Meeting Rob Lind, the saxophonist of the Sonics in Danny’s chip shop on Kentish Town Road was a life moment. He’d had the same idea as me and was looking for some food pre-gig. I’d already been to the venue and seen them soundchecking, but couldn’t get close enough to snag an interview. This was my chance.
“Hi, you’re in the Sonics aren’t you?” I know, I know. Lame. But the Sonics are one of those definitive, iconic bands which I’ve loved since I first heard Have Love Will Travel, Psycho, Strychnine, The Witch – those songs have been a gateway to 60s garage rock for so many, and I’m still obsessed with the sound they managed to commit to vinyl when they were at their peak. So yeah, I was nervous.
“Sure am,” Rob said in a friendly growl, looking over my shoulder at the menu. I let him order his dinner (I’m not a savage) and then casually started asking questions while his fish was frying.
Me: “So, is The Witch based on a real person? Do you still know them?”
Random guy in chip shop chimes in: “He was married to her!”
RL: “Haha, two or three of them actually! No seriously, when Gerry [Roslie] originally wrote it the lyrics were ‘do the witch’.”
Me: “Like a dance?”
RL: “Yeah, but the record producer said dance songs don’t last, think of something else. So Gerry rewrote it about a bad woman. All of his songs are about bad women. Look at Shot Down and Psycho, and on our new album [This is the Sonics] Bad Betty. These are all about bad women. Of which there are a few, haha.” I nodded in agreement.
I could sense his order was nearly ready, so I awkwardly asked for his autograph [pictured] and then finished my chicken and mushroom pie with a shaky fork hand as he left.This was a good start.
I’d seen the Sonics at the Forum back in 2008, their first ever European gig. They were old men even then, but they hadn’t lost any of their teenage swagger or rawness.
If anything, this gig topped it.
The Dustaphonics kicked things off with a trademark high energy performance, Hayley Red’s vocals were sexy, superhuman and gutsy. The less said about the middle band Electric River the better (seriously, how did they get on the bill??). But it was the boys from Tacoma, Washington that the ragbag audience of young and old, teddy boy and punk had come to see.
Dressed in understated black suits and white shirts, these elder statesmen of punk, these Reservoir Dogs blasted through all our favourites, plus some new ones from their latest LP. They finished (of course) with The Witch, and as that menacing graveyard riff pounded out from the stage, the crowd pretty much lost their collective mind. I’ve been humming it ever since, enchanted. Thank fuck it’s not a dance song.
There’s currently a Sonics documentary in production, find out more and help crowdfund it here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/boom-a-film-about-the-sonics
by Jody Porter