Prometheus Steals Fire From the Gods Circa 1964

. . . starring Gary Burger

We were practicing a new step and Gary said, "Let's stop for a minute. I have to take a leak. I'll be right back." He laid the guitar against the amplifier, walked to the edge of the stage, jumped down to the dance floor and began to walk to the rear of the long room where the restrooms were. Something happened We were all standing there on stage, foggy minds thinking about nothing, when a strange hum began very quietly. At first it was just an annoying noise. No one made a move to investigate because we were all tired. Then the sound began to gather force, as if it had an intelligence of its own. It began to roar and there were many overtones, as if a chord had gotten out of control. Gary had not turned the volume off on his guitar.

Gary at peak form You could almost see the sound waves, moving as an incoming tide across the room. Gary was halfway to the restroom and stopped to look back. He was going to say, "Turn off my guitar, somebody," but Roger, out of simple boredom, had begun to beat a rhythm. It had an astounding effect - this yowling of a wild unleashed electronic noise and then Roger's heavy drum beat accompanying it. It gave the cacophony a strange sense of having been arranged.

"What the hell?" I said. I began to play a bass line along with Roger's drum beat. Dave yelled across the stage, "Makes a good song, huh?"

Gary ran back to the stage. "I can't believe this," he shouted. He jumped up on stage, picked up his guitar and twanged it, still holding its face towards the amp speaker. Sound exploded. The effect was instant. It was like discovering fire.

We began to jump up and down, as small children do when they find something that totally amazes them and yet could be forbidden. No one would call this music. We knew that, but time flies when you're having fun. We began to make the most distorted layers of sound we had ever heard - and we were doing it on purpose. All of us went into a frenzy. The sound was god-awful, as if it was going to rip the guts right out of our amplifiers. We twanged and banged, and created all kinds of non-musical caterwauling. It was an atomic cat fight. Our amplifiers rattled as if they were going to explode at any moment.

"Whoaa!" I shouted.

"Let's do that again!" Larry was laughing himself silly.

You couldn't get Gary to stop.

It was not the kind of sound we had ever heard before. It was as if the genie of the demons had entered our instruments, working without human help. We didn't have to do anything. It was there. It was the invention of the automatic atomic ear blaster - a very valuable discovery for civilization as we knew it. We stopped and stared at each other, grinning from ear to ear. For the very first time, we then listened to what silence sounds like. It sounded artificial, believe it or not. Before anyone could spoil it by saying something, Gary started it again. "Yes! I can control this sonuvabitch!" he shouted. He made a sound like a ship, the Titanic, scrapping its bottom along an iceberg. One could hear cats screaming on a fence, or even fingernails dragging across a chalkboard.

"It's beautiful!"

"I never knew it would do that!"

"Jeesus, you guys, we're on to something," Gary said, amazed that such a thing could happen right there in practice as if by accident, but then so controllable. "Roger play that beat! Eddie join in!" He began fingering the frets while the most frightening sounds came out of his speakers. "Wait a minute. Let's try it a different way!" Gritting his teeth, he pulled the guitar down to the speaker and swung it back and forth. Phases of electronic waves swelled in and out with each pendulum swing of the guitar. Everyone was yelling with excitement. He swung the guitar in time with the drums.

Then we stopped and I adjusted my bass sound, causing my speaker to almost tear itself out of the box. To make it pound, I played simple beats over and over. The bass speakers thumped and protested, giving an electronic fist to the horrifying waves of guitar sound, creating explosions of a war zone.

Using this new sound, Gary then tried to play some blues licks.

"That's too dark, lighten it up!"


Larry began to run his fingers up and down the organ keyboard as if he was on the verge of a nervous break down. He was wearing his gloves. He took them off and more precisely played discordant insanities.

"Try a Gregorian chant!" some said.

"Ahh - ahh - ahh, ahh . . . "

"Ohh! That's scary!"

Dave began to beat the hell out of his guitar. "We can't do two guitars like that at the same time." It had turned into pure black sound, creating the noise of a jet airliner taking off five feet away from your ear drums. One could get dizzy.


An excerpt from the book BLACK MONK TIME by Eddie Shaw. Used by kind permission of the author. Copies of the book are available on the Merchandise page.

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