Song of the Week: “Oh, How to Do Now” by The Monks

While stationed in Germany in the mid-60’s, five American G.I.’s bonded over Chuck Berry and British beat bands, forming The Monks in 1964. The soldiers adapted a punk credo that prefigured punk. They performed in black cassocks and shaved their heads into monk tonsures in answer to the mop-top sex appeal of their contemporaries. Their songs ranted about the Vietnam War and undermined the typical form and content of love songs.

In “Oh, How to Do Now,” The Monks zero in on a lover. A fevered drumroll launches a savage fuzzed-out bass line and singer Gary Burger howls, “I been waiting a long long long time,” with pent-up lust on the verge of a boil. He never attempts to woo, claims to not know how, simply trusts his peacocking will suffice. The lyrics rely on a short list of single syllable words, euphemistic verbs like “make” and “do” for propulsion and “now” to amp the immediacy. Following a searing organ solo, the band modulates keys just past the two minute mark, and continues chanting “Oh how to do now / oh how to do now” in falsetto like an incantation by medicine men encircling a fire, while Burger wails spastic guitar fills that grow from squeals to guttural bursts. Just when the listener anticipates a studio fade out, assumes the ruckus has peaked, The Monks jump another key, accelerate thrusts, sprint and flail towards the finish line, where the tension can finally release.

-Patrick Gaughan

Patrick Gaughan’s poems and writings have been featured in BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, MOMA, PEN America, Everyday Genius, and others. He attends the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at UMass-Amherst. With Avram Kline, he curates Peopleherd’s Readings at Milk&Roses in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

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