A fervent little noodle roiling in the primordial soup of psychedelic pop came strumming, shimming and screaming its shimmery way out of Ann Arbor’s steamy sonic bowl in the mid 1960’s. A few years before this town became known as the birth place of punk (with its iconic “Godfathers” in Iggy & the Stooges and the MC5 surging in the late 60’s), there was a burgeoning batch of bands coming out of Michigan set on augmenting their very own kinds of paisley jangle, strut junk jiving honeydrip of harmonies and hand-claps that were being bolstered by others like a Byrds or cut by a Kinks.
Groups like The Up, the Frost or Mitch Ryder put their own blue-collar raspy rust upon the young psyche-genre in those days. But while they kicked out their jams over in Detroit and its surrounding ‘burbs, there was this other group: The Rationals, that Ann Arbor could call it’s own. Their debut single even came out on a local label called A2 Records, (their first known performance, so it’s been told, was out in front of a department store on Main Street).
Anyway, I get all kicked-up over this lore because it’s exciting to look back, now, coming on 50 years, since this kaleidoscopic genre, -call it ‘garage’ (which got muddled into experimental noise-pop) or call it ‘psychedelia’ (which got muddled into pedal-heavy space-rock), call it whatever, call it caustic and call it what you will…
The Rationals can count a devoted “Guitar-Army”-of fans filling out the contemporary scene’s rock ranks, be it in A2, Ypsi, or Detroit, (particularly amongst the new-class songwriter/strummers carrying a reverence for a soulful sounding music, because however mutated that soul gets into garage, pop, or psyche, it does, clichés aside, still got to have soul).
Scott Morgan was the man up front for the Rationals, bringing a dynamically soulful, scratchy kinda belt to that microphone (as well as buzzy, slithery bleat and blare on harmonica). He continued to contribute to the culture of Michigan Music throughout the past decades, playing with Fred Smith (of the MC5)’s Sonic Rendezvous Band and recently leading the rock outfit Powertrane.
But it’s something more substantive, more endearing, more human, than just more hero-worship or a re-building-up of the best-of-clips of the bygone glories of 60’s psyche-rock.
“(The Rationals) were early notable successes in holding up R&B songs and kicking them up as standards for rock n’ roll performances,” intones Detroit-based singer/songwriter Jeff Howitt (of Duende). “They shared that Michigan Northern-Soul-Sound that eventually got played out in bands like Grand Funk Railroad years later.”
They were never as provocatively political as the MC5, but Howitt considers their jam, “Guitar Army” to be enduringly influential in its own right. “A different call to arms than the militancy that was playing out around them.”
Their legitimate regional impact beyond the rock scene should also be noted, said Howitt, who collaborated with Morgan on previous local showcases and mini-music festivals. “Their Otis Redding’ cover of ‘Respect’ was months before Aretha Franklin’s hit. ‘I Need You’ was even my parent’s “song.””
Last December, Morgan was diagnosed with liver disease and has since strove to avoid the costly option of a transplant. Thus, members of the music community have aligned (via hearty concert fundraisers) throughout the year to help Morgan in his recovery. Next Saturday brings us another occasion with a new line-up of rockers:
Saturday – December 22nd – the Bling Pig in Ann Arbor. Hosted by Hiawatha Bailey of The Cult Heroes and featuring:
The Secret Weapons https://www.facebook.com/TheSecretWeapons?fref=ts
The Ferdy Mayne https://www.facebook.com/theferdymayne?fref=ts
Cyrano Jones https://www.facebook.com/cyranojonesrock?fref=ts
That Freak Quincey https://www.facebook.com/pages/That-Freak-Quincy/490555470963317
The Static Dial https://www.facebook.com/StaticDial?fref=ts
“The Punks embraced Sonic’s Rendezvous Band as much as the Grunge kids embraced (Morgan’s) Scots Pirates in the 90’s. He’s always been a man of his times yet refining his original point,” said Howitt of the singer’s long levity. “From the Hydromatics to the Solution….”
His enduring inspiration, at least for Howitt, is as a songwriter/music-creator proving able to “live literally within ‘Revolutionary Means’” throughout his life and continue connecting to “to what’s happening…”
More info: http://www.scottmorganmusic.com/
(Art: Jenny Harley)