The Godz (New York band)

The Godz were a New York City-based avant-noise psychedelic band that originally existed from 1966 to 1973.[1][2]

The Godz
OriginNew York City, U.S.
GenresExperimental rock, avant-garde, psychedelic rock, psychedelic folk, noise rock, drone
Years active1966–1973, 2007–2018
LabelsESP-Disk, Manta Ray Records
Past membersLarry Kessler
Paul Thornton
Mike Cerri
Mike Diamond
Doug Gussio
Rick Sambuco
Jim McCarthy
Jay Dillon

History edit

The Godz musicians were guitarist Jim McCarthy, bassist Larry Kessler, autoharpist Jay Dillon, and drummer Paul Thornton.[1] They started the band after Larry Kessler met Jim McCarthy and Paul Thornton when they all took jobs in the 49th Street location of the musical instruments store Sam Goody's.[3]

According to McCarthy they came up with their musical approach on this situation: "One day Paul came over to visit them, and the three gathered in Larry's living room to smoke a joint." What happened next was purely accidental, according to Jim: "There were all these percussive instruments lying around and out of total frustration, I got up and started shaking a tambourine or something like that, and that's how it all started. We all started to get up and make noise like a bunch of maniacs, expressing our frustration."[3]

After this event, "Larry made a suggestion that had both Jim and Paul questioning his sanity: that the three audition this impromptu 'band' for ESP."[3] Kessler had been working for the ESP-Disk jazz record label which was founded by Bernard Stollman. ESP also released recordings by another underground rock band from this era from New York City, the Fugs which heavily influenced the band. The group auditioned for Bernard Stollman of ESP-Disk in late 1966.[4] Larry Kessler recalled, "I invited Stollman to a party where we performed ‘White Cat Heat’. He loved it and booked three hours at A-1 studios in NYC, to cut a single and we did an entire album… He was upset at first but he liked it enough to put it out."[5]

The Godz' first recording session took place on September 28, 1966, from which came their first album Contact High released in 1966.[3] They released their second LP in 1967 called Godz 2. Without Jay Dillon "the remaining three Godz cut The Third Testament (in 1968), inviting several friends to invade the studio and freak out on a few numbers (a concept borrowed from the Red Crayola's Parable of Arable Land), then filling in the rest with solo numbers by each of the three remaining members."[3] Their final album was released in 1973 and it was called Godzundheit.[3]

In July 2005, Jay Dillon's niece posted a message stating that he had died several years before. In early 2007, the surviving members, Jim McCarthy, Larry Kessler, and Paul Thornton, reunited to produce new recordings. Six of these recordings appear on The Godz Remastered, released by Manta Ray Records in 2012 and another three of the recordings from this session appear on Gift from the Godz released in 2014 by Manta Ray Records. In late 2014, Larry Kessler put together a road band and billed the experience as L.L. Kessler's "GODZ" show with shows across the northeast of the United States.

In 2015, Larry Kessler's "Godz" started working on new material for release. The singles "Hungry for Love" and "America" came from these sessions. There were sporadic shows in New York, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, a few of the appearances including original member Paul Thornton. On April 29, 2016, Thornton made his final appearance with The Godz at film director Jeffrey Wengrofsky's residency at Howl! Happening in New York City.[6] In 2018, Larry Kessler's "Godz" performed at the Sowebo and Charles Village festivals in Baltimore. In 2019, the band welcomed the arrival of Mike Walker on drums, and Charles Walker on keyboards and backing vocals. Larry Kessler's "Godz" recorded "Thanks," released by Manta Ray Records later that year.[7][8]

In 2019, Jeffrey Wengrofsky released Here to Eternity with the Godz, a short film featuring Larry Kessler.[9] Also in 2019, The Godz were featured in Issue 87 of Shindig! magazine.[10]

In April 2019, Paul Thornton was reported to have died.[11] Larry Kessler was killed when hit by an alleged drunk driver in Baltimore on March 24, 2022.[12]

Sound and musical style edit

Lester Bangs published "Do the Godz Speak Esperanto?" in Creem magazine (December 1971): "What makes them so special? Well, theoretically, anybody can play like that, but in actual practice, it just ain't so. Most people would be too stultified – after all, what's the point of doing it if anybody can? – and as for you, you probably ain't got the balls to do it, and even if you did, you'd never carry it through like a true Godzly musical maniac must to qualify. You'd just pick it up and tootle a few bars to prove something, and that's entirely different. Me, I could do it because I have been years, even before I heard of the Godz. All it takes is insane persistence and a total disregard for everything but getting that yawp out of you if you gotta howl at the moon, and obviously most folks aren't gonna howl at the moon just to prove a point. But the Godz would! And not to prove a point, but because they like howling at the moon! Which is what sets them apart."[13]

John Dougan from AllMusic describes The Godz as follows: "Few bands in the annals of rock & roll were stranger than the New York City-based Godz...the Godz coughed up some of the strangest, most dissonant, purposely incompetent rock noise ever produced...Sounding like a prototype for Half Japanese or the Shaggs, the Godz play as if they discovered their instruments ten minutes before the tape started rolling. The singing is intentionally off-key, almost parodic, and the songs...well, they sound more like improvised snippets than actual compositions. And while that may not be your idea of pop music, this works, in large part, due to the absolute glee and unself-consciousness with which they approached their peculiar brand of aural nonsense."[1]

Discography edit

  • Contact High with the Godz (1966) ESP-Disk 1037
  • Godz 2 (1967) ESP-Disk 1047
  • The Third Testament (1968) ESP-Disk 1077
  • Godzundheit (1973) ESP-Disk 2017
  • The Godz Remastered (compilation, 2012) Manta Ray Records QS938
  • Gift from the Godz (2014) Manta Ray Records MR 0155
  • "Hungry for Love" (single, 2015) Manta Ray Records MR 0211
  • "America" (single, 2016) Manta Ray Records MR 0243
  • America (EP, 2019) Manta Ray Records MR 0296
Side projects
  • Alien – Jim McCarthy (1973) ESP-Disk 3008
  • Pass On This Side – (Paul) Thornton, Fradkin & Unger and the Big Band (1974) ESP-Disk 63019

Members edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "The Godz – Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Clamor of the Godz: Radical Incompetence in 1960s Rock" by Patrick Burke on American Music. Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f ""This Is The Godz' Truth" by Ray Brazen". Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  4. ^ "The Godz". Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Jeffrey Wengrofsky Dreaming is Free". April 21, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  7. ^ "Remastered by The Godz mp3 downloads on mTraks". Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  8. ^ [1] [dead link]
  9. ^ "Godz". Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  10. ^ "Shindig! Issue 87". Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "We are sad to announce original Godz member, Paul Thornton has passed away....", Facebook, April 10, 2019
  12. ^ Alan Feiler, "Larry Kessler, Co-Founder of Experimental Band The Godz, Dies at 80", JMore, March 27, 2022. Retrieved April 11, 2022
  13. ^ "The Books: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'N'Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'N'Roll; "Do the Godz Speak Esperanto?", by Lester Bangs – The Sheila Variations". Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  14. ^ Ray Brazen, "This Is The Godz' Truth (Part 3)", Brazenblog, September 28, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2019
  15. ^ Yehudah Wengrofsky,

External links edit