CD Review: The Moving Sidewalks – The Complete Collection (Rock Beat, 2012)
The Moving Sidewalks first came to wide attention outside of Texas with the inclusion of their incendiary 1967 single “99th Floor” on the second volume of the garage rock anthology, Pebbles. Tantalized by a liner note reference to “Bill” Gibbons and ZZ Top, fans tracked down the group’s album, Flash, and found – no doubt disappointingly to some – that the bulk of the band’s oeuvre favored heavy psychedelic blues-rock, rather than the organ, guitar and harmonica punk of “99th Floor.” Though part of the Texas scene, the Sidewalks leaned more to the electric blues of Jimi Hendrix (to which “Pluto – Sept 31st” clearly tips its cap) and Savoy Brown, than to the punk rock or Mouse and the Traps or the psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators.
The album’s been reissued before [1 2], including a few of the bonus tracks heard on this set’s nodeprdisc. What sets this reissue apart, aside from the crisp audio (mono on 1, 3 and 5 of Flash) and the involvement of Billy Gibbons, are non-LP singles, demos and alternate takes that provide the bridge from “99th Floor” to Flash. The three singles include “99th Floor” (also heard twice more in earlier form by the Moving Sidewalks’ predecessor, The Coachmen) and its B-side “What Are You Going To Do.” The band continued to flirt with garage even as it turned more heavily to the blues with the guitar-and-organ instrumental “Headin’ Out,” and their single for Wand (the bluesy “Need Me”) features the punkier “Every Night a New Surprise” on the flip. Their last single, a cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” is either magnificent or Spinal Tapian, depending on your perspective.
The earlier tracks from the Coachmen (featuring future Moving Sidewalks Gibbons, drummer Dan Mitchell and organist Kelly Parker) include two earlier takes of “99th Floor” and three (including one instrumental backing) of the otherwise unrecorded “Stay Away.” The strummed guitar of the early “99th Floor” take gives it a hint of folk-revival, though the harmonica solo still has the sting of the garage. “Stay Away” is a tidy rocker with a surf influence, particularly in Gibbons’ tasty guitar breaks. The set’s packaging is top-notch, with mini-LP sleeves, disc graphics that reproduce the Tantara and Wand labels, and a thick 52-page booklet that’s stuffed with photos ephemera and liner notes. It’s all housed in a heavy cardboard box fronted by a period photo, wrapping a colorful bow around a real gift to fans of the Moving Sidewalks and Billy Gibbons.