Sometimes the story is better than the music. Rock 'n' roll has always been rich in good stories, and some of the best come from bands whose legacies are slim, or whose talents were ordinary. Collectors of 60's garage bands are well versed in many of the stories of very ordinary musicians whose moment in the spotlight was brief, but whose story contained the nuggets of a mini-heroic epic; bands whose triumphs and failures played out in miniature. One band whose famous story outweighs any real impact they had on the evolution of music is the Barbarians, from Provincetown, MA. Still, they did manage to leave a small musical imprint as well.
In the pantheon, they are a footnote; a garage band that recorded one album and a handful of singles. A handful of misicologists suggest they were the very first punk band ever, pre-dating The Seeds. The high point of their career together was a single appearence on a filmed musical variety program, and a very peculiar single. Less well known is the band's metamorphosis into Black Pearl, an acid-rock band of some reknown among collectors, but forgotten by the public at large. Yet their story has become part of rock legend; the footnote will always be there.
The lineup consisted of Jeff Morris, Jerry Causi, Bruce Benson and Victor "Moulty" Molten, who formed The Barbarians in 1963. Their debut single was "Hey Little Bird" recorded for the small local label Joy Records in 1964, the same year Beatlemania was breaking out across America. Their sound was primitive in the sense that all amateurs are primitive, and it borrowed heavily from the British Invasion groups; it lay somewhere between the Kinks and the Hollies sonically but with a vague menace to it, it featured a heavy-for-1964 fuzz guitar, one of the first ever on record.
The band had something going for it. Image-wise, they were something new. Their name was chosen to reflect their primitive playing and their shaggy looks. Their hair was longer than anyone else's at the time; they wore leather sandals. Most striking of all was drummer Moulty; the victim of a childhood accident, he had a hook for a left hand; he drummed despite his disability. Live, they weren't fancy. They'd play tried and true cover versions of popular favorites of the day. Among their setlist regulars were "Memphis" "House of the Rising Sun", "Susie Q", and "Bo Diddley"; these would be delivered in an r&b style that could get hard when they were cooking.