Gerry Roslie (lead singer and piano/organ), Andy Parypa (bass), Larry Parypa (guitar), Bob Bennett (drums), and Rob Lind (saxophone).

Years ago, I bought a Rhino Records LP called the Best of Louie Louie, which sometimes can still be found in its CD re-issue. As the name indicates, the entire record was made up of different bands’ versions of the song Louie Louie, ranging from the Rice University Marching Band to the Sandpipers. My favorite version was by a band called the Sonics. I had never heard of them before buying that record, and in those pre-internet days, there was no easy way for me to learn about them.

The first record I tracked down was called The Sonics Boom. However, the record was a re-issue, and gave no indication where the band was from, or when they recorded. With the aid of the internet, I finally learned that the band was from Tacoma, Washington, and in their classic lineup, recorded from 1965 to 1968. The classic version of the band was Gerry Roslie (lead singer and piano/organ), Andy Parypa (bass), Larry Parypa (guitar), Bob Bennett (drums), and Rob Lind (saxophone). 

During their prime, the Sonics put out three albums, plus contributed to a Christmas collection. Two things made this band have a very unique sound: the lead singer Gerry Roslie and the harsh guitar sound. Gerry Roslie had a rock and roll scream that equalled or surpassed that of Little Richard in scratchiness and soul. This, from a young white kid in the Pacific Northwest. Second, the guitars, and the saxophone as well, have a great distorted sound. This made for a frat rock, garage sound that would later be called punk. If you’ve heard the first album by the Stooges, then you have an idea of what the Sonics sound like.

Their first album was Here Are The Sonics. A lot of great songs on this one, among them, the Witch, Boss Hoss, Psycho and Have Love Will Travel, the last of which will sound familiar because Range Rover recently used it in one of their television commercials. Highly, highly recommended. Ideally it should be blasted while driving a mid-60s Cadillac convertible, but good to listen to in any setting. PURCHASE

The Sonics’ second album was The Sonics Boom. This one was the first one I bought, years ago, and has their amazing version of Louie Louie. All of the others songs are great, too, but in particular, I really like Cinderella, Shot Down and He’s Waiting. This is another great record that should be in the music collection of anyone who claims they like punk or garage rock, including fans of current groups like the White Stripes. PURCHASE

The Sonics third album was their first for a major record label, which was the justification for the somewhat misleading title, Introducing the Sonics. Purportedly, their sound was subjected to some heavy duty creative stifling from professional recording engineers and a producer. I say “purportedly” because I don’t own this one. If you buy it, and it doesn’t suck, let me know. PURCHASE

The Sonics, along with their label mates on Etiquette Records, the Wailers and the Galaxies, put out a Christmas record in 1965. Both the LP and CD versions of this are out of print, with someone asking $599 for the LP on eBay. It contains 4 songs by the Sonics: Santa Claus, Don't Believe in Christmas, The Village Idiot, and It's Christmas. The first three songs are included on the currently available CD release of their first album. As far as I can tell, the fourth song is only available on this collection. The CD version is occasionally available on Amazon. PURCHASE

There is also a collection out there called Psycho-Sonic. On this, you get all the songs which appear on the currently-available CD versions of Here Are The Sonics, and The Sonics Boom, but on one CD. However, because this is an import, the price is no less than buying the two albums individually. Still, you might be able to pick it up used at a good price. PURCHASE

Finally, there is a brand new live release by the Sonics coming out soon. You can pre-order it now on Amazon, which I have done. Some reviews have said it is the best live recording ever of the band, having been taken from early FM radio broadcasts. As soon as I get it, I'll report here.

The Sonics on the Web

The Sonics on MySpace.

A Sonics page on a site called The History of Rock 'n' Roll.