Saturday, May 28, 2016

Steppenwolf - 1970 "Monster"

Monster is an album by Steppenwolf. Released in 1969, it was their first LP with new lead guitarist, Larry Byrom instead of Michael Monarch. The album was Steppenwolf's most political one, making references to important issues at the time, such as the Vietnam War.
The album was the first Steppenwolf album not to feature a US top ten hit, though two singles from the album cracked the top 40: "Move Over" and "Monster".

It is difficult some thirty years later to explain to younger listeners just how well this album articulated the sense of desperation and rage at the social system so prevalent among the sixties generation. Steppenwolf lead singer John Kay managed to provocatively employ the "Monster" analogy to perfection in explaining the terrifying existential dilemma the sixties generation found itself in, trapped by the injustice and stupidity of the military draft on one side, and the unknowing, uncaring, and patently dysfunctional material machinations of mainstream American culture on the other. All that said, this particular worldview informs one of the most outrageously brilliant song cycles in modern rock. Monster is a work of musical genius by John Kay, and is an under appreciated masterwork in that sense.
The singularity of the lyrics, arrangements, and musicianship of this smash best-selling album is apparent from the opening bars of the trilogy of Monster/Suicide/America. It is highly political, but at the same time really rocks. By the way, although the lyrics may seem a bit stylized and anachronistic now, any one who lived through those years recognizes the predominating perceptions behind it, as well as the conviction many of us had regarding the patent evil that surrounded us. Moreover, the indictment of materialism and its woes is strangely still quite accurate and relevant, a cautionary tale one can easily apply to the problems still confronting America, a country that often seems for sale to the highest bidder. That itself is amazing, given all the changes that have occurred. But for simply stunning rock music, it is hard to beat songs like "Draft Resister" (my personal favorite), "Move Over", and the Monster trilogy. Sit back, turn up the volume, and trip back with Steppenwolf to that super-charged political environment of the late sixties, and take your mind for a ride. Enjoy!

With “Monster” came a fresh burst of energy with the addition of Larry Byrom (who replaced Michael Monarch on lead guitar) and his “let’s get to it” attitude. In my opinion the monster album was a stronger effort than anything since the second album. However, time was once again our enemy which made it necessary that we recorded this project in an unusual fashion. The guys came up with one track after another while I was trying to keep up with my vocal parts and lyrics. Since this was supposed to be a concept album, I had to write within certain guidelines so that the lyrics fit within the concept. During the recording of this album and “7”, which was to follow, I spent most of my time at my studio sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning, working on the melodies and lyrics. I would join the guys at American Recorders where they continued to come up with new tracks, whenever I was ready to overdub my finished vocal parts on one of the previously recorded basic tracks. On “From Here To There Eventually” and “Power Play” I also played guitar on the basic tracks. The somewhat unusual method of recording notwithstanding I was nevertheless excited each time the guys brought me a newly recorded instrumental track, since Larry and the guys came up with one great musical idea after another. Consequently, we were all pleased with the results.

Here's the back cover, sorry I forgot to include it in the download:

Track listing

1.    "Monster" (John Kay, Jerry Edmonton)/"Suicide" (Kay, Nick St. Nicholas, Byrom, Edmonton)/"America" (Kay, Edmonton) – 9:15
 2.   "Draft Resister" (Kay, Goldie McJohn, Byrom) – 3:20
 3.   "Power Play" (Kay) – 5:26
 4.   "Move Over" (Kay, Mekler) – 2:53
 5.   "Fag" (Byrom, Edmonton, St. Nicholas) – 3:13
 6.   "What Would You Do (If I Did That to You)" (Francen, Porter) – 3:19
 7.   "From Here to There Eventually" (Kay, McJohn, Edmonton) – 5:27


John Kay - Vocals
Goldy McJohn - Keyboard
Larry Byrom - Guitar
Jerry Edmonton - Drums
Nick St. Nicholas - Bass



  2. Thanks. This looks interesting. I'm only familiar with Steppenwolf from the radio and a few TV appearances in the 60s. The cover art is perplexingly strange and cheaply photographed. I wonder what they were trying to communicate with that, if anything. I'm expecting some great guitar playing, regardless. Thanks again.