Saturday, April 22, 2017


When I was in my teens, most of my good friends were made at the beach. I could share a class with a person, even become friends, but they would rarely become a good friend if there wasn't some sort of shared time at the beach. Among these guys were three brothers, all slightly younger than me. I would end up in a band with the middle brother, but it was short lived for me. I never made it to playing out with them. I had a habit of getting a little too lubricated before practices and the final straw, unbeknownst to me when it happened, was when the youngest brother, who was in his early teens at the time, came back to the garage and asked if he could sing a few songs. He was messing around, playing with other guys his age, and he was to be their singer. So, yeah, sure kid, "show us what you got", right? Let's try "Louie, Louie". Everybody knows that, backward and forward. Then he whipped out a spiral bound notebook in which he had transcribed lyrics. He was going cheat sheet. On "Louie, Louie". The horror. That's what my lubricated mind was telling me. I yanked the notebook out of his hand, through it against the wall and said something to the effect of "If you don't know the lyrics to 'Louie, Louie', make 'em up." I was never called for another practice. A few months later, I was relieved when I saw them playing at a party. I won't say they sucked. Let's just say that my idea of "ready" and theirs were different.

A few years passed and the youngest brother was still playing with the same gang. They were called the Monsters. I never bothered to see how they had developed, I was on to other things. By the time they secured a weekly gig at a local watering hole, I had been told that their gigs were a good time, so I decided to check them out. I wasn't expecting much, but I'd forgotten that they'd been playing together for several years. They had better chops, they had the confidence that comes with going through high school as the band that played at all the keg parties, and now they were of drinking age. On this particular night, they were well lubricated.

Among the Who, Kinks, surf and other cover band specials, they covered "Why Don't You Smile Now", a rather obscure choice. It's one of the first songs Lou Reed and John Cale wrote together, from the days when they were staff writers for Pickwick Records. The first recording of it was as a B-side by the All Night Workers (a band that included an ex-college roommate of Reed's). Sometime after that, the Downliners Sect covered it, and from that, somewhere around 1980, the Crawdaddys covered it. That's the version the Monsters probably picked up on, being that the Crawdaddys were a local band. The song's been covered by others as well, but I gotta say, all these years later, when I hear that song, any version of it, my memory is of the youngest brother singing that song, a drunk shitting eating grin on his face, with the looseness that only confidence, beer, and a "who gives a fuck" attitude can bring. I remember thinking on the way home, the kid did good.

The Downliners Sect - Why Don't You Smile Now mp3 at Internet Archive
The Crawdaddys - Why Don't You Smile Now
(streaming) at YouTube
The All Night Workers - Why Don't You Smile Now mp3
at Roio
Donnie Burkes - Why Don't You Smile Now
(streaming) at YouTube
Thee Headcoat Sect - Why Don't You Smile Now
(streaming) at YouTube


sundberg39 said...

Thanks, Tom. The memories still bring a shit eating grin to my face.-Scott S.

Tom G. said...

I really was surprised at how good you guys were. In retrospect, I wish I would have seen you more often. I was really blown away when you played "Why Don't You Smile", I remember thinking "Boy, they sure pulled that one out of their ass!"