The Standells

the standells

The Standells are a garage rock band from Los Angeles, California, USA, formed in the 1960s, who have been referred to as the “Godfathers of Punk Rock”, and are best known for their 1966 hit “Dirty Water”, now the anthem of several Boston sports teams.

The 1960s

The original Standells band was formed in 1962 by bass guitarist Jody Rich, with vocalist and keyboard player Larry Tamblyn (born Lawrence A.Tamblyn, February 5, 1943, in Los Angeles), guitarist Tony Valentino (born May 24, 1941, aka Emilio Bellissimo), and drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez). In 1961, Rich and Valentino, with singer Lanny Duncan, were in a band called the Starlighters, who recorded a demo of the song, “Let’s Go (Pony)”, in Glendale with engineer Eddie Brackett; the song went on to become a hit for The Routers. Immediately after recording the demo, Duncan left, and Larry Tamblyn joined. Tamblyn had previously been a solo performer, recording several 45 singles in the late 1950s and early 1960s including “Dearest”, “Patty Ann”, “This Is The Night”, “My Bride To Be” and “Destiny” for Faro Records. He is the brother of actor Russ Tamblyn and the uncle of Amber Tamblyn, star of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

The Standells band name was derived from standing around booking agents’ offices trying to get work. In 1962, drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez) joined the group, and as “the Standels”, their first major performance was in Honolulu at the Oasis Club. Rich and King then left, and Tamblyn and Valentino, with two sidemen, performed their first ever show (as the Standels) in California – also in 1962 – in Fresno. In late 1962, bass guitarist Gary Lane and drummer Gary Leeds, later known as Gary Walker of The Walker Brothers, joined the band. In 1963, the band first used – and permanently changed its name to- “the Standells”. After the Standells signed with Liberty in 1964, Leeds left the group, and was replaced by vocalist and drummer Dick Dodd (born Joseph Richard Dodd in Hermosa Beach, California, October 27, 1945). Dodd was a former Mouseketeer who had been the original drummer for The Bel-Airs, known for the hit surf rock song “Mr. Moto”.

In 1964, Liberty Records released three singles and an album, The Standells In Person At P.J.’s. The album was later re-issued as The Standells Live and Out of Sight. The band also appeared on The Munsters TV show, performing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. In late 1964, they signed with Vee Jay and released two singles in 1965. Later in the year they signed with MGM for one single.

The group appeared in several low budget films of the 1960s, including Get Yourself a College Girl and cult classic Riot on Sunset Strip. The Standells played the part of the fictional rock group the “Love Bugs” on the television sitcom Bing Crosby Show in the episode “Bugged by the Love Bugs”. They also appeared as themselves on the television sitcom The Munsters in the episode “Far Out Munster,” wherein the band performed “Come On and Ringo” and a version of The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, in addition to performing an instrumental in the background in a Ben Casey episode “Three ‘Lil Lambs”. The Standells performed incidental music in the Connie Francis movie Follow the Boys, which coincidentally co-starred Larry Tamblyn’s brother, Russ Tamblyn. The band also performed the title song for the movie Zebra in the Kitchen. Some reports state that early versions of the band had a relatively clean image and performed only cover songs. However, early 1964 photos counter that notion, showing the Standells with long hair, making them one of the first American rock groups to adopt that style. In order to work in conservative nightclubs like PJ’s, the group members were forced to cut their shaggy locks. Like the Beatles, early rock groups did mostly cover songs in nightclubs.

In late 1965 the group – Dodd, Tamblyn, Valentino and Lane – signed with Capitol Records label Tower, teaming up with producer Ed Cobb. In early 1966, after recording their first song “Dirty Water” Dodd briefly left the Standells, and was replaced by Dewey Martin, who became a member of the Buffalo Springfield . Dodd returned to the group several months later, as their song began to climb the charts. Hit single “Dirty Water” reached No. 11 on the Billboard charts on June 11, 1966, No. 8 on the Cashbox charts on July 9, 1966 and No. 1 on the Record World charts. Though the song is credited solely to Cobb, band members Dodd, Valentino and Tamblyn have claimed substantial material-of-fact song composition copyright contributions to it as well as contributing to its arrangement. According to critic Richie Unterberger,

“”Dirty Water” [was] an archetypal garage rock hit with its Stones-ish riff, lecherous vocal, and combination of raunchy guitar and organ. While they never again reached the Top 40, they cut a number of strong, similar tunes in the 1966-1967 era that have belatedly been recognized as 60s punk classics. “Garage rock” may not have been a really accurate term for them in the first place, as the production on their best material was full and polished, with some imaginative touches of period psychedelia and pop.”

Dirty Water is listed in the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”

Other popular tracks included “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” (later covered by Washington, D.C. hardcore band Minor Threat and Swedish garage band The Nomads), “Why Pick on Me”,”Riot on Sunset Strip” and “Try It”, which was later covered by Ohio Express. Picked by Billboard magazine to be the Standells’ next hit, the song was banned by Texas radio mogul Gordon McLendon who deemed the record to have sexually-suggestive lyrics. The Standells were asked by Art Linkletter to debate with McLendon on his House Party TV show in 1967. By most accounts, McLendon was handily defeated, but, by then, most radio stations had followed McLendon’s suggestion not to play the record.

Gary Lane left the group in 1966, and was replaced by bass guitarist Dave Burke. John Fleck (born John William Fleckenstein in Los Angeles, August 2, 1946), formerly of Love, replaced Burke in early 1967. In 1968, Dick Dodd left the band to pursue a solo career. The Standells continued to perform with a varying line-up thereafter, briefly including guitarist Lowell George who went on to play with Little Feat. Tamblyn left in late 1969 (until 1983), and Valentino led the band for several years thereafter.

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1965 album Dirty Water

  • Dirty Water
  • Medication
  • Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White

From the 1967 album Try It

  • All Fall Down
  • Try It
  • Riot On Sunset Strip

From the album Riot On Sunset Strip [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

  • Get Away From Here
  • Riot On Sunset Strip

From the 2009 compilation album Riot On Sunset Strip / Rarities: The Standells

  • Looking At Tomorrow