The Moving Sidewalks were a band I had heard a great deal about over the years, but one I had never actually heard prior to the new two-CD Complete Collection. Their lone LP was titled Flash (1968) and is mentioned in just about every cool garage band retrospective book I have come across. Somehow though, I had never been able to locate a copy of it. In contrast, their fellow Texans the 13th Floor Elevators' material has always been relatively easy to find. The upshot of all this is that when I did finally get a chance to listen to Flash, my expectations were very high. And it still knocked me out. All of the accolades it has received over the years were actualy justified, because it is a killer.
The first thing people usually mention about the Moving Sidewalks is that they were Billy Gibbons‘s band prior to ZZ Top. As the vocalist, guitar and harmonica player, and writer or co-writer of seven of the 10 songs on Flash, Gibbons was obviously the leader. Although he was young, his guitar playing was already well defined. Check out the 7:39 of “Joe Blues” (credited to the whole band) for some great electric Texas blues. The song is a smoker. Just to be clear though, the Moving Sidewalks were not a “one man show.” In addition to Gibbons, the group included Dan Mitchell (drums), Tom Moore (piano and organ), and Don Summers (bass).
The new two-CD Complete Collection is the definitive Moving Sidewalks set. Disc one contains the 10-song Flash album, while the second features 16 non-LP singles and unreleased tracks. Five of these are by The Coachmen, Gibbons’ band prior to the Sidewalks. The Complete Collection is one of those rare compilations that really gets it right.
First of all there is the Flash album, which should be even more acclaimed as the “lost classic” than it is. When I bought the reissued version of Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection back in 1978 or so, I finally got the whole garage rock thing. The double-LP set highlighted such great one-hit wonders as “Psychotic Reaction” by the Count Five and “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes. “99th Floor” by the Moving Sidewalks would have fit right in.
Anyway, the 1972 Elektra Records set was re-released on Sire in 1976. Sire Records would become the home to The Ramones, Talking Heads, and others, and head honcho Seymour Stein correctly predicted that the world was finally really ready to embrace Nuggets. I certainly dug it, and began searching for the full albums by some of the artists. I sure do miss the days of the cut-out bins where I found a number of them. As I discovered though, most of these one-hit wonders were that way for a reason. The albums were usually pretty bad, with the exception being the single.