, their own “Bad Girl”, which picked up attention and radio play. In the liner notes to this superbly annotated collection their rhythm guitarist Pete Stinson says “The Kinks and The Yardbirds, that was it. That’s what we really liked.” The band were lucky to play a Yardbirds bill in October 1966. Afterwards, Jeff Beck told them that “you’re the guys with the fucking loud drummer.” Unusually, evidence for their strength as a live band (and drum volume) survives in an extraordinary colour film (seen overleaf) of them performing at a warehouse in June 1967 during the early hours of the morning immediately after a normal show.

From straight garage rock, The Zakary Thaks moved through hard-edged psychedelia and, towards the end, a Creedence Clearwater Revival-style straight-ahead rock. But they always looked to what had inspired them in the first place. They were American and sounded American. Yet there was always space to nod towards The Kinks and The Yardbirds as well as, archetypally, Them’s “Gloria”. Beyond covering “I Need You”, they pilfered the descending refrain from The Kinks' “Dead End Street” for their own “It’s the End”. Jeff Beck’s modality informed “A Passage to India”, while the amazing, complex and epic “Can You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps” was grounded in the Yardbirds’ B-side “You’re a Better Man Than I”.

While there’s no doubt The Zakary Thaks was one of America’s greatest regional Sixties bands and that they deserved a national break, they were unknown to wider world until “Bad Girl” was included on the seismically impactful compilation Pebbles Volume 2 in 1979. A non-legit collection of their singles swiftly followed in 1980 and, in time, more diligent anthologies were issued. Theirs is a text book case of rediscovery after the fact. And now, almost 50 years since “Bad Girl” was released, the best-ever compilation of the fantastic, infectious Zakary Thaks is here. It’s been worth the wait.

Overleaf: watch The Zakary Thaks performing live in June 1967

Watch The Zakary Thaks performing live in June 1967

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