The Living End – POW [1966]

“Girl, are you trying to put me down? I tell you girl, that’s not the thing to do.”

pow

This one’s a mystery, and not only to me. Many of the most obscure mid-60s garage bands are documented at the very least by a 45 or two, but these seem to be rehearsal tapes of an outfit called “The Living End”—and there were others so-named, making ‘em pretty much ungoogleable. There’s five guys in polka dots and stripes pictured on the cover, named “John, Mike, Steve, Les & Mike” on the back, purportedly recorded in Los Angeles in late 1966. Not issued in its own time, this unofficial release carried much intrigue when it appeared in the late 90s-early 00s. I didn’t want to miss out on a great lost band, and have played it intermittently over the years but not lately, and the only thing I remember about it is that the first song didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the material…

“The Street” sounds like it never got further than a backing track. I count only 4 pieces—guitar, bass, drums, organ—maybe one of the Mikes meant to lay down a vocal? Even so, it’s the most fully realized thing here, a more strutting but less harrowing “Trip Thru Hell” (a la the C.A. Quintet) but there’s little reason to trust late ‘66 date or the tenuous association to the recordings that follow, which are decidedly more pop-based. The acoustic demo “Two Fold Life”  is a great title for a so-so nonconformist anthem, featuring two voices ranting against “the masses”—one possibly the “Louise W.” who gets a thanks on the back cover? She’s not heard from again. “Words You Last Said” is a middling weepie with a jangly guitar and a singer I can’t be sure is the same as heard on the rest of the tracks. “Baby I Love You” is the only thing approaching Pebbles-like punk, employing some tambourine rattles, a moderately snotty vocal, and a considerably-short-of-proficient guitar solo.

By the end of side one, the baffling variety is played out and we’ll pretty much remain in demo territory for the duration. “Watch Your Step, Girl” is just a fragment, and in this case less is plenty. “While You’re Gone” has a second guitar and harmony vocal (complete with throat clearing) striving for a Zombies-like heartache. “All I See Is You” is comprised of mostly feeble rhymes but I took notice of the biting “Maybe your life’s been rough [but] that’s not excuse enough for what you do.” “Sanda’s Blood” (sic) is another instrumental run-through, with what could be the same bass player from “The Street” and some supremely sleepy guitar strumming. If there was an idea behind this one it didn’t translate to tape. “Baby I Love You” is the same tune as the garage stomper on the other side, but reprised here as if it were the chugging acoustic fuel of Benjamin Braddock’s search for Elaine Robinson. The minimal credits are to be taken with a grain of salt, with “Hey Joe” listed as the one exception to songs “composed and arranged by The Living End,” though it’s immediately followed by “Wyld Mountain Time,” a dyslexic’s title for the Irish folk standard. There are countless interpretations of both of these songs and neither of these takes are distinguished enough to justify the 7.5 inches-per-second of mylar.

All we may ever know about this confounding artifact is what’s presented on the release itself. Is the source a found tape with only song titles, first names and the producer initials “L.S.” on the box? Or was it belatedly and discreetly issued by one of the participants? There may be one constant member on these recordings, but as brainchild he’s considerably short on the genius needed to bring much distinction to the project. The teen revolution will need more convincing marching orders than those of “Here They Come” (reproduced here in full to add something to the sparse record):

Voices once were soft and clear, but now they’re close, so very near
They’ve learned to reason with their minds, and now no one can leave them behind
Here they come, Here come the young ones!
Time has a way of changing things, people’s minds don’t stay the same
We’ve learned to live and learned to die, we’ve learned to think and question why
Here they come, Here come the young ones!
bah-bah-bah-bah bop bah-bah
bah-bah-bah-bah bop-bah bop-bah
People have ways of changing things, conquering minds, destroying dreams
Looking for reasons to exist, only lies, in a hazy mist
Here they come, Here come the young ones!
Here they come, Here come the young!

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