Their were several strains of psychedelic rock being purveyed in the late 1960s. Most of the groups that achieved lasting fame hailed from large media centers like San Francisco, Los Angeles and London; these are the places most mainstream histories of rock and roll associate with psychedelia. The contributions to the movement made during this era by bands from Texas is, in my opinion, all too often ignored by such treatments. The tragically short-lived Thirteenth Floor Elevators, for example, were a tremendously innovative group in the style, and they inspired a legion of artists in the Lone Star State that are now all but forgotten. One such group was the Moving Sidewalks, and if they are slightly better known today it has something to do with their guitarist and lead vocalist–a fellow credited on this album as Bill Gibbons, who would go on to fame as Billy Gibbons in his next band, ZZ Top.
Flash is the band’s one full length album, originally released in 1968. The current CD reissue includes not only the full lp, but an additional five songs that originally appeared on regional singles. Their are a few different types of songs on this album. The opening “Flashback” and the singles “99th Floor” (an obvious tribute to the 13th Floor Elevators) and “What Are You Going to Do” seem like a logical extension of existing Texas garage rock, featuring catchy riffs from Gibbons and nice, driving organ riffs from Tom Moore. Though definitely psychedelicized, they are not that far in spirit from, say, Bobby Fuller or ? and the Mysterians. Then there are several pieces in a bluesy, Hendrix-inspired idiom. “You Make Me Shake,” “Joe Blues” and “Need Me” all fit that mold, and it seems like no coincidence that Gibbons takes sole writing credit on these. Gibbons plays some scorching lead and lays down some strong riffs, though he is a little too indebted to Hendrix at this stage of his developement. Other tracks, such as “Pluto-Sept 31st,” “Eclipse,” and “Reclipse,” are mush more experimental, featuring a lot of the type of studio trickery that the Mothers of Invention and John and Yoko were doing around the same time–tapes played backwards, snippets of voices sped up and slowed down, and so on. You either like things like this or you don’t. One of the best tracks is their cover of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” where the psychedelic effects are put to particularly good use.
Flash is a fun album from a solid band. Bassist Don Summers and drummer Dan Mitchell play with a lot of drive, and Moore’s organ is consistently entertaining. Gibbons, of course, plays well, though he is not yet in full command of his instrument. Still, a must for ZZ Top fans and for garage/psychedelia completists.