UPDATE 2/20/10 – Last night someone came into this thread and left several hateful, obscene messages about the band. I deleted them all and blacklisted the IP of the poster.
UPDATE 7/12/08 – Knight Rider Rod Pearce forwarded a picture of himself as he is today, alongside a couple of his boss cars!
UPDATE 6/5/08: UNKNOWN NO MORE!!!
Thanks to Knight Rider Jay Mierly for sending along some rare photos of the band. It blows my mind how this post, on what was basically one of thousands of “anonymous” 60s punk bands, has turned into an e-reunion of sorts, with band menbers, fans and family members sharing their memories of the Knight Riders.
The second lineup of the Knight Riders, (Top left) Mike Lentos, (middle left) Rod Pearce, (bottom left) Ryan Clark, (Top right) Jay Mierly and (bottom) right Butch Daniels
(L-R) The original line up: Ryan Clark, Greg Mahoney and Butch (Virgil) Daniels
Knight Riders Drummer Mike Lentos
Knight Rider Rod Pearce today.
The Unknown Garage Punk
I come to you today – as unlikely as this seems – well rested. I took a day off to get some errands run and managed to read almost an entire book (Jim Carroll’s ‘Basketball Diaries’) in the process (if the current pace is any indicator I will indeed be finished before I close my eyes this evening). Fortunately one of the errands involved a trip to the bookstore, so I have a follow up volume ready to roll.
Today’s selection is a tune I kind of picked up by accident some 20 years ago. While prowling a once great record store – now, like almost all others of its ilk reduced to a shadow of its former self – I grabbed an LP called ‘San Francisco Roots’, mainly on the strength of a couple of Great Society tracks that I didn’t have in any other form (this was pre-CD, at least for me). The album turned out to be a compilation of Bay Area, mid-60’s rock, folk rock and pop, much of which had been associated with the Autumn Records organization (produced by none other than Sly Stone).
Not many of the tracks grabbed me, until I got to the end of the first side and heard what was – and still is – for me, one of the true monuments to what I like to think of as STOOPIDITY (sic).
Though the STOOPID ethos finds itself lodged at the edges of all forms/genres of entertainment, some of its prime examples are found in the world of garage punk.
Say what you will – all attempts to “class” up the genre with ill-advised silk purse/sows ear efforts – garage punk is by and large an attitude driven sound. Though there are strictly sonic triggers that signify the garage vibe e.g. cheesy organ, fuzz guitar etc, the dark heart of garage punk is (mostly figuratively) SNOT.
The SNOT I speak of is the lumpy, swirling attitude stew composed of equal parts juvenile bad-assery, male chauvinism, outré displays of unbridled teenage sexuality and greasy haired, clenched fisted defiance.
All of the above, combined with amateurish attempts to rechannel Mick Jagger channeling Muddy Waters, created an entirely new vibe, redolent of moldy basements, Cuban heels and hard-ons (both literal and figurative).
Non-cogito Ergo Garage.
The track I referenced above is a great – and early (1965) – example thereof; ‘I’ by the Knight Riders.
This is a particularly apt exemplar because the Knight Riders are as anonymous a band as the 60’s garage punk underground has to offer*.
Aside from the fact that the group apparently hailed from Belmont, California, and they recorded less than a half dozen tracks – none of which saw release at the time** – before fading back into the wallpaper of suburban San Francisco, I can tell you almost nothing.
What I do know, is that ‘I’ (short and sweet, that) is just over three minutes of pure, unadulterated STOOPIDITY, two minutes and 45 seconds of which are built on a stripped down riff, and the 15 remaining seconds comprise a Yardbirds-esque rave up that would be improved upon shortly by fellow Bay Area-ites the Count Five.
Another thing I know, is that 20 years later, back when my pals and I were exhuming the 60’s, this is EXACTLY the sound most of us were trying to recreate (with varying degrees of success).
Now, another 20-some years down the pike, I may devote much of my listening time to more, how do they say “sophisticated” sounds, I always find my way back to stuff like the Knight Riders when I feel the need to get my STOOPID on.
I hope you dig it.
*So faceless are the Knight Riders (denied even a writers credit on the label), that I have created the Unknown Garage Punk to represent them (and all future bands of their ilk). Though I went to college many years ago as an art major,my pens have been warehoused of late, so forgive my rusty hand.
** The inclusion of ‘I’ on the ‘San Francisco Roots’ LP (in 1969 or 1970) was the first time any of the Knight Riders recordings saw the light of day. A few years ago there was a reissue of three more Knight Riders tracks (Where Did I Fail, Torture And Pain, Won’t You Be My Baby) on a comp of Autumn Records-associated material (Dance With Me: The Autumn Teen Sound) by groups like the Vejtables, Mojo Men, and the Tikis