The Barbarians were similar to thousands of local garage bands across the United States that came together for a short time and then disappeared into the musical mists. The sound was raw and the quality of the instrumental playing was average at best and they would rely on cover songs to get by. They formed in 1964 on Cape Cod and disbanded in 1968 after issuing one album plus a couple of singles.
What did set them apart from their contemporaries was a classic single which became the title of their only album. “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” was a sarcastic, tongue in cheek tune that made fun of the criticism of the youth culture's long hair of the time and there were very few groups that had longer hair than The Barbarians. It was a big hit in New England and a middling hit nationally, but remains a classic relic of the era.
The second thing that allowed the group to stand out was the fact that drummer Victor Moulton, known as Moulty, only had one hand. He had a hook with a stick attached to it which enabled him to play the drums. After the release of their only album, he traveled to New York and cut the autobiographical single titled “Moulty” which became a minor hit for the band. Since the rest of the group was not available, he used members of what would become The Band as his backing group. It is one of the strangest singles in my collection but has an odd appeal. It has been attached to their CD reissues as a bonus track.
The third thing that set the band apart was The T.A.M.I. Show. This was a concert by various artists that was emceed by Jan & Dean and issued as a movie on December 29, 1964. Some of the performers included Chuck Berry, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and The Rolling Stones. The only unknown artist was The Barbarians who opened the show.
The album, Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl, remains a difficult listen. After the title song; “What Would The New Breed Say” is really the only other listenable track on the original release. Such covers as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “House Of The Rising Sun,” and “I Got A Woman” are amateurish. The fact that they would actually choose to play and record “Marie Elena” and "Linguica” are testament to their lack of material.
The final thing that the band had going for them, at least for me, was that they were the first group I ever saw perform in concert as a sixteen year old and the word concert is probably an over exaggeration. I was working in the kitchen of a camp on Cape Cod during the summer of 1966 and attended several concerts but they were my first and so are a distant but honored memory.
The Barbarians and Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl represent rock music at its most basic. That they were able to rise above the norm for a short period of time is remarkable and contained some luck along the way. Still garage bands represent the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll and for that reason The Barbarians are still worth an appreciative listen.