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The Count Five were a garage rock outfit from San José, California, United States.
They started off in 1964, founded by John "Mouse" Michalski and Kenn Ellner, two high school friends who had previously played in several short-lived outfits. After going shortly under the name of The Squires and several line-up changes later, the Count Five were born, with Roy Chaney taking over vocal duties, Irish-born John "Sean" Byrne on rhythm guitar and Craig "Butch" Atkinson on drums.
Almost from the start, they had a trademark song with "Psychotic Reaction" which was to become their one and only top-10 hit ever. The song was initially devised by Byrne, with the group refining it over the next time and turning it into the highlight of their live sets. Regarded from today's point of view, "Psychotic Reaction" is now a bonafide garage-rock classic, unashamedly borrowing on the style of contemporary bands and artists like The Standells and The Yardbirds.
Looking for a contract, the band found themselves rejected by several record companies before they finally got signed to the Los Angeles-based Double Shot Records. "Psychotic Reaction" was released as a single and found immediate popularity with the proto-punk movement that started in these days, peaking at #5 in the U.S. charts late 1966. The Count Five also gained some fair publicity for their habit of wearing Dracula-style capes when playing live. However, subsequent issues sold disappointingly. The band got along for about another year but dropped out of view altogether when their one and only hit had fallen from public memory. Another setback to a potential career in music business was the decision of the five members (the age of whom, at the time of their '15 minutes of fame', still ranged between 17 and 19 years) to pursue a college degree.
By 1969, the Count Five were history. Even after many had dismissed them as a one hit wonder, the band had one major supporter, legendary music critic Lester Bangs
, who loved the single "Psychotic Reation" and wrote a famous essay called "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" about an alternate universe where the Count Five made four more albums to lukewarm sales but critical acclaim. The essay's name was used for a posthumous collection of Bangs' writings in 1987.
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