When The Ramones were freshmen at Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York, they would stare in awe at the cooler, older kids on campus, especially the ones who’d just formed their own garage band. The Vagrants were typical guitar-toting noisy longhairs, but with a few contradictions thrown in; they got their first break via a cameo in a long-forgotten saccharin teen beach movie and stuck out like a sore thumb on the otherwise folk-heavy Vanguard label.
Musically, they delighted in taking detours from the garage template, scoring a big East Coast regional hit with their pulsating cover of Otis Redding’s Respect, while another inclusion on this collection of their singles, You’re Too Young, echoes with big screen Brill Building sophistication. The title track also stands out by adding a moody string part to the thrusting R&B racket.
A subsequent deal with Atco should have brought them to a wider audience, but the band found themselves far down the pecking order as the label focused on its more traditional soul acts, while a long-running feud with all-powerful concert promoter Bill Graham arguably denied them the live exposure to take them to the next level. Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi would ultimately reach a wider audience in hard rockers Mountain, but their molehill beginnings retain the most charm.