History Lesson: Frat Rock

I listened to a lot of frat rock relatively recently, so this post has been on my mind. The genre always makes me think of Animal House, which perhaps isn’t surprising, given that “Shout” plays a prominent role in the plot. It might surprise you that “Shout” counts as a frat rock song in the first place, but it does. The loose criteria seems to be simplistic lyrics that are easy to memorize, along with chords that are equally simple and easy to memorize. I did a history lesson on surf rock not too long ago, and this post could be considered a pair to it: surf rock’s twangy, vibrant guitar (think “Miserlou”) appears in frat rock as well.

The ur-example of frat rock is “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. It’s been the target of many urban legends about just what was in those lyrics. Regardless of the actual content, they were investigated by the FBI and banned from many radio stations as a result of those rumors. I like “Louie Louie” a lot. There are similarities between it and “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles, not least in the ragged, ill vocals of John Lennon.

The 1960s came and went, and frat rock eventually evolved, as genres do. It became punk: the guitar turned more raw, the lyrics even more abbreviated. As a genre, frat rock doesn’t really exist today, except in echoes within garage rock.

Below are a few of my favorite frat rock songs.

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