The band was founded in 1964 by John “Mouse” MichalskiÂ (lead guitar) and Kenn EllnerÂ (harmonica, vocals), two high school friends who had previously played in several short-lived outfits. After going shortly under the name The Squires, and several line-up changes later, the Count Five were born. Roy Chaney took over bass duties, John “Sean” ByrneÂ played rhythm guitar and lead vocals, and Craig “Butch” Atkinson played drums. The Count Five gained distinction for their habit of wearing Count Dracula-style capes when playing live.
“Psychotic Reaction”, an acknowledged cornerstone of garage rock, was initially devised by Byrne, with the group refining it and turning it into the highlight of their live sets. The song was influenced by the style of contemporary musicians such as The Standells and The Yardbirds. The band members were rejected by several record labels before they got signed to the Los Angeles-based Double Shot Records. “Psychotic Reaction” was released as a single, peaking at #5 in the U.S. charts in late 1966. The band got along for about another year, but dropped out of view altogether when their only hit had fallen from public memory. Another setback to a potential career in the music business was the decision of the five members (who were between the ages of 17 and 19) to pursue college degrees.
By 1969, the Count Five had broken up, but their memory was immortalized in a 1972 essay by rock journalist Lester Bangs, entitled “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.” In the essay, Bangs credited the band for having released several albums – Carburetor Dung, Cartesian Jetstream, Ancient Lace and Wrought-Iron Railings, and Snowflakes Falling On the International Dateline – that displayed an increasing sense of artistry and refinement. However, none of these albums actually existed, except in Bangs’ own imagination.
The Count Five reunited only once, when they performed a concert in 1987 at a club in Santa Clara, California called “One Step Beyond”. This performance has been released as Psychotic Reaction Live.
Craig Atkinson died 10-13-1998 and John “Sean” Byrne died 12-15-2008. Roy Chaney formed a new band in the 1990s called The Count (with Byrne and drummer Rocco Astrella, who played in the last version of the original group). The Count released their debut CD, Can’t Sleep, in 2002.
“Psychotic Reaction” came about when guitarist John “Sean” Byrne was sitting in a Health Education class in his freshman year at San Jose City College in California, learning about psychosis. His friend Ron Lamb leaned over and whispered: “You know what would be a great name for a song? Psychotic Reaction.” Â Byrne had been writing a tune in his head that day, and used the title to finish it, with the entire band given writing credit.
The song was modeled after the Yardbirds’s song “I’m a Man”, with a repetitious rhythm that eventually changes to a faster beat, an electric guitar playing a hypnotic melody going up the scales, and a similar style of percussion to that of the Yardbird’s hit.
This song was popular in the Vietnam War era, and appears in the game Battlefield Vietnam.
As with most “live videos” of the day, the band only appeared to be playing the music live.Â In reality, they usually lip-synced and pretended they were playing their instruments.Â Some bands felt this was cheating and would go out of their way to be obvious that they weren’t really playing.
I feel depressed, I feel so bad
`Cause you`re the best girl that I`ve ever had
I can`t get your love, I can`t get a fraction
Oh, little girl, psychotic reaction
And it feels like this!
I feel so lonely night and day
I can`t get your love, I must stay away
Well, I need you, girl, by my side
Oh, little girl, would you like to take a ride now?
I can`t get your love, I can`t get satisfaction
Oh, little girl, psychotic reaction
- Audio from the 1966 album,Â Psychotic Reaction – Count Five: