Epics

Live - Selma, Alabama 1964

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The Epics were a rock band formed on a military base in Montgomery, AL, in 1961 by guitarist Walt Smith. Their sole purpose it seemed was to tour military bases in their home state. This somewhat primitive master is the only recorded live evidence of the Epics. Some of their singles have been compiled on Kim Records anthologies, but this is the only live date that has survived the time machine. What's most interesting about his record, merely a garage band from a particular place and time, is how focused they are on covers -- the entire recording is comprised of them -- when they had plenty of originals, and were supposedly well-known on the premises of the place they played. The music is not raunchy enough to lend it the moniker "garage classic," though it does have an Elvis meets James Brown version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On," and "Memphis, Tennessee," which would make it the first attempt at white-boy funk in Selma, AL. The rest, whether it's "Wooly Bully," "Love Potion #9," or "Long Tall Sally," are better than pedestrian, but far from defining moments for any of those songs. But the nostalgia question still nags: did these guys play this rudimentary set of well-known rock hits because that's what the cats in the Officer's Club in Selma wanted to hear, or was it because subconsciously they were shaken by the fact that the first civil right march had taken place earlier that year, as had the escalation of the Vietnam war and the Beatles had invaded America? Sometimes the old and familiar can be a rock to cling to -- no pun intended -- when the rest of the foundation gets washed and swept away. Does this sound like too much of a stretch? Then give this disc a listen and hear the fear quivering in the grains of these voices for yourself. The Selma Officer's Club might have been the only safe place in the world for the Epics, who broke up very shortly after this date. While that fear and loathing may not make for great rock & roll, they make for awesome frightened rock & roll, and a hell of a historical document. I wonder if George Wallace ever heard them play?

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