Watch the Proto-Punk Band The Monks Sow Chaos on German TV, 1966: A Great Concert Moment on YouTube

Call them pro­to-punk, call them avant-garde, but the Amer­i­can ex-pat group the Monks would have been a tiny foot­note in rock music his­to­ry if it wasn’t for a slow redis­cov­ery of the group’s work. The above video is from their sum­mer 1966 appear­ance on Beat Club, a live pop music show broad­cast in Ger­many.

Enthu­si­as­tic teens bop away to the repet­i­tive stomp of “Monk Chant,” with its trib­al drums from Roger John­ston, a mul­ti-tam­borine attack, and a solo sec­tion which fea­tures both Lar­ry Clark’s man­ic organ and three band mem­bers attack­ing the strings of a prone gui­tar. There’s a sense that any­thing can hap­pen. These guys are glee­ful­ly crazy. (On oth­er songs, band mem­ber Dave Day Havliceck would fur­ther freak out audi­ences with his elec­tric ban­jo.)

Nei­ther ur-hip­pies nor beat­niks, the guys behind the Monks were five Amer­i­can G.I.s who were sta­tioned in Ger­many and first start­ed a more tra­di­tion­al garage rock band called the Five Torquays (not to be con­fused with the surf band from Orange Coun­ty). After one sin­gle, they dropped the cov­er songs and try­ing to ape pop­u­lar trends and turned into the Monks, shav­ing their heads in a monas­tic style and dress­ing in monk’s cloth­ing.

Their bru­tal, repet­i­tive songs and anti-Viet­nam war lyrics were ahead of their time, but the lat­ter was one of the main rea­sons they found it hard to break into the Amer­i­can mar­ket after they released Black Monk Time on Poly­dor Ger­many. That and inter­nal con­flict with­in the band led to the band break­ing up in 1967. You can hear a lot of the Monks in the Vel­vet Under­ground, but it’s hard to say one was an influ­ence on the oth­er. It’s more like one great idea was in the air and only cer­tain peo­ple had their anten­nas up.

The influ­ence of the Monks popped up in the abra­sive and hyp­not­ic sounds of Krautrock sev­er­al years lat­er, and by the late 1980s post-punk band The Fall were cov­er­ing their songs “I Hate You,” “Oh, How to Do Now,” and “Shut Up.”

Jon Spencer, Mike D. of the Beast­ie Boys, Gen­e­sis P. Orridge of Psy­chic T.V., and Stephen Malk­mus of Pave­ment would all cred­it the Monks as an influ­ence.

In 1997, their sole album was rere­leased and two years lat­er the band reunit­ed for a New York con­cert to pro­mote a ret­ro­spec­tive com­pi­la­tion. In 2004, band mem­ber Roger John­ston passed from lung can­cer, and after Transat­lantic Feed­back, a 2006 doc­u­men­tary on the group, sev­er­al oth­er mem­bers had passed away.

But it’s for­tu­nate that this footage exists at all, and if curi­ous you can check out the full gig here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

Kraftwerk’s First Con­cert: The Begin­ning of the End­less­ly Influ­en­tial Band (1970)

A Sym­pho­ny of Sound (1966): Vel­vet Under­ground Impro­vis­es, Warhol Films It, Until the Cops Turn Up

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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