Dave Day: Monks banjo player


Dave Havlicek (Dave Day), banjo player, guitarist, singer and songwriter: born 1941; married; died Renton, Washington 10 January 2008.

Dave Day was the electric banjo player with the Monks, the rock'*'roll band made up of GIs stationed in Germany in the Sixties. They first played surf and beat music in the style of the Ventures and the Sonics, but soon developed a striking look – involving tonsures and the occasional cassock – to match their proto-punk sound.

Using chanting, feedback, improvisation, repetitive riffs and primal rhythms, and delivering subversive tirades against the Vietnam war and the atomic bomb, the Monks were ahead of the times. The debt that bands such as the Fall, the Fuzztones and the Gossip owe them was repaid when these musicians took part in Silver Monk Time: a tribute to the Monks in 2006. The Krautrock connoisseur Julian Cope has called the Monks' only album Black Monk Time "a gem born of isolation and the horrible deep-down knowledge that no-one is really listening to what you're saying".

Dave Halicek, born in 1941, was stationed with the US army in Gelnhausen, Germany, in the early Sixties where, as Dave Day, he joined the Torquays. In 1965, they recorded and released a single, "Boys are Boys"/"There She Walks", and soon became the Monks. Day switched from rhythm guitar to a six-string banjo, which he electrified.

"I used two microphones that were placed inside the banjo, a Vox amp and a speaker," he said. "I played the banjo like a guitar, only a lot harder." Day's banjo added a staccato element to an already frantic sound. "The GIs enjoyed us as the Torquays a lot more than the Monks," Day said. "But our Monk music was way before its time."

After leaving the army at the end of 1965, the group signed to Polydor in Germany and issued three singles as well as Black Monk Time (1966), an album recorded on four track which became very collectable over the years, with original vinyl copies changing hands for up to $1,000, until the first of many reissues on CD in 1994. In 1967, most of the group returned to the US and simply hung up their cassocks, but Day stayed on in Germany until the mid-Seventies.

In 1999, the Monks reunited to perform in the US for the first time, at Cavestomp, a garage band event held in New York. They subsequently appeared in Germany, Austria, the UK and Spain. A documentary, Monks: the transatlantic feedback, was released in 2006.

Pierre Perrone

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