Local Current Blog

Jack White’s Third Man Records releasing rare 1967 recordings by pioneering garage group the Monks

The Monks performing at the Top Ten club in Hamburg, Germany in 1967 (Courtesy of Third Man Records)

The Monks, a blistering and unapologetically bizarre punk band made up of a group of former GIs from the American Midwest, spent most of their short mid-1960s career gigging around the same clubs in Germany as the Beatles. They cut a record, spent some more time in the studio recording never-to-be-released material, and then returned home to Minnesota and Illinois in 1967, assuming the band’s biggest days were behind them.

None of the members of the Monks, which included the late Gary Burger of Turtle River, Minnesota, could have anticipated that their legacy would be revived 50 years later. But thanks to a renewed interest from the kind of boutique indie labels who revel in unearthing obscure recordings, the Monks have become better-known among garage enthusiasts in the past 10 years than they ever were during their heyday.

The Monks re-emergence began in 2009 with the reissue of their Polydor debut, Black Monk Time, on Seattle’s Light in the Attic Records, and the release of a memoir by bassist Eddie Shaw under the same name. Local interest in the band gave Gary Burger a chance to drive down from Turtle River, where he served as mayor of the small town, to perform occasional and well-received shows backed by garage rock artists in the Twin Cities in the final years of his life. And now, thanks to Jack White’s Third Man Records, the final chapter of the Monks’ legacy is being cemented in the vinyl archives: A never-before-heard session that the Monks completed in 1967, just prior to disbanding, is being released on June 23.

Dubbed The Hamburg Sessions, this new Monks release includes “I’m Watching You,” streaming below, in addition to four other tracks. It’s being offered on a black 12″, naturally, with the promise of additional artifacts like rare photos, business cards, letterhead, and newspaper clippings.

“These songs have been unreleased for 50 years and are quite possibly the last music left to be heard by this legendary band,” the label says.

In an interview today with Dangerous Minds, Eddie Shaw says he had a hand in mixing the tracks and that the recordings show a “softer side” of the Monks, which the band was exploring after receiving pressure from Polydor to become more accessible. Even still, the band’s wild side comes through on “I’m Watching You”; the electric banjo of Black Monk Time may have been swapped out for electric guitar, but they still play with the fervor of a group of guys who were willing to shave their heads to express their devotion to their rock band.