Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They’re the first to come and the last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They’ll set it up in another town
Now roll them cases out and lift them amps
Haul them trusses down and get’em up them ramps
Cause when it comes to moving me
You guys are the champs
But when that last guitar’s been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano
The lyrics above are from Jackson Browne’s 1977 song “The Load Out,” which mentions roadies. I had this song rolling across my mind, as I was a roadie for Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” tour in Roanoke, Virginia last month. While taking a break from roadie duties that day, I received a call from my friend Bruce Bias.
After finishing small talk, Bias asked me the question: “What is Frat Rock?” My friend had been listening to E Street Radio on SiriusXM and heard Bruce Springsteen mentioning that he used to play Frat Rock music in the early days of his career before the release of the “Born to Run” album in 1975.
I didn’t know quite how to respond to his question. The only thing that initially came to my mind was music that was played in the 1978 film, “Animal House.” Or maybe it was music that is played by garage bands?
Before ending our phone chat, I told Bruce that I would research the meaning of Frat Rock and get back with him. Obviously, I educated myself on the subject and am ready to share my thoughts with Bruce and to everyone else who is reading about Frat Rock now.
The week that I was researching Frat Rock, I watched the 1996 film, “That Thing You Do!” for the first time. Written and produced by Tom Hanks, the movie chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional 1964 “one hit wonder” garage rock band.
The film accurately portrays what a typical garage band would be like in the mid-60’s and paints the picture of what many Frat Rock bands had to deal with during that time period. My daughter Amy recommended the film to me and I am now recommending the movie to all who are reading this message.
So what is Frat Rock? This genre of music is closely associated with the garage rock bands that became popular after Beatlemania swept across America in 1964. Frat Rock is also associated with 60’s R&B grooves: songs that have fast up-tempo beats and explosive choruses that can be sung by multiple singers.
Many of the early Frat Rock songs sounded like a party was happening in the studio when the song was being recorded. Backup singers on these early recordings would hand clap, shout, laugh, holler and make it sound like a party was being thrown while the song was actually being made into a record.
Quite a few Frat Rock songs released in the 60’s were made by rock bands that were either “one hit wonders” or tended to not have more than two or three major Top 40 hits. Later on during the 70’s, Frat Rock’s biggest acts were J. Geils Band and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. These two bands featured plenty of guitars along with keyboards and saxophones.
One of the finest examples of Frat Rock from Bruce Springsteen comes from “The River “ album and the song, “Sherry Darling.”
During the 35th anniversary of Springsteen’s “The River” tour in 2016, Billboard Magazine had this to say about his “Sherry Darling” song: “The whooping party noises on this throwback frat-rock stomper provide a funny contrast with the lyrics, all about a guy stuck driving his girl’s pain-in-the-butt mother to the unemployment agency. Springsteen based the tune on ‘60s classics like the Swingin’ Medallions’ ‘Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,’ and he nails the vibe while injecting just enough sociopolitical angst to make it his own.”
During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Frat Rock songs became a mainstay for college fraternity parties. Perhaps the most celebrated Frat Rock song of all time is the tune called, “Shout.” The Isley Brothers wrote and recorded the song in 1959 but in was immortalized in the 1978 movie, “National Lampoon’s Aminal House.”
In the “Animal House” film, Otis Day and the Knights perform a cover version of “Shout” at a fraternity party that features drunken frat boys in togas dancing with sorority sisters. “Shout” is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone magazine ranks the song at number 118 on their, “500 Greatest Songs of All Time Listing.”
So what do music critics consider to be the best Frat Rock songs of all time?
ThoughtCo.com has a listing of their Top 10 Frat Rock songs:
- Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love—The Swinging Medallions
- Louie Louie—The Kingsmen
- Wooly Bully—Sam the Sam and the Pharaohs
- Nobody But Me—The Human Beinz
- Quarter To Three—Gary “U.S.” Bonds
- Shout—Isley Brothers
- 96 Tears—? And the Mysterians
- Land of a 1000 Dances—Cannibal and the Headhunters
- Farmer John—The Premiers
- Mony Mony—Tommy James and the Shondells
There is even an album called, “Frat Rock! The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Tunes of All-Time.”
Some of the songs on this compilation album from Rhino Records include:
- Gimme Some Lovin’—Spencer Davis Group
- Hungry—Paul Revere and the Raiders
- Keep on Dancing—The Gentrys
- Barbara Ann—The Beach Boys
- Wipe Out—The Surfaris
- Wild Thing—The Troggs
- Do You Love Me—The Contours
- Dance To The Music—Sly and the Family Stone
- Reelin’ and Rockin’—Chuck Berry
- Function at the Junction—Shorty Long
And now some of my favorite underrated Frat Rock Songs:
- (We Ain’t Got (Nothin’ Yet)—Blues Magoos
- Pushin’ Too Hard—The Seeds
- Talk Talk—The Music Machine
- You, I—The Rugbys
- Shape of Things To Come—Max Frost and the Troopers
- Birthday—Underground Sunshine
- Hot Smoke and Sasafrass—Bubble Puppy
- I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)—Electric Prunes
- Psychotic Reaction—Count Five
- Did You See Her Eyes—The Illusion
Obviously, my thoughts on Frat Rock are just the tip of an iceberg. If you want more information about this genre of music, there are many places on the Internet to satisfy your curiosity about the various aspects of Frat Rock.
And to everyone else who is reading this message now: You don’t have to be a former college fraternal brother to enjoy the type of music described on this blog.
Everyone can delight listening to this musical genre. Long live, Frat Rock!
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