Here are the Unclaimed

issued on Ouija Madness #1 1981

The day the Nightcrawler's Little Black Egg entered the KRLA top ten at number nine, the Whittier Legionnaire Little League held their opening ceremonies and annual carnival. The impetus for my attending these festive proceedings was the scheduled battle of the bands. To this day I remember the three finalists: the Shades of Blue, the Blue Shades and the Blue Knights. The judges must have been partial to blue. All three groups played Hey Joe, two played the Syndicate of Sound's Little Girl, one played Gloria. The lead singer of each outfit wore the same pair of dark glasses in an attempt to be as mysterious as Question Mark himself. As to which group won the contest, I've forgotten. All three were great. Each remained tied for the position of my favorite garage band until last year when I saw the Unclaimed.
With a set that included Little Girl and the Standell's Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White this band boldly garaged where no band had garaged before. Clad in black turtlenecks vests, and beatle boots, they exploded on the stage. Their impact was that of cranking your stereo up to Blow Out and dropping the needle into the heart of the Blues Magoos' Ain't Got Nothin' Yet. Lead vocalist Shelly Ganz and lead guitarist Sid Griffin spearhead the Unclaimed's sonic assault, and in a moment of Ouija Madness confided the following:

Shelly: We're just doing what feels good. When we talk about sixties punk bands we're talking about bands like the Standells, the Seeds, the Count Five, the Chocolate Watch Band, the Music Machine, the list goes on. We do that kind of music, it's not like it's trite, it's just the best music. We want to see it happening again, whether we do it or someone else does it.

It seems you've captured the era in both fashion and sound.

Shelly: It goes hand in hand, how you look and how you play. If it doesn't look good it won't sound good. It may not be true in all instances, cause a lot of squidy bands in the sixties sounded real cool. Like I'm sure the Castaways looked like Bozos. I don't know that for a fact.

What sort of audience reaction are you receiving?

Shelly: People really dig us. You're not always going to play to a crowd which digs what you're doing. You can be the greatest band in the world and play for a bunch of Quakers; it's not going to matter because they're just not hip to what you're doing. We've experienced that on occasion, but more often than not we play to an audience that really digs it.

Sid: Some in the audience who are completely uninitiated to the sixties thing too. I think we're neoclassicists. What we do we do real well… It's not just sixties punk, it's rock and roll.

Shelly: The latter day writers refer to those bands as sixties punk bands, because they were kind of grungy and punky. The American bands were always trying to emulate the Stones, Yardbirds or Pretty Things… the grungier bands. Other bands tried to emulate the Beatles, which had a lighter, popier sound. But those punk bands with snarling vocals, the nasal twangs, and guttural whatever were based on the early Rolling Stones type things. It was all rock and roll, but it was punkier for that time. Themes like Dirty Water, Sweet Young Thing, and Little Girl are kinda kick in the face type songs. You've got punk classics then, you've got Little Girl, really amazing, a cut above.

Does it get a noticeable reaction when you perform it?

Shelly: Oh yeah. It's one of the highlights of the set. It's a good set. There are stronger and weaker moments. There are moments when people go get cigarettes, but Little Girl blasts them every time, good energy, good feel to it.

Most people can't tell your originals from the classics you cover.

Shelly: Yeah, that was the idea, it took a long time for us to write because it's rather difficult to write in this style, to get something good. Now we're so attuned to it and so acclimated that we can pretty much turn out maybe not classics yet, but originals that are getting to the point where it's going to be hard to pick them out from the classics.

Sid: Which is the ultimate compliment.

What are your thoughts on your first EP (The Unclaimed, Moxie Records M1036)?

Shelly: Sid, I gotta say it. It doesn't matter.

Sid: Well, I wouldn't badmouth it.

Shelly: I'm not real satisfied with it. It's not thoroughly indicative of the Unclaimed. The Unclaimed are capable of much better… writing-wise. Of course the performances are rather mediocre, due to budget.

Sid: I think the material is pretty good, frankly. We learned a lot of things like what not to do. It was produced under what I call the shotgun budget. It's done by nine o'clock or else… You live and learn. The next one will be much better.

Are any major labels interested in you?

Sid: Yes, Verve, Tower, Crescendo…

Shelly: On a minor level. We've been approached.

Sid: If nothing else, I'd like to hear a song or two on the radio and have people say "the Unclaimed, weren't they great".

Shelly: I heard Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind today. If you listen to all the subtleties in that song you really see what an ingenious group the Lovin Spoonful were… Magnificent band. They were real American.

Sid: Yeah, extremely American. They haunt the punk discography of the sixties.

They're sometimes overlooked because of the idea that the punk bands were imitating the British bands.

Shelly: That's a good point. I suppose every single one of them wanted to be Jagger. But that's not entirely true. Because you have Dick Dodd (the Standells), he was amazing. Listen to the vocals on Dirty Water, what a gutter punk. It's like he took lessons in how to snarl and twang. Much different from Jagger. Louie Louie is as American as apple pie and all that. It's a God-classic. Before any of these Britishers were into anything. So punk bands were American. There were no British bands on earth who could have written Talk Talk. I was telling someone the Chocolate Watch Band were so amazing… the Rolling Stones could have been the Watchband. If the Stones were really wicked they could have been the Watchband. That's what it really boils down to. Listen to the Standells' 19th Nervous Breakdown. The Stones version is a killer, but the Standells version is almost deranged. It's so cool…

As the evening drew late the three of us became more introspective. Shelly mused whether girls would ever scream for the Unclaimed as they had for the Seeds. Sid pondered the fate of Rodger Kaputtnik. I wondered if they would consider changing their names to the Unclaimed Blues. It might help at the next battle of the bands.

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