Third Man Releasing Previously Unheard Monks Songs
Third Man Records has announced that they’ll be releasing five previously unreleased tracks from the Monks, the ’60s proto-punk group made up of five American G.I.’s that began when they were stationed in Germany. The band’s sole studio album, 1966’s Black Monk Time, and a collection of early recordings was reissued by Light In The Attic back in 2009, but these new songs have never seen the light of day. They include “I’m Watching You” (which you can listen to below), a song that was recorded during the same session that resulted in the group’s final singles, plus four songs that were recorded in 1967 at The Top Ten Club in Hamburg. Hence, where the collection of songs gets its name: Hamburg Tapes 1967.The band’s bassist Eddie Shaw reflected on the sessions these songs came from in an email to Dangerous Minds. It reads, in part:
During our last month at the Top Ten Club, Ricky Barnes, the club manager, surprised us by revealing a window, on a side wall of the club, with a recording studio control room behind it. “I also produce recordings,” he said.“Do you guys want to do some tracks?” Being astonished by this news—and as our contract with Polydor had just come to an end—we agreed. Polydor was putting pressure on us to soften our style saying, “Soft Rock is the future.” At this point, after many months of constant touring (sometimes performing in three different towns a day) we were tired and beginning to disagree with each other. As many groups do, we felt the pressure of writing and performing songs—“Monk Style”—that were beyond the pale of what groups normally played. And now a couple Monks hinted they wanted to go home.With Ricky Barnes’s encouragement, we agreed to make one last recording effort, this time writing the songs in a more predictable style, a bit softer, trying to fit in with the mainstream tastes of the day. We had just begun to ignore our monks’ costumes, as well as grow out our hair, getting rid of the tonsure. Even as we were scheduled to go to Asia in two months, there was a feeling among us that the Monks might be coming to an end.
Read his full email here. Third Man affiliate Ben Blackwell went into how the record label came across the new recordings:
“I’m Watching You” turned up first, as Gary Burger had actually obtained it as part of the collection of one of the Monks’ old managers who’d recently passed away, Walther Niemann. Gary visited Nashville a few years back and I showed him around, taking him to the pressing plant where they were coincidentally pressing copies of Black Monk Time when we walked in. After a solid time spent together, he pulled out a CD and played me “I’m Watching You” and I was gobsmacked.From there Third Man worked very hard to try and coordinate a release of that song on a 7” but it just wasn’t meant to be. After Gary’s passing, both Eddie and myself asked his widow, Cindy, to see if there were any Monks tapes around. Eddie very clearly remembered all the details, song titles, lyrics, everything having to do with the sessions. After a bit of time, Cindy was able to find a couple of reels that contained multiple mixes of the songs that are now featured on the Third Man release. The tapes themselves were clean and we really didn’t have to go through any significant restoration process.I still can’t believe we’re actually releasing a Monks record.
Listen to “I’m Watching You” below.
This article originally appeared in Stereogum.