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LIST: Top 10 Garage Rock 45s from Mississippi

1. "No Tease" b/w "Lonely Girl" by The Fugitives, from Pascagoula (no label, 1966). The greatest single ever recorded on two-track in a living room! Everything you need to know about the band is spelled out right there on the label. THE FUGITIVES—A TEEN-AGE GROUP! And I don't care if my hometown bias is showing or that "No Tease" is just a ham-handed attempt at "Fortune Teller," this record is untouchable: the eternal soundtrack to undying pubescent nowhere and a wrecking ball aimed square at the Parrothead of P-Goula's only other famous son.



2. "Cigarettes" b/w "Street Walker" by Lonnie Duvall, from Greenville (Hip, 1967). Vice versus vice; you can't lose with either side. After leaving Greenville's mop-tops most-likely-to, The Lancers (one single on 3J), singer/songwriter Lonnie Duvall set off to find his fortune upriver. Recorded in Memphis with top-flight session cats and production, both "Cigarettes" and "Street Walker" are ace organ moodiness personified.  Think Steve Marriot gone teen angst instead of teen idol, and you're there. Sadly, Duvall's demons proved all too real, and the singer took his own life shortly after this single was released.

3. "Workin Tired" b/w "Gonna Be Nice Tonight" by The Phantoms, from Cleveland (Flash, 1965). Eternity's Children's pre-history is much more exciting to write about (and listen to) than anything within the anonymous sub-Association scope that consists of the band's official catalog. This record, along with discs the likes of Soule Survivors and The Flower Power, is no different, and finds Cleveland, Mississippi's finest slurring out hot-loads of snot, twang, and attitude with nary a hint of Boettcher, bubblegum, or Starbuck. Moonlight may feel right, but that's just too bad, 'cause The Phantoms are workin' late.

4. "Stop! Check It" b/w "Orange Skies" by The Flower Power, from Gulfport (Tune-Kel, 1969). The searing mythological guitar meltdown on The Flower Power's third single ("Mt. Olympus") has long been considered the lysergic plateau for Gulfport's finest fuzz-punks. That may actually be the case, but CliffsNotes are for tourists, and my tastes say otherwise. On top of a rather laconic and almost lounge-y version of Love's "Orange Skies," which is better off unheard, bestrides this colossus of unrelenting fuzz, wah-wah, pounding drums, and shouted lyrics consisting of only four short words ("Stop! Check it! Yeah!"). Essential!



5. "Straighten Up and Fly Right" b/w "See What My Love Means" by The Kidds, from Greenville (Big Beat, 1966). "A record that's available every day of the week for fewer than ten dollars can't possibly be good," goes the received wisdom of generations of nugget-sifters and pebble-prospectors. Well, the turkeys are wrong again. A movin'-and-a-groovin' adolescent rumination on the importance of fidelity, imploring the unnamed beloved of one of the band members to alter her flight path lest she risk crash-landing into full-blown hussydom. Double standards and male chauvinism are rarely this danceable. Get it!



6. "Death Angel" b/w "Please Walk on By" by Substantial Evidence, from Biloxi (Groovy Grape, 1967). The best-dressed Raider lookalikes in town and one of only a handful of local garage records I've ever found outside of the den of eBay, Sub Ev on their lone single eschew the rave and raunch of the garage and head straight for the filigree and rococo of The Left Banke. Baroque pop on a flat-baroque budget recorded by the legendary Cosimo Matassa in New Orleans, "Death Angel" has everything you could possibly want from a lyte-sike trip: strong harmonies, jingle-jangle, lyrics that tingle up your spine ("A girl with her face turned backwards/Smiling so no one else can see") and a label design that looks like Hanna-Barbera on acid. Two versions of the single exist—both featuring the same A-side—but only the first version sports graphics truly worthy of the Groovy Grape brand.



7. "Looking for Love" b/w "You Better Move On" by The Cavaliers, from Kosciusko (Spot Light, 1966). Looking for love in all the wrong places, as they say, The Cavaliers of Kosciusko cannot be faulted for failing to break out of the hometown of Oprah Winfrey with their Byrds-y melancholy message. If anything, they should be lauded for existing at all and having great taste in cover material (Arthur Alexander). The Cavaliers' single was later picked up by Shelby Singleton's SSS International label, but, after a name change to The Moving Violations failed to stop traffic, the band fell apart. Very worthy, and a new one to me.

8. "Bad Girl" b/w "Sticks" by The Riviaires, from Oxford (Steck, 1965). The garage-rock revival has produced an unusual strain of apologism within the music-critic community. Bands that couldn't play a note are defended and lauded, not for having fun or for being teenagers, but for supposedly representing the vanguard of some phony punk-anticipating DIY da-da blah-blah that has more to do with the liberal-arts degrees possessed by the folks pecking the keys than it does the music. All that said, this is one of the most untogether, unprofessional, and awesome rackets you will ever hear. Median age of the band members was barely fourteen, and it shows. A record that cries out for a drinking game for every flubbed note. I lose it every time the singer cries out for the band to cut loose. People who try to defend records like this as anything other than fun have sadly misunderstood both Lester Bangs's thesis and the purpose of most garage rock itself.

9. "Catch That Girl" b/w "It Really Works" by The Soul Shakers, from Jackson (Ace, 1965). Likely owing to the presence and successful archetype offered by The Gants, there were Mersey wimps aplenty in the burgs and villes of the Magnolia State in the mid-to-late-'60s (listen to singles by The Lancers, The Bridge, and The Phinx, if you don't believe me). But my blue-ribbon prize has to go to The Soul Shakers for truly capturing the feeling of that first awful teenage rebuff. This record plays almost like a before and after. A-side, Mersey-euphoric—"You know you gotta catch that girl." B-side, bummed-out let-down—"If you laugh enough, pretend enough, the hurt will go away." This single almost always makes me want to pull down my old yearbooks and start combing through the white pages. Recorded at Ace in Jackson by Johnny Vincent, who was the cousin of one of the members.

10. "My Last Impression" b/w "Corinna, Corinna"/"A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" by The Sugar Cube Blues Band, from Grenada (Black Crow, 1967). Like The Mystic Tide of the South, "My Last Impression" washes over you with an almost tribal mix of keys, fuzz, and lead tambourine that sounds like nothing else produced by the state. The singer pleads like Sky Saxon for leniency and understanding. The Dylan cover on the flip is also rad. The band recorded a further demo LP that was released by Rockadelic in the mid-'90s, but which is now sadly unavailable.


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