Shiver: “Tough As Nails” (Shiver, 1972)
I don’t know exactly when or how it happened, but as I got older, I developed a taste for heavy rock. It wasn’t something I ever liked when I was younger. I listened to tons of classic rock, but didn’t start liking Led Zeppelin until my mid-20s. My friends’ metal albums in high school and middle did nothing for me (that hasn’t changed much, honestly).
It feels like I’ve done this backward—you’re supposed to get into all this loud, thundering music when you’re young, disillusioned and rowdy, except I’ve never been rowdy at all, and I’ve always felt that I had a pretty healthy relationship with my disillusionment. Outside of Hendrix, Nirvana, and maybe Pink Floyd’s “The Nile Song,” straight-up hard rock just wasn’t a thing that interested me when I was supposed to be interested in it. I got into it through the back door beginning in my late 20s, when my interest in old psychedelia and progressive rock led me to a few bands, and then I sat down and really listened to Black Sabbath and could hardly believe I’d been ignoring them for so long.
So it was with a historian’s ear that I first probed the depths of late 60s and early 70s hard rock, with a sampling of the 80s and 90s thrown in. I followed recommendations, took shots in the dark, and listened intently, trying to figure out what was going on in there that I suddenly liked so much. And then a funny thing happened: I started just enjoying it on the visceral level you’re supposed to enjoy most of it on. Like, just cranking the heaviest stuff I could find in the car and feeling it surge through me and trying to remind myself not to speed too much.
It’s a good feeling for someone who’s made a life out of over-thinking everything. Let go. Feel the music instead of considering it. I guess I did that with funk first, but funk and hard rock fill two different holes in my life, with maybe a little bit of overlap. This is different from giving in to the emotion of music—I’d been doing that since I spent all those cumulative hours lying on my bed listening to “Wish You Were Here” detail-for-detail as though it would somehow help me merge with the great weight of longing at its core, which felt oddly similar to my own feelings about what I wanted out of life.
Today, I found this track by San Francisco’s Shiver, recorded in 1972, but hidden from the world until Shadoks put it out decades later. It’s a ragged, raging, live-in-the-studio instrumental, and when I first listened to it, all I could do was wonder where it had been all my life. They play with the kind of abandon I wish I was capable of, out of control, but totally in control. It radiates confidence, and it is teeth-cracking, wall-smashing heavy.
Shiver was a power trio of guitarist/screamer Frank Twist, drummer Don Peck, and bassist Neil Peron—they were fried hippies playing brutal music in a city burning out on peace and love in Nixon’s America, their music more in tune with the blasted hard rock coming out of places like Detroit than anything you’d tie to Saturdays in the park with Timothy Leary. If they had local heroes, it had to be Blue Cheer.
They had a fourth member before they made these recordings, a guy with a hook for a hand who used the hook to play slide guitar, which is something to visualize. From the sound of “Tough As Nails,” Twist did not need another guitarist in the band. The guy could shred. The whole band could play, but none of them ever seem to have gained much of a profile outside Shiver, which was a blip on the 70s rock radar that an air traffic controller could have easily dismissed as a wayward chickadee.
There are a lot of comps of 60s and 70s rock bands that never put out a record during their time together, and I have listened to a lot of them. More often than not, it’s pretty clear why the music was previously unreleased. But every now and then you get one like this, where you can only imagine reasons the band never got out of the starting gate. Shiver seems to have been a wrong place-wrong time proposition. They gave it everything they had when they got their one chance to put their troglodytic bomp on record—Twist shouts so hard on the vocal tracks that his mic feeds back.
I had problems with a mild heart condition when I was a teenager, and ever since, there’s rarely been a moment when I wasn’t aware of the base biology of my body—keeping track of my own blood moving through my vessels makes it hard to get to sleep some nights, and the aches and pains that come more frequently as your age gets higher have exacerbated that tendency. Somehow, the blood pumping through this music, so close to the surface, makes me feel more comfortable with that. I’ll bet that’s something Peck, Peron and Twist never figured on when they rolled the tape and played their guts out back in ‘72.