For a band to not only last 30 years together but keep scaling more imposing heights, it’s going to need a sense of purpose. In the case of The Woggles, the seasoned garage rockers are greeting the milestone with a renewed rallying cry to move ever forward, a three-syllable statement of intent which also serves as the title of their new album on Wicked Cool Records, Tally Ho!
“Tally-ho” is the traditional call of the British hunter upon seeing a fox. This distinctive exclamation serves as a mission statement, then, for a band eager to go forth and conquer. “The band is not as much an institution as a way of life,” says frontman “The Professor” Mighty Manfred. “The main thing is to keep swimming, since the shark that fails to swim dies.”
Suited up and riding shotgun on the hunt alongside Manfred are guitarist Flesh Hammer — who first cut his teeth with ’80s buzz band Guadalcanal Diary — and the sock-it-to-them rhythm section of bassist Buzz Hagstrom and drummer Dan Eletxro, both also sometime members of savage English rockers Graham Day & The Gaolers.
“One of our strengths is that all the members contribute songs and song ideas,” notes Manfred. “On Tally Ho!, Dan and Buzz both have songs that Little Steven picked as singles from the album, ‘What You Think We Are’ and ‘Waiting For The Rain,’ respectively.”
“Alan Freed once said that ‘Rock and roll is a river of music that has absorbed many streams,’” quotes Manfred. “The Woggles drink from its many tributaries, from early rock and roll and R&B to ’60s garage rock, British Invasion, ’60s soul and forward.”
Fusing pure rock and soul from vintage sources into their own singular sound, The Woggles lay it down hard and loud but with more majesty than recklessness. Their beats and riffs are as strident as Manfred’s swagger and strut onstage. Having played in the past with Johnny Cash, Link Wray, The Zombies and nearly every garage rock group worth its salt, they’re celebrating both Tally Ho! and 30 years as a group on tour in the U.S. throughout 2017, with dates in Europe and Japan planned for 2018. As Meredith Ochs wisely advised on NPR All Songs Considered: “Go see a Woggles show. It will change your life.”
Recording of this particular rock and roll fox hunt, their fourth full-length effort for Wicked Cool, was overseen at Athens, Georgia’s Chase Park Transduction studio by Jim Diamond, ex-bassist for The Dirtbombs and producer of the first White Stripes and Von Bondies albums as well as veteran of projects with Electric Six, The Mooney Suzuki, The Sonics and The Fleshtones among others.
It had been some time since The Woggles brought in a producer from outside the band, but the results paid off. “In the studio, he lived up to his reputation for begin able to get the greatest guitar tones ever, especially fuzz tones,” says Manfred. Those fuzz tones and more are featured on 13 electrifying new songs, described in the band’s own words here.
- Luminol Test This is the chemical test police use to reveal latent blood traces. Just when it would seem that the clever murderer has fooled everyone and committed the perfect crime, the luminol test exposes their pitiful attempts to whitewash the scene. It makes a nice metaphor for a relationship.
- Hard Times On the way from Houston to Austin and looking for BBQ, we came across a small country church with one of those signs out front that have the changeable letters, and the upcoming sermon read, “Hard Times Won’t Worry My Mind.” After that, it wrote itself.
- What You Think We Are Caught in the crossfire of two friends’ tumultuous, imploding relationship. Lucky we all lived above a bar.
- Fire Thief I’m sure we all know someone who can’t walk through a room full of people without pocketing every cigarette lighter. Some of us are married to one of them.
- Morituri Te Salutant A cautionary tale of one man’s strange journey, his eventual descent into madness and how he made it back in time for last call.
- Judas Judas has taken many forms. In this playlet, he appears as a trusted friend or wingman who has exceeded the natural bounds between the fraternity of brothers. Caught and challenged by his betrayal, he attempts to diffuse and deny his actions. Failing that, he arrives at his deserved destination.
- Mothra Hai Inspired by the two tiny native girls from Infant Island in the Japanese monster movie Mothra. Unbeknownst to the citizens of Tokyo, nuclear testing on the island has spawned a giant radioactive moth. The two magical fairies must sing their song in order to summon forth their god Mothra to save them from evil fortune-hunters who have plans to exploit their unique talents.
- Pitch A Fit Everyone has days when nothing goes right and everything is wrong. Sometimes you just got to kick up a fuss and let off a little steam. It’s good for the blood.
- Waiting For The Rain We had a hot, dry summer last year and I was having a rough time in my vegetable patch. I threw down my gardening gloves in disgust and imagined another’s suffering amid an unforgiving landscape.
- Tally Ho! He who hesitates is lost, and with that adage in mind, ever onward into the breach!
- Learn To Love Again A haunting paean to love, loss, heartache and heartbreak. Let’s just be glad it’s all over with – it ain’t ever over.
- Jungle Queen A fable of primal instincts gone awry or of total commitment? You, dear listener, must decide, though remember, “She has my heart and keeps my head, pinned to her wall with a peg.”
- Be Seeing You “Be seeing you” is at first an innocuous phrase from the seminal ’60s British television series The Prisoner, exchanged as characters take leave of one another. Eventually it comes to represent the perniciousness of the Village and its relentless pursuit at breaking Number Six.
The latest new release in Wicked Cool Records’ partnership with The Orchard as distributor, Tally Ho! once again finds the band with the imprimatur of tastemaker supreme and label head Steven Van Zandt (The E Street Band, The Sopranos). Wicked Cool evolved out of “Little Steven” Van Zandt’s weekly syndicated radio show and SiriusXM channel Little Steven’s Underground Garage, where The Woggles have been recognized with Coolest Song In The World honors numerous times over. Van Zandt founded the label as a way to further support new rock & roll that wasn’t receiving the recognition it deserved. In some ways it was The Woggles themselves who planted the seed that started the label.
“We first met Steven at Southpaw in Brooklyn where The Woggles performed,” remembers Manfred. “After the show, he awaited us in the dressing room with a smile bigger than his face could hold and his eyes wider than half dollars. ‘I don’t wanna sound like I’m blowing smoke,’ he said, ‘but I saw The Beatles at Shea Stadium, The Rolling Stones with Brian Jones, Sam & Dave, The Animals, all these guys, and you guys have got it baby. You guys are right up there with them.’ So I put my hand on Steven’s shoulder and said, ‘Ok, so what are you gonna do about it?’” The rest, of course, is garage rock history. On with the hunt!
THE WOGGLES ARE: Dan Eletxro: drums, bongos, backing vocals; Buzz Hagstrom: bass, backing vocals; “The Professor” Mighty Manfred: lead vocals; Flesh Hammer: guitar, keyboards, sitar, percussion, backing vocals