Not fade away

Two garage-rock compilations raise The Esquires, Irving's psychedelic-rock greats, from the dead

Ours is a reissue society now, a collection of lost tapes and found masters and other such detritus being wiped off, polished up, and sold as new; the music business has given up on selling us interesting new todays, so they just throw out more and more yellowed yesterdays and hope we're suckers enough to think it'll do--which it probably will. The digital age means nothing goes out of print anymore, especially 1960s garage-rock, which has become the fodder of choice. Seems the European craze of latching onto discarded American rock from that decade has finally caught on over here--then again, sooner or later, every trash heap becomes a gold mine.

In recent weeks, discs have been issued from the likes of Collectables Records (a shady reissue label based out of Pennsylvania), Crypt Records (based in Germany with offices in Los Angeles), and AIP Records (also L.A.-based, distributed through the respectable Bomp label) featuring dozens of lost (and then some) artists from the 1960s. And then, on September 15, the environmentally friendly Rhino Records, which never met a piece of debris it didn't love, will issue a four-disc collection built around Lenny Kaye's (in)famous Nuggets compilation, the only album on Rolling Stone's list of top-200 albums never before released on CD--till, of course, now. The boxed set will feature more than 100 lost proto-punk tracks from the '60s, ranging from such well-knowns as Sam the Sham's "Wooly Bully" and the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" to the abandoned likes of Gonn's "Blackout of Gretely" and the Blues Magoos' "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet."

But all four collections have some value where Dallas and Texas bands are concerned; if nothing else, such backward-glancing reminds us that local rock and roll did not start the moment Edie Brickell jumped up on a stage and stole the New Bohemians from themselves. Crypt's Teenage Shutdown series contains contributions from two Dallas-based bands from the 1960s: The Five Americans' "Slippin' and Slidin'" and The Esquires' "Come On, Come On." The Nuggets box also features the Five Americans (this time with "I See the Light"), in addition to Mouse and the Traps' "A Public Execution" and "Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice" and Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs, fronted by the East Dallas-born Sam Samudio.

The Pebbles, Volume II two-fer from AIR features at least one Texas band, Neal Ford and the Fanatics from Houston; God knows how many more of the 53 bands are from around here--the thing is so shabbily put together, the liner notes might as well be in Braille. (Perhaps we'll make a call to Andy Brown in Houston, a damned talented writer who has spent the last forever putting together the first volume of his recently debuted fanzine Brown Paper Bag, dedicated to researching and preserving Texas' garage-rock past--now there's a man with time, hahahaha, on his hands.) Three Dallas bands are represented on Collectables' Green Crystal Ties, Volume 2: Oak Cliff's The Penthouse 5 (with the folksy rocker "You're Always Around"), Dallas' Sounds Unlimited (whose "Roll Over Beethoven" is talent very limited), and, again, The Esquires, with the groovy psych-out "Judgment Day" and the pretty (weird) "These Are the Tender Years."

"God, I haven't thought about The Esquires in years," says Chuck Snellings--who was, 30-plus years ago, the guitarist and co-songwriter in...The Esquires. "But, you know, one day a guy from New York City called me and told me 'Come On, Come On' was the No. 1 requested song on this cult underground oldies station up there. And I hear we're pretty big in Germany."

Snellings long ago put the band behind him; he lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he sells instruments, plays in a couple of bands, and tries to keep the past from catching up with him. Until he was contacted by the Dallas Observer, he had no idea the band was being reissued on two brand-new collections; no one called and asked for his permission, and no one will be sending him or his old bandmates a royalty check. But, believe it or not, that's just as well with him.

"I've got other things happening," he says. "I'm an author trying to get things published. I do wonder who will get the money. I mean, that seems to be a pretty slick deal to put these things out and not have to pay the authors. But we didn't make anything back then. If it does something now, it'd be kind of nice to hear something, but I'm not going to worry about it now."

Chuck Snellings, like his old bandmate Wes Horne (now a teacher in Burleson), was a hard man to track down. Not too many old-timers remember The Esquires. Until these reissues, they were lost to the past, just another Dallas band come and gone during a decade when every teenager seemed to join a band and record a single. There were hundreds of bands like The Esquires back then, some of which spat out future stars. Jimmie Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall played in the Chessmen; ZZ Top's Frank Beard and Dusty Hill played in The Warlocks and American Blues, while England Dan Seals and John Ford Coley were in Southwest FOB (the singular subject of their own recent reissue).

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