Count Five

(out of 10)

Psychotic Reaction: The Complete Count Five - Performance 1994
Rating = 5

You often read about the phenomenon of "shitty bands" on the television or in local books, but you never think you're actually going to hear one. This happened to me recently and my eyes were agaze with frothing ineptitude (on their part, not mine I'm a genious).

Before we get to Count Five however, I want to address the phrase "Fuck all y'all." I would never argue that the urban community isn't filled with nuclear physicists and string theory experts, but there are very few exclamations more redundant than "Fuck all y'all." First of all, as cute and rhymey as it appears to be, "all" and "y'all" are in fact THE SAME WORD. Or rather, "y'all" is a contraction of the phrase "you all." So if you consider the words "all" and "you all" to be cute and rhymey together, than that's your prerogative. However, when you speak aloud this "hep" urban ghetto slang comment, what you are actually saying is "Fuck all you all!" Is the one 'all' simply not clear enough? "Hey, fuck you all!" "Umm... you mean just ME?" "NO! ALL you all!" It's essentially like saying "Don't do not touch my peter!" or "Isn't is not that Fred's peter over there in the sewing machine?" And I understand that nobody is under any obligation to speak proper English, but if you're going to make up a hot new slang curse, it's not that difficult to make it, you know, MAKE SENSE.

On a related note, Count Five had a major-league ass-kicker of a hit garage rock single in 1966 called "Psychotic Reaction." Starting with a buzz guitar lick from Hell (that unfortunately completely disappears when the rhythm section comes in) and a long, longing harmonica chord before converting into a high-speed guitar freakout, this instant Nugget presents the band as one of the most self-assured and MEAN-ass hard rock outfits of the mid-60s, with a bright future ahead of them and eventual induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately they never wrote another good song.

No no, I exaggerate I do. But this compilation CD (featuring their one album and a few later singles and things) features 18 tracks, and maybe 6 of them don't range from generically mediocre to laughably atrocious. There are several reasons for this, and I'd like to pinpoint a few of them for you here today.

(A) They were all 18 and 19, just goofy guys still in school. With long hair.

(B) They had two singers and neither were terribly listenable. Don't ask me where the hell they got those awesome tough guy "Psychotic Reaction" vocals, because every other vocal on here is either pinched-nosed and nerdy or just weird, like the guy has an egg-shaped head. And both of them sound about 12 years old! Nobody wants to hear that! Not even 12-year-olds! I was 12 once and I remember how much we all sucked! We HATED us! Even when the music sounds fine, the vocals make these songs seem really, REALLY amateurish, killing most of the quality that might have been hidden in there at some point in our nation's colonial past.

(C) When "Psychotic Reaction" became a hit, the record company rushed the band into the studio to record an album before they had written enough solid material. The result is a bunch of novelty silliness and rotten genre exercises. Oh, that reminds me - I totally forgot to do my genre exercises this morning. (*does 10 generic Jumping Jacks*)

(D) The band featured Kenn Ellner on vocals, tambourine and harmonica; main songwriter Sean Byrne on vocals and rhythm guitar; Craig Atkinson on drums; John Michalski on lead guitar and Roy Chaney on bass. If it instead had featured Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Keith Moon and Britney Spears, it probably would have found greater success. This is a mistake that many young and inexperienced bands make.

One thing I do find incredible, however, is that their label allowed them to record so many original compositions. Usually when it was time to rush an album out in those days, they'd make the band cover lots of other "hits of the day," but on this entire 18-track disc, only 4 are covers (two Who, one Impressions, one some guy). Not sure how on Earth that happened. Maybe Sean Byrne was a large young man with a rifle?

As for descriptions, it's garage rock. Two guitars, no keyboards garage rock. Blues-influenced, Stones- and Beatles-influenced, with occasional attempts to sound 'psychedelic.' Unremarkable instrumentation and songwriting, yucky vocals, an also-ran.

Other notable tracks include the speedy three-chord trasher "Double Decker Bus," with its dumb as shit lyrics ("If you see me/Then you'll see us/If you don't see us/You'll see a double decker bus") and sub-"Psychotic Reaction" "speedy breakdown freakout" in the middle; the astonishingly weird and lovable "They're Gonna Get You," a COMPLETELY (and intelligently) fucked up song about an evil barber shop, featuring a wackass guitar line and faux-female vocals(!); the Impressions' "You Must Believe Me," a song too wonderful to ruin without putting a lot of effort into it; the dark Byrdsy psychedelic "Contrast," which hints that they might actually have developed into a good band had they stuck with it a little longer; and the great catchy uptempo ditty "Declaration Of Independence," which comes on like the good twin of "Psychotic Reaction" with its happy fuzz lead lick and inevitable "speedy breakdown freakout" in the middle.

Unfortunately, six great songs out of eighteen is hardly the baker's dozen that today's Billboard Charts require. When you buy a Christine Aguilera album, you know you're in for 10 or 12 instant classics. The same with Kid Rock. So six out of eighteen, though par for the course in the creatively bankrupt '60s, just doesn't cut it in today's hyper-artistic music industry.

To be fair and honest, most of the other twelve tracks are basically okay. They have their catchy choruses or whatever, or are at least inoffensive enough to sit through without jamming a salt shaker up your butt like Laura Bush does. But if you're in the mood for music that's simply no good at all, try not to miss "The World" (featuring such 'macho' asides as "Ow!," "Aah!," "Oh yes!," and "Whoo!"); "She's Fine" (hosting a ridiculous vocal melody that the guy can't sing); "Peace Of Mind" (boasting ugly feedback noise solos and Oi!-style group chant vocals); or The Who's "Out In The Street" ('ja ever notice how bad that song would be without Roger Daltrey? Now ya 'ja!).

The band actually reformed for an excruciatingly rancid live CD in the late 80s or early 90s or something, but just stick to "Psychotic Reaction" -- the SONG, not the album. And if you can buy it on 45-single, even better because the incredible wack job "They're Gonna Get You" is the b-side. You GOTTA hear that one! It might even be better than the A-side, because it's just so WEIRD! Why are they so afraid of the barber shop? Just because they're long hairs? Or is the CIA conducting ritualistic child abuse and mind control experimentation in there? And if the latter, does this explain why the rest of the album sounds like it was recorded by little kids with their brains wiped clean?

Reader Comments
Don't know much about Count Five except their one hit "Psychotic Reaction", but I was more interested in the phrase "Fuck all y'all". Maybe it's just the amateur linguist speaking inside of me -- which often happens when I forget to take my medication -- but isn't it possible that the two "all's" in "Fuck all y'all" have different meanings, which means this phrase isn't really redundant. Maybe what people are really saying is something like, "Fuck all (the women and/or men that you can) y'all (that are in front of me)." Taken this way, this phrase takes on a much deeper meaning than the mundane "Fuck y'all." Imagine if somebody standing in front of you suddenly says, "Hey you, fuck all y'all", then you might be inclined to get into a fist fight if you thought the person was dissing you. But what the person might really be doing is encouraging you to get laid as much as possible and actually intends the phrase as a way of urging you to do so. Now what if our world leaders used this phrase at the end of their speeches or when greeting other foreign dignitaries, then the world might just turn into one huge orgy and we wouldn't have all these problems with conflicts and wars. So, the next time you hear someone say to your face, "Fuck all y'all" you should just smile and say, "OK, I'll try." or just "Thanks, I needed that."
A bay area classic to be sure. Here’s what I remember about the record and the band.

They were from the San Jose area and attended Lincoln High School, where I believe they played their first gigs. They wore capes and wigs to make themselves look like vampires (like Count Dracula).

“Psychotic Reaction” was huge in the bay area in late September of ’66. and eventually went national on the Double Shot label (yellow label with a target on top of the label with the quotation “Every Shot Counts”. This was definitely their best effort. The opening guitar riff and that harmonica chord like a distant freight train. The double time guitar passage is like a British “rave up”. I think it’s taken om The Yarbirds cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man”, which had been a hit about a year before “PR”. The rhythmic choked guitar strum on the rave up is right off Jeff Beck’s similar device on “I’m a Man”. The lead singer at one point sounds like he is trying to sound British, and not really making it.

I was 12 when it hit and I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was selling by the crate at one point. Finally found it and played it LOUD, driving my parents crazy (the equivilant of a hip-hop song today).

They were never heard from again, destined to become members of rock and roll’s “one hit wonder” club

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