The Memphis Goons came of age 10 years after the U.S. garage-rock phenomenon and 20 years before grunge. Recording between 1968 and 1974, the Memphis Goons were largely ignored by their fellow Memphs musicians, and likewise the Goons ignored their neighborly influences of the time–Elvis, Al Green, Alex Chilton. They were indeed a clump of crabgrass sprouting in America’s rich musical soil.
The Memphis Goons recorded in the garages and basements of its members—Xavier Tarpit, Wally Moth [Vanilla Frog], Jackass Thompson, and Rover Rollover—literally one mile from Graceland. (After “successful” recording sessions, the band members would often frolic at the entrance of Elvis’ humble abode to piss on its gates). The Memphis Goons managed to ingest all that went down in the ‘60s and subsequently infuse it with the nervous propensity of a youth culture run amuck. Influenced by great garage groups such as The Stooges,The Seeds, and Grand Funk, the Goons piled the rawness of pre-punk on top of replicas inspired by Trout Mask to achieve a noisy synthesis unlike anything in popular music up till then.
The Memphis Goons named themselves after the British radio comedy team, the Goons, as well as Alice the Goon from Popeye comics. Their initials are a tribute to the MG’s of Booker T. fame. The band came from the Memphis suburb of Whitehaven. Every day after school, the group members would gather to create recording projects they were convinced would attract the attention of the music business beyond Shelby County.
That day did occur in 1969 when founder Xavier Tarpit received a personal letter from Frank Zappa on Straight label stationary, praising the recent reel of tape the band had submitted. With this inspiration, the Goons floundered forward, their dream of suburban escape nearing closer with every revolution of the tape reel.
The nut of the the Goons’ musical genius is the so-called ecstatic monkey wrench. Just when a song seems so out-of-tune or so chaotic that it is about to collapse, it comes together in an epiphany of adolescent abandonment. There are hundreds and hundreds of hours of these documented songs, with many of them only now surfacing and reaching the light.
The Goons’ projected output of albums were all sequenced, arranged, and packaged as if they were destined to be major releases, including intricate liner notes and surrealistic scrawling. In the fall of 1996 the brave Memphis label, Shangri-la Projects, Memphis’ most beloved record label, released the Memphis Goons’ first full-length CD Teenage BBQ from this treasure trove of material–a kind of “greatest hits.” The album became an instant underground success with over 50 positive reviews in online and print publications all over the world. Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-A-Rama called it “One of the greatest garage recordings of the 20th century!” Thurston Moore said of the Goons: “The Memphis Goons are this fantastic American rock ‘n roll story.” Fans of the then-current lo-fi sound loved the Memphis Goons and recognized their clear sense of purpose and astounding commitment to the garage sensibility. Suddenly it was apparent that the Memphis Goons were the missing link between garage-rock and the Sex Pistols’ brand of punk. Indeed.
Although the Memphis Goons practiced and recorded constantly, they never got a chance to play live, except once when they were pelted with rocks and bottles by neighborhood kids in their backyard. Therefore, Shangri-la Projects gave them that opportunity on the first day of spring in Memphis in 1998 at the 10 year anniversary of theShangri-la Record store. There, they gave a highly successful performance, and although the members were 25 years older, the band’s aural madness moved garage rawness to an even further edge. From that moment, the Goons developed a strong base of loyal fans that continues to this day.
So, get your paypal accounts out and get ready to download some digital Peppo, as the Memphis Goons’ reissue series begins May 5th, 2009, in your favorite corner digital download store all over the world. It’s been a great year for the recording industry: 1st Bruce Springsteen, then U2, &, finally now, the long-awaited return of the Memphis Goons to save the music biz!
This Memphis Goons reissue series is dedicated to Rover Rollover, the Goons’ longtime manager & confidant extraordinaire, who passed away in January, 2009. Rover Rollover, wherever you are, the Goons miss you a whole lot!