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June 2017
The Monks Hamburg Recordings from 1967

Review by Will Shade

Five unreleased songs by the Monks are now available from Third Man Records. Visit thirdmanrecords.com for more info about a CD or vinyl copy.

Monks bassist Eddie Shaw recalls the evolution of the songs, which were captured on tape just before the band dissolved for good in 1967.

The first song on the EP was a leftover from their final Polydor session. The other four songs were recorded after hours at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, where the Monks had a residency. They had just been dropped from their label, Polydor, which had released their classic "Black Monk Time" LP as well as two post-album 45s.

Eddie shares his memories below.

"I'm Watching You" was produced by Jimmy Bowien when we recorded our last Polydor single, "He Went Down to the Sea" and "Love Can Tame The Wild." Polydor was trying to make us soften our music - telling us "soft rock was in." "I'm Watching You" was not accepted for the single and forgotten for years, until our manager Walther Niemann died almost 40 years later.  He and Karl Remy (our other manager) were not happy with the softer style. The recording technique was different and done to the specifications of Jimmy Bowien hence a bit of a different sound than the Top Ten songs.

For the other four songs recorded at the Top Ten Club, a four-track machine with control board and accessories were located in a room at the side of the stage of the Top Ten Club. We did not know it was there (after working there for more than three different months). The club manager, Rick Barnes, uncovered the window by removing a panel to show us, "Look we have a studio here. You want to do a recording?" And surprised by it, we said, "Okay."

This is how the studio was set up, after the club closed, so the band could record. That's Eddie in the checkered trousers (as Eddie says, "Those ain't no monk pants!") with Ricky Barnes in front of Larry's organ.

Since we normally did not perform with trumpet - when I played the trumpet (on "I Need You Shatzi" and "Yellow Grass") Gary played the bass - therefore one can hear a difference in bass techniques.

I remember there was a vocal track for "Yellow Grass" but, for some reason, it was not there. It was the last song we were recording when we quit. Perhaps this track was somehow lost. The lead vocal was about the gritty life we lived on the Reeperbahn, the chorus repeating "Down in the yellow grass."

As we recorded, Rick Barnes worked as an engineer. There was no mix or production process. Suddenly deciding to end the session, the raw tape was taken off the machine and handed to me. That was the end of it.

More or less 50 years later - after the lost recordings were found - a copy of the tracks were sent to me, with a request that I mix them as they might have sounded when we recorded them.

This photo of the Monks with a girl named Mara ran in Hamburg newspaper with a caption stating that the Monks were changing their appearance and would not be as easily recognizable on the street as they used to be. The person second from right next to Gary was "Sutie," a drummer from "The Image" who stood in for Roger because Roger was unable to play for a couple of days, thanks to pills he took to stay awake all night.

I returned the tracks to Third Man, whose production crew assessed, worked with and sent back for further corrections. It took about three or four exchanges before the final mix was finished by Third Man Records who had Georgetown Mastering do the final master.

One memory about the Top Ten Club: Tony Sheridan came to this club often to yell insults at us as we played onstage, like "The Brits own rock and roll now!"

He would stand in front of Dave, on the dance floor and yell up at him, "You monkey!" There was competition between the Beatles' crowd and the Monks' crowd. When we would sweetly play, "I want to hold your hand," our crowd would sarcastically sing on the dance floor, "I want to fuck your hand!" It was funny and Tony did not like it.

He recorded "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" with the Beat Brothers who were later known as the Beatles. They worked the same club, before we came there - hence the two different "gangs" in the club. In fact it was a member of Tony Sheridan's group who was killed in Vietnam, on a tour that we were contracted to take a couple months after doing this recording.

The Monks' changing appearance. From left: Eddie, Larry, and Dave, Gary and Roger. Click on images for full size.




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