The mid ’60s will forever represent social change and upheaval, synonymous with civil rights, women’s liberation, the war in Vietnam, and the sexual revolution. But the biggest shift was the youth movement, boasting its own rock and roll soundtrack – from the Beatles and Beach Boys to the Leaves and Bobby Fuller Four – and the P.F. Sloan-provided slogan, “old enough to kill but not for voting.” It’s a daunting subject to tackle, but Domenic Priore does an admirable job.
The first edition of Riot was published in 2007. Priore has also authored Smile: The Story Of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece, was editor of The Dumb Angel Gazette, and is a music and pop culture chronicler, particularly regarding Southern California.
The research involved in this tome is indeed impressive. Citing a heap of published and broadcast sources, as well as personal interviews he conducted, Priore gives space to a legion of bands, clubs, and personalities. And while more ink is devoted to the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Love, the Mothers Of Invention, and the Doors, figures like Lee Hazelwood, Jack Nitzsche, the Electric Prunes, and the Music Machine also get their due.
The time frame may revolve around a year-and-a-half period from 1965 to ’66, geographically centered around the greater Sunset Strip area, but Priore understands that that brief heyday didn’t blossom (and destruct) in a vacuum. He puts it in context, embracing doo-wop, surf music, folkies, Chicano R&B from East L.A., and the garage-punk that presaged the more “serious” bands.
At 400 pages, the volume has three eight-page photo sections. An unintended treat for guitar geeks are the band photos, showing a wider variety of makes and models than you’d see on bandstands today. There isn’t a Les Paul to be found, and the only Strat is Dick Dale’s backwards-strung lefty. The Standels preferred Ekos, and the Chocolate Watchband were outfitted with Voxes. In a studio shot of Kaleidoscope backing R&B greats Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Larry Williams, David Lindley can barely be seen behind a mic stand, playing a vintage Gibson harp guitar. But the most oddball guitar prize goes to Johnny Echols of Love, surrounded by dancers at the Hullabaloo, playing a double-neck Stratosphere Twin!
This edition’s revisions mainly consist of some new pictures, a restyled cover, and a short but informative epilogue interview with Stephen Stills, talking about the police riot that squelched a peaceful protest over the closing of the popular club Pandora’s Box, inspiring his classic “For What It’s Worth.” But with the first edition commanding hefty prices, this is a bargain and, most of all, essential reading.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.