POUTINE POP #3 – The Haunted

The HauntedOriginally for midnightpoutine.ca – link

In this series, I explore music from Montreal artists of yore, attempting to bring to light those that have been long forgotten, or chronically unappreciated. Hopefully it piques your interest in the featured artists as well as your urge to walk down to your local record shop to buy their albums.

A quick one this week…

I like dirty garage. I want it to remind me of the basement boiler room of the community centre I used to work at – covered in layers of grime with a whiff of cigarettes and booze. Listening to The Haunted’s music brings me back to those halcyon days of late-night pool cleanings, when I’d have to pass by the 1940s boiler’s hazardous open flames and low-hanging pipes to access the pool’s water valves.

Their music is garage as it should be – no-frills snarl, fuzz and bang full of, as the kids say these days, swag. Originally from Chateauguay, the founding members of The Haunted had moved to the big city by the time of their formation. A ragtag gang with the requisite mops of hair, Chelsea boots and tight-in-the-crotch pants, they had an appealing bad boy image, but they also had strong musicianship – a quality not always connected with garage music. It was a combination that first got them noticed at a 1965 Battle of the Bands held in the old Forum.

They took first prize – a recording session where they cut their best-known record 1-2-5. It’s the A-side of a 45 that sounds as though when it was first released, you had to wipe a mixture of beer, sweat and bong water residue from the vinyl for the needle to find its groove. Like the lyrics of the song, which describe a young man’s fortuitous encounter with drugs and a hooker, the recording is loose and brash and full of bad decisions. A quickie, recorded in one take with no overdubs, it has an air of cool defiance, the raw vocals, harmonica and guitar trading sinuous lines that agitate the thrum of the rhythm section. It’s the hoodlum boyfriend that wants into your teenage daughter’s pants. Soon after the single’s release, the band started seeing success, selling 8000 copies in short order.

The remainder of the Haunted’s recorded material, spread across six 45s and one LP, is a mixture of originals and covers. Notable original material includes the punkish B-side of that first single, Eight O’Clock This Morning and the sleepy blues shuffle No More Lovin’. Of the covers, there’s a particularly gritty version of Them’s I Can Only Give You Everything and a version The Tams’ Untie Me that possesses a pathetic weariness lacking in the original. They also ventured into French, recording translations of Purple Haze (Vapeur Mauve) and The Music Machine’s Talk Talk (Pourquoi).

By the late 60s, The Haunted had become one of Canada’s biggest bands. Like The Hawks’ success in Ontario a few years earlier, much of The Haunted’s came from constant touring throughout Quebec and beyond. Popularity also came from the savvy use of media. Unlike many local bands, The Haunted were able to build a strong radio presence and performed frequently on CFCF TV (now CTV).

On the road, the band played dance halls, high schools, clubs, and eventually arenas, often travelling between Quebec City and Montreal multiple times over the course of a week. Live shows were raucous affairs that appealed to English- and French-speaking audiences alike, their reputation even attracting of Bill Wyman when he was in town with the Stones. The Haunted captured the frenetic energy of a city that had, with Expo67, reached the apex of its swing through the 60s.

In 1971, The Haunted, who had undergone a number of line-up changes, began to tire of the monotony of the road. They were still drawing strong numbers and making good money, but their popularity had stalled at the Canadian border. With limited prospects, they could see themselves years in the future driving the same roads on their way to play the same shows. It was an unappealing image – one that led the band’s founder and sole remaining original member, Jurgen Peter, to fold up shop. With its disbanding, The Haunted left behind a small but influential catalogue of garage music – one that not only exemplifies the genre, but one that captures the exuberance of late-60s Montreal.

You can order a decent compilation of the band’s music online, via local distributor, disques mérite.

Photo taken from psychedelic-rocknroll.blogspot.com

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