In case you missed it, I posted a 60’s fuzzy garage punk playlist a couple years ago of which I’m quite proud. By 1968 most of the mid-60s garage punks were full-fledged flower power psychedelic weirdos, and the new songs and records reflected that. A lot of that stuff is good, but it lacks the punch of the raucous and rowdy 1965 records.
In 1969, Black Sabbath came along and stuffed all that shit in an open grave. They hung on to some of the lyrical themes that had been planted in the psyche records. The mysticism, wizards and witches, and all that. But they backed it up with thunder, lightning and gloom. And it didn’t take long for a bunch of other long-haired acid freaks to put their sitar and flutes down and pick back up their guitars.
With the post-Sabbath surge of fuzzy, distorted and heavy records, came lyrics and themes to match, and when you put a bunch of those tracks in sequence, they make a great soundtrack to the September and October months. These aren’t necessarily Halloween party tunes or anything, but if you’re driving around in your car or pushing along on your skateboard, these songs give off nice Halloween vibes. Plus, they are cool as shit. Let’s get to it.
Ash – “Midnight Witch” (1970). Ash were an Australian band that, according to Discogs, released only two singles, both in 1970. I’ll go ahead and note here that several of the tracks on this list are ones I discovered via the Brown Acid compilation series, which currently sits at six volumes (the most recent was released this year). This is a phenomenal series that is worth digging into as the focus is obscure and lesser known proto-metal bands from the 70s, thereabouts, that mostly recorded a single or two and then were forgotten. Really good shit.
Cactus- “Evil” (1971). Cactus are one of the more well-known bands on this playlist. They were an early US heavy metal band that featured Carmine Appice on drums. “Evil” is a cover of the Howlin’ Wolf tune.
Nazareth- “Sold My Soul” (1973). These guys are probably the biggest band on this list, due to their classic rock radio staples “Love Hurts” and “Hair of the Dog”. It was a revelation to me, pretty recently, that this band is so much more than those songs. I’ve been flipping past their records in the used vinyl bins for years and years, without giving them a second thought. I don’t know exactly how I came to check out the Razamanaz album recently, but it really blew me away. “Sold My Soul” has a dark tone that fits well here and fucking rocks.
Axas – “Lucifer” (1975). Just check out the cover to the single for this track below. If this mid-70s tune wasn’t a precursor to Merciful Fate’s style of metal, I don’t know what is. It wavers back and forth from heavy to haunting and slower, with keyboards accenting the whole affair. This is Halloween. According to Discogs, this band also released a full-length album in 1979 called Broken Dreams, so I’m gonna have to look around for clips from that.
Pentagram (pictured above) – “When the Screams Come: (1970-something). I’m not sure the exact year this version of the song was recorded, but it has been re-recorded by the band a few times. Pentagram has a long and storied history, convoluted to say the least, and you can read it on Wiki and probably other places. Legendary, cult band from Virginia, and they fucking destroy.
Spooky Tooth – “Evil Woman” (1969). Okay, yes, this song is from 1969 but fuck it, I’m including it. They aren’t my favorite band on this list but I’m not leaving a band called Spooky Tooth off my proto-metal Halloween playlist. Members of this band went on to join punk/powerpop band The Only Ones in the 70s (“Another Girl, Another Planet”) and Mott the Hoople. Spooky Tooth was indirectly part of the whole 80s subliminal-message-on-records thing, as Judas Priest recorded another ST song from the Spooky Two LP, “Better by You, Better than Me”, for their 1978 Stained Class album. Their cover would resurface in 1990 as part of a lawsuit claiming that in 1985, a message in the record led two fans to attempt/commit suicide.
On a much lighter note, Spooky Tooth’s Gary Wright also wrote and recorded the single “Dream Weaver”, which if you are like me, translates to “Schwing!”
Iron Claw – “Skullcrusher” (1970/1971ish). By the band name, song titles and imagery, there is no doubt that Iron Claw are here (or were here 40 plus years ago) to destroy the world. I don’t know much about this band, but according to a reviewer on Discogs, they were an underground 70s Scottish band whose 70s recordings didn’t see wide (relatively speaking) release until 2009. According to the same reviewer, these guys started as the first Black Sabbath tribute band and their earliest live shows consisted of playing the entire first Sabbath LP and single, before penning their own tunes.
Truth & Janey – “Midnight Horsemen” (1972). This single was released in 1972 with a cover of The Stones’ “Under My Thumb” as a B-side. In theme and tone, this track fits snugly with its brethren. I came across this on the aforementioned Brown Acid series, but it also looks like these dudes put out two LPs in 1976 and 1977.
Grand Theft – “Scream (It’s Eating Me Alive)” (1972). This band appears courtesy of Brown Acid, but they look to have released an LP as well, for which this track is a single. This one is cool because, especially with the rowdy vocals and the opening snarly “It’s eating me alive ahhhhh”, it reminds me of those mid-60s punks that came first but mixed with the post-Sabbath heaviness. It’s a fun song and this could be good at a Halloween party.
PurpleSun – “Doomsday” (1970). I found this one on a compilation called For A Few Fuzz Guitars More (there are a few of these with Clint Eastwood movie-themed titles). This was the standout track from the comp and I listen to it all the time, any time of year—but it fits well with the spooky season, to be sure. Discogs doesn’t have much on these guys, but they released one single. The drummer for the band, Bobby Rafuse, commented on a YouTube video of this song and provided a little info. They were from League City, TX, and they later added a female singer to the mix. I’d really like to hear more from this band, if even just the B-side to this single, “Give Your Life”, which does not appear to be on YouTube.
If you start digging around in this sub-genre, it seems to yield limitless bands, records and singles. Some of the early 70s proto-metal is on the brink of being forgotten, but fortunately there are labels reissuing records and compiling singles into accessible collections and giving this stuff new life. I’ll go out on a short limb and say none of it is as good as Sabbath. It doesn’t have to be. Some of it doesn’t try to be. Some of this stuff rings closer to punk rock, or at least primitive, frenetic Stooges-y kinda punk.
I hope you dig this playlist.
Listen on Spotify here.