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The Litter was a garage band from Minneapolis that formed in 1966 and released three albums from 1967 to 1969. They scored a hit early on with “Action Woman” in 1967.

Formed out of two bands, The Tabs (Dan Rinaldi / guitars-vocals and Bill Strandlof / lead guitar) and The Victors (Denny Waite / organ-lead vocals and Jim Kane / bass), the name The Litter was meant to refer to a litter of puppies; however, many people assumed it meant trash, particularly after their album “$100 Fine” was released. A fifth member, Tom Murray / drums joined after an audition.

Early on, the band had a pipeline into British music and they often learned and performed songs before they had been released in the U.S. so that many people mistakenly thought they were Litter originals. Following the example of their British counterparts, Dan Rinaldi became the first person in the Midwest to
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THE LITTER Distortions album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Proto-Metal 1967
THE LITTER $100 Fine album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
$100 Fine
Proto-Metal 1968
THE LITTER Emerge album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Proto-Metal 1969
THE LITTER Re-Emerge album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Metal Related 1998

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THE LITTER Live at Mirage 1990 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at Mirage 1990
Metal Related 1999

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Album · 1969 · Proto-Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
The Litter's final album of their original career span, "Emerge", featured two new members: Mark Gallagher on vocals and Ray Melina on lead guitar. Whether it was the change in members or the change in musical styles at the end of the sixties - or both - The Litter's garage rock sound became intensified and brought them closer to the aggressive sound of MC5 and proto-punk. The first two tracks, "Journeys" and "Feeling" are short but powerful tunes, over-brimming with energy. Word is there was a loudness contest between Blue Cheer and The Litter round this time and The Litter won.

The third track, "Silly People" does begin laid back like a lounge blues numbers but you can bet that the middle of the song explodes into another powerhouse rock segment.

If anyone ever tried to intensify "Born to Be Wild" then The Litter did it with "Blue Ice". The opening riff does resemble the classic Steppenwolf song but more urgent and determined. The rest of the track features hurried suspense for the verses and chugging metal riff guitars for the chorus buildup. This is my pick for best proto-metal song not only of the album but out of The Litter's entire sixties catalogue. Listen to this one first!

Things get mellow with a very laid back beginning to "For What It's Worth" but watch that punk rock switch for the chorus. It's a classic move when a punk band does a cover with a slow intro and then jumps into high gear abruptly. The Litter, however, stick the slow acoustic verses and barreling electric choruses.

"Little Red Book" is a cover of a tune penned by Barry Manilow and I first heard Episode Six cover it with Ian Gillan on vocals (and Roger Glover on bass). This is another loud, distortion-cranked number that once again places The Litter somewhere between proto-metal and proto-punk. Another intense guitar rocker. I originally got this from iTunes until I decided to just buy the CD.

We at last slow down for real this time for "Breakfast at Gardenson's". The drumming is still active and the tempo by no means sluggish, but this song focuses more on melody and features acoustic rhythm guitar throughout and electric lead. It reminds me of a possible early version of Uriah Heep mixed with Iron Butterfly. A decent track but not long.

"Future of the Past" is the closing track of the original album and at over 12 minutes you wonder what this band of short intense rockers is planning to do to fill the time. There's the not surprising burst of heavy electric rock for the intro but then we ease back to a melancholic political observation in typical late-sixties heavy psychedelic fashion. The loud heavy theme is built into the song though, and it returns between the choruses. It certainly sounds like the band is going to try to carry this long number through. The song then seems to become really mellow and almost daze-inducing, but from one beat to the next it suddenly explodes like a locomotive charging downhill with no breaks. Fast, loud, raucous, and damn intense again, the band are hell bent for showcasing their penchant toward this new approach to rocking out.

And then, unfortunately I will say, the song turns into a five-minute drum solo. Drum solos, good though they may be (and this one is), seem to crop up on nearly every heavy electric guitar album between 1969 and 1974. Well, at least almost every band had to do it once (Cactus did it twice but they had Carmine Appice so I guess the temptation is understandable). The drum solo starts around 7:20 and takes us right to the end where the band join in for a concluding blast of chords. I would have preferred a shorter drum solo and more music at the end. It's the only disappointment so far.

The reissue includes a bonus track "On Our Minds". This is more of a fun proto-punk number with Gallagher's vocals soaring into a funky stratosphere. It definitely sounds like a bonus track as it doesn't fit in with the sound of the rest of the album.

This album really stands out among other 1969 releases. Partly MC5, partly The Stooges, partly something else, the adjectives that continue to come to mind are loud and intense. Mark Gallagher's vocals - soulful but with an edge - add an extra dimension to the sound of the band and the intensified guitars and aggressive drumming pack punch after punch. If you only check out one album by The Litter, this is my recommendation. It makes Iron Butterfly look like butterflies and Grand Funk Railroad look sophisticated. If sixties garage rock is a prototype of seventies punk then this album provides a firm stepping stone. It also turns psychedelic rock into something that Sir Lord Baltimore could grab onto.

THE LITTER Distortions

Album · 1967 · Proto-Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Thanks to The Litter, I have been able to draw some connections and fill in a big gap missing in my photo-metal education. I knew about The Kinks and The Who and I knew about The Yardbirds. There was also The Sonics. A few bands were into playing around with fuzz tone and playing a more aggressive form of rock, but I was missing out on the whole garage rock / freak beat scene. It wasn't until I heard this debut album that I realized what had been going on between the U.S. and the U.K. between 1962 and 1967. U.K. bands like The Who and The Kinks were into covering American songs and writing some originals. But then the British Invasion influenced so many American bands and suddenly all these American bands were covering British covers of American covers. The Brits wrote some originals which the Americans covered and the Americans had stuff that the Brits covered. It was a game of call and response and all the while this aggressive guitar rock scene was developing.

Not all garage rock (US) and freak beat (UK) music was the same. Some was more about melody and not much about aggressive playing. Others took a more energetic and even savage take on rock music. As I have recently been exploring the harder hitting bands of this era, I have found it interesting to hear The Who and The Kinks in a new perspective. And while many of these bands are considered proto-punk, I believe it's still possible to connect them with the evolving proto-metal scene.

The Litter was formed in 1966 in Minneapolis. Heavily influenced by the British Mod scene (soon the evolve into the freak beat scene) and British blues rock bands like The Yardbirds, The Litter covered many British songs. They had a friend who could get albums directly from the U.K. before they were released in the U.S. and learned to play the songs so that people often mistook them for Litter originals. Their debut album "Distortions" (so named by the producer because most songs used fuzz tone) included covers of The Who's "A Legal Matter" and "Substitute", The Yardbirds' "Rack My Mind" and "I'm a Man", and "I'm So Glad" which had been covered by Cream in 1966 and The Maze (Rod Evans and Ian Paice) in 1967. They also wrote several originals of which "Action Woman" would become their one top twenty hit.

"Action Woman" kicks of the album and it has become a garage rock and psychedelic 60's classic. It features some powerful fuzz toned guitar playing and a solid rhythm. The vocals have a gritty roughness to them, and this song has more edge to it than most of The Who's early output. "Watcha Gonna Do About It" is a typical garage rocker with one catchy clean guitar, one fuzz toned guitar and a steady beat. A little too upbeat for any association with heavy psych or metal but nevertheless a good example of the style at the time.

"Codine" is slower and an anti-drug song that reminds me of a more primitive but somehow similar concept to Steppenwolf's "The Pusher". "Somebody Help Me" has more of a light pop sound and cheery melody but the music still holds a level of power that seems to have a hard time constraining this to a pop single.

The Litter's covers of "Substitue" and "A Legal Matter" stay pretty close to The Who's originals, which means that "Substitute" is pretty light except for the guitar solo. They didn't try to muscle it up like Great White did for their debut in 1984. "A Legal Matter" has a little more bite to it, but up to here The Litter are more aggressive when they do their original songs. The instrumental "The Mummy" makes use of a different scale and some very harsh fuzz tone guitar chords. It's too bad the tracks is only 1:24 of music and the last ten seconds are just feedback fading out.

"I'm So Glad" sounds as it always does. If you like it then hearing it here to will be good for you, too. I've never been big on it but listening to it now as I type, it sounds pretty intense. One interesting point is the guitar solo which makes me think more of the Deep Purple version to come out in 1968.

The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck were more aggressive and experimental in the lead guitar department, and the two songs covered by The Litter here capture that wild side. There's a lot of loud and raucous guitar here, especially on "I'm A Man" where on the original, Jeff Beck did a lot of freeform work. Guitarist Tom "Zippy" Caplan doesn't exactly try to emulate Beck but gives his own rendition of an untamed guitar assault. "Rack My Mind" is more restrained and features some harmonica so that it sounds very close to The Yardbirds' original.

One other track, The Litter original "Soul-Searching" backs very nicely with "Action Woman". It's another gritty and hard garage rock effort with a serious tone though less distortion than "Action Woman".

Though still a ways away from the more serious heavy music that was emerging in 1967, The Litter's debut is a great example of the garage rock sound on the cusp of the psychedelic explosion. Particularly guitarist Caplan's soloing is worthy of note. But The Litter were going to become much heavier in two years time. Three stars for a hard-hitting rock album with lots of loud and noisy guitar work.

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