The Sonics are an American garage rock band from Tacoma, Washington, originating from the early and mid-1960s. Among The Sonics' contemporaries were The Kingsmen, The Wailers, The Dynamics, The Regents, and Paul Revere & the Raiders. This movement is credited with founding Seattle's music scene which survives to the present.
They played a mixture of garage rock standards ("Louie, Louie", "Have Love, Will Travel"), early rock and roll ("Jenny, Jenny", "Skinny Minnie") and original compositions such as "Strychnine", "Psycho", and "The Witch", all based upon simple chord sequences, played hard and fast.
The lyrics of The Sonics' original material dealt with early 1960s teenage culture: cars, guitars, surfing, and girls (in songs like "The Hustler", "Boss Hoss" and "Maintaining My Cool") alongside darker subject matter such as drinking strychnine for kicks, witches, psychopaths, and Satan (in the songs "Strychnine", "The Witch", "Psycho", and "He's Waitin'", respectively).
... The history of The Sonics began in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington. Larry Parypa played the guitar at that time with a drummer, Mitch Jaber, another guitarist named Stuart Turner, plus a saxophonist and an acoustic bassist. In 1961, Parypa's older brother Andy replaced the bass player and Tony Mabin took over as their new saxophone player.
Turner left for the army and Rich Koch (who had previously played with The Wailers) joined as new lead guitarist and Marilyn Lodge joined as the band's first singer—they had been an instrumental combo until this point. A new drummer, Bill Dean, then replaced Jaber.
Koch and Lodge left the band in 1963. Local star Ray Michelsen became the band's singer after having sung with a handful of other popular bands on the local scene. Larry began looking for a drummer to replace Dean, whom he felt was uncommitted to the band, and found Bob Bennett playing in a band called The Searchers with Gerry Roslie and Rob Lind. Ray Michelsen was looking to leave the band, so the Parypas hired Bennett, Roslie, and Lind and let their previous saxophonist Mabin go.
The well-known lineup was in place, but the Sonics' career as loved by their continuing cult following did not begin until 1964, when Gerry Roslie started singing lead vocals.
With Roslie as lead singer the band started playing gigs at local halls, at such venues as the Red Carpet, Olympia's Skateland, the Evergreen Ballroom, Perl's (Bremerton), the Spanish Castle Ballroom and St. Mary's Parish Hall.
They were soon scouted by Buck Ormsby, bassist for The Wailers, and signed to The Wailers' own label Etiquette Records. The first single they cut was "The Witch" (with Little Richard's "Keep A-Knockin'" as the B-side), in November 1964. This was immensely popular with local kids, and went on to become the biggest selling local single in the history of the northwest, despite its radio airplay being restricted because of its bizarre subject matter.
Early in 1965, The Sonics began recording an LP, Here Are The Sonics was recorded at Audio Recording in Seattle, WA by famed Pacific Northwest recording engineer Kearney Barton. It was recorded on a two-track tape recorder, with only one microphone to pick up the whole drum kit. It was here that they began to pioneer some of their infamously reckless recording techniques. The next album, Boom followed in February 1966. During the recording, The Sonics ripped the soundproofing off the walls at the country and western-oriented Wiley/Griffith studio in Tacoma, WA, to "get a live-er sound." The covers of both albums featured the moody photography of Jini Dellaccio.
This heyday began to wane when the band transferred to Jerden Records in late 1966, and headed to Hollywood to record the poorly selling album Introducing The Sonics with Larry Levine in the Gold Star studios. Although it has been rumoured that Jerden executives pushed The Sonics into a more polished sound, the band had decided to follow new influences in modern music, resulting in songs that were quite different from their raucous early recordings. However, the band wasn't satisfied with the material on Introducing The Sonics, calling the cleaner, slicker recordings "the worst garbage."
The original band fell apart between 1966 and 1968, with members leaving to go to university or to join other bands; Saxophonist Rob Lind became a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. Eventually, all of the original members left, with new members continuing on with the name Sonics, even though it was a completely different band. During this time the band's sound changed, incorporating string and horn sections.
The original Sonics reunited briefly in 1972 for a Seattle Paramount live show, with the recording of this show released as Live Fanz Only by Etiquette. In 1980, a new Sonics band fronted by Gerry Roslie recorded an album called Sinderella, which featured versions of the original band's material.
In 2007, The Sonics reunited again, this time for the Cavestomp garage rock festival in Brooklyn (November 2–4, 2007). The line up featured original members Gerry Roslie on vocals/keyboards, Larry Parypa on guitar and Rob Lind on tenor sax; with Ricky Lynn Johnson (of The Wailers) on drums and Don Wilhelm (of The Daily Flash) on bass and vocals.
In 2008, The Sonics recorded a live session for Mark Lamarr's BBC Radio 2 show God's Jukebox on March 22. They played their first ever shows in London on Friday March 21 and Sunday March 23.
Since then, they have played the Primavera Festival in Barcelona, followed by Bilbao, then the Sjock Festival in Belgium, Norway, and the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria in the Basque Country.
Their first show in their home region since their last Seattle reunion in 1972 was on Halloween 31 October 2008 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, where they were introduced and joined onstage for a couple numbers by Steven Van Zandt. Kent Morrill (front man of the Wailers) made a surprise appearance to help sing his signature song "Dirty Robber". Bob Bennett was also present to sit in on drums albeit only for a few songs and only while Ricky Lynn Johnson played in unison.