Having a rave-up with Count Five

In the 1960s — indeed, for many years thereafter — a great way to get a hit single was to imitate someone else’s sound and do it well.  There were numerous examples of this, but one of the biggest (and best) was from a group that heard the Yardbirds’ Top 20 hit version of “I’m a Man” and wrote their own song that followed a similar format. In so doing, they not only had their only hit single, but it was bigger than anything the Yardbirds ever had in the United States!

In today’s TimNeelyStuff entry from The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s, read about the song inspired by both the Yardbirds and a freshman health class in college.

# 754
Psychotic Reaction / Count Five /
Double-Shot 104
(Total points: 1,011 / Chart debut: 9/10/1966 / Chart peak: 5 / Weeks on chart: 12)

Sometimes, a great imitation is every bit as good as the real thing. In the case of “Psychotic Reaction,” it was not only as good, it was bigger.

The record had all the qualities of the Yardbirds as heard in their version of “I’m a Man,” a #17 hit in 1965: wailing harmonica; wild guitar; a singer who, though not technically proficient, was perfect for the song; and, finally, a so-called “rave-up,” where the instrumental portion became faster and louder until, finally, the tension broke. Yet not only was it not the Yardbirds, Count Five didn’t even come from England.

Instead, it was the first single by a five-piece band from San Jose, California that had gone through several names before deciding on Count Five (originally Count V, with the Roman numeral for five rather than the spelled-out number). Consisting of John “Mouse” Michalski (lead guitar), Roy Chaney (bass guitar), Jean “Sean” Byrne (rhythm guitar and vocals), Kenn Ellner (tambourine, harmonica, vocals) and Craig “Butch” Atkinson (drums), they were turned down by several labels before signing with Double-Shot.

“Psychotic Reaction” started as a lyric by Byrne, inspired by a lesson in a Health Education class he took his freshman year at San Jose City College. Each member of the band contributed to the final product; all five received songwriting credit on the record. In the end, their Yardbirds homage peaked one position higher than any Yardbirds song ever did, and it’s remembered as both a garage-rock classic and as an early influence on punk rock and heavy metal.

An album centered on the hit failed, and several other singles failed to excite. By 1969, Count Five had broken up. But “Psychotic Reaction” was exciting then, and it remains exciting today.

Collector’s notes: The single stayed in print on the Double-Shot (later Double Shot with no hyphen) label for more than a decade with the same catalog number.

Original copies have the company logo at the top of the label, a “target” in the letter O, and the slogan “every shot counts” underneath. They also have the address of the label as “1608 Argyle Ave., Hollywood, Calif.” Some 1966 pressings also contain a phone number and the added credit “Promotion in Motion: Irwin Zucker”; these came after the 45s that don’t have these items.

Later copies moved the logo to the left side of the label, have different addresses, and still have the Irwin Zucker credit. Some of these even have both sides of the single in stereo rather than the original, powerful mono mix.

Fast fact: Hal Winn and Joe Hooven, who founded and ran Double Shot Records, Count Five’s label, wrote two songs found elsewhere in our countdown: “Cindy’s Birthday” by Johnny Crawford and “Theme from Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight)” by Richard Chamberlain.

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