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NUGGETS: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC ERA 1965-1968
NUGGETS II: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND BEYOND 1964-1969
If you want to have a "proper" introduction to the world of n-u-g-g-e-t-s, all I can say is - just go ahead and buy the two Rhino boxsets that are about to be reviewed, step by step. There's nothing I can add to the well-researched and detailed essays by people like Greg Shaw and Lenny Kaye.If you want to simply know what this whole stuff is about, here it is in a nutshell: Nuggets and Nuggets II celebrate the unknown and the (unjustly?) forgotten. Two boxsets by various artists (which is why they're impossible to review in my "proper" format), the first one concentrating on American garage-rock of the mid-Sixties and the second one concentrating on the British and international "garage/psychedelic" scene of the period, and apart from the most astute connaisseur, nobody has really heard of any of those bands. Occasionally, you may fall upon a little-known track by Captain Beefheart, or the Move, or Status Quo, or maybe a couple bands out there that had a little bit more success and acclaim than others - 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, etc. - but the majority of these tracks celebrate the One-Single-Artist: bands that had one or two great songs in them and then simply fizzled out. Or, mayhaps, bands that did have talent, but had to waste it due to lack of promotion blah blah blah. Heck, if it's true what they say in the introduction about how 63% of American teenagers were in a rock band of sorts in the mid-Sixties, it's only natural that most of them died away without anybody knowing they actually existed at one time. There's over two hundred tracks combined in these two 4-CD sets; reviewing these compilations in just a few paragraphs each would be an insult to the nearly insane amount of bands, single artists, styles, genres, moods, and personalities represented on here. On the other hand, holding off reviewing the packages until I've "assimilated" both of them would be an effort akin to memorizing the Mahabharata on first listen and then trying to write a several pages long summary of it. Thus, I will be going through both of the packages song per song, maybe one song per day, giving you a personal picture of my gradual acquaintance with the records. Will this project ever be completed? Let's wait and see! [Note: just for fun, I'm gonna rate the individual songs this time, on a simple basis of A to C with pluses and minuses allowed.]
NUGGETS: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC ERA 1965-1968
CD I [The "original" Nuggets]
1. The Electric Prunes: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A]
Is this the same Electric Prunes that recorded the juvenile pretentious "proggy" crapfest of Mass In F Minor? Nope (considering that the Prunes didn't actually even play on that damnation of a record). These are mildly psychedelic, mildly garagey Prunes, displaying an actual rock'n'roll drive in a song that's so goddamn confusing about its goals. The lyrics seem to be merely your typical lovey-dovey kind of stuff (with a particularly clumsy middle-eight - 'then came the dawn! and you were gone! you were gone gone gone!'), although once you realize the dream in question is a wet dream, it kinda changes the perspective a bit. The fuzz guitar and rapid tempo (once the song gets past the somewhat lengthy rhythmless intro) are cool distorted rawk. And the "astral" sound effects, oscillation, vibration, bits of backward tapes, etc., etc., are definitely psychedelic. Amateurish as it gets, but in the case of Nuggets, that's an asset; it would be pretty hard for a "professional" to overcome the wild beat and energy of the chorus. Highest chart position: #11. Not bad! I could definitely see this one even breaking the Top 10, but you know, that's just me.
2. The Standells: Dirty Water [B]
The lyrics are probably the best point here. There is a hook in the song - the primitive six-note riff that starts out as a guitar one and then becomes an organ one - but overall, it looks like there's a bit too much Animals adoration here, even if vocalist/drummer Dick Dodd can't hope to match Burdon's sly intonations, and the organ doesn't play anything but that riff over and over again (the harmonica solo pretty much sucks as well). But the lyrics, yoohoo! Producer Ed Cobb penned this one for them, and turned it into the best Boston anthem ever written - 'cuz I love that dirty water, aaaah, Boston, you're my home!'. References to muggers and thiefs ('ah, but they're cool people') are also not what you'd expect from your basic three-chord rocker; this is pretty daring stuff even for late '65. Overall, though, I'm not tremendously impressed. Also hit #11 on the charts; there must have been a "Bosstownian" trend-o'-the-season or something.
3. The Strangeloves: Night Time [B-]
Sorry, this one's definitely not up my alley. The Strangeloves were actually a bunch of "professional songwriters", augmented by unknown studio musicians - so if they were, why so blatantly steal the melody of 'We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place' for this underdeveloped piece? (And augment it with the 'night time is the right time' cliche, already well-exploited in a different song of the same name). It is fun how they bash out that unyielding bump-bump-bump-bump rhythm, bringing the drums and the power chords uncannily high in the mix, but it gets annoying in less than thirty seconds. I feel something fake about the song's atmosphere, even if the lead vocalist is desperately trying to be sleazy ('turn on your radio babe... ah, now you got ME turned on!'). Never climbed higher than #30 and deservedly so.
4. The Knickerbockers: Lies [A]
Great song - more specifically, a hell of a successful Beatles imitation. There's exactly one reason why this could never be mistaken for a Beatles original: the production, which is raw, messy, sloppy, i.e. hundred-percent ready for Nuggets packaging. Where George Martin makes every note on a Beatles record, from the earliest ones (and 'Lies' sounds like it could theoretically fit in on, say, With The Beatles, although hardly anywhere later), stand out, here there's no such care taken. But there are hooks and cool vocal harmonies, a generic, but mean-sounding guitar move between each line to symbolize aggression, and the necessary tonality change between the verse and chorus to make it even more 'authentic'. No bullshitting here - just melodic potential. For some strange reason, this only reached #20; guess there were even better Beatles-sound-alikes occupying the charts at the time. Or maybe not.
5. The Vagrants: Respect [B]
Hey, you'd never guess this was Leslie West's (of Mountain fame!) original band - the only clue would be that the lead vocals are similar to Leslie's brawny growl, and that'd be a wrong clue, cuz he's not singing on this one. He sticks to the guitar, and doesn't even get a solo, because the sound is dominated by Jerry Storch's organ. The Vagrants actually get a great sound going - the organ soloing is kick-ass, the production is full and juicy, the mix is top-notch for the times (listen to that bassline - how many songs on here have it fleshed out so loud and clear?). The problem is, of course, that the song came out exactly at the same time with Aretha Franklin's version, and naturally failed to chart, leading to the band's demise. Too bad; these guys might have made it big, but got overshadowed by a bigger talent at the wrong time in the wrong place. Ah well, then again we wouldn't have Mountain if they'd made it, would we?
6. Mouse: A Public Execution [C]
Eh... this is really bad. The only reason why this isn't rated even lower is that delicious guitar twang which leads us into the main body of the song (it also pops up later as well, several times). But the song itself is a miserable Dylan imitation - which might have worked as a weak Dylan parody if only it weren't so obvious that these guys are taking themselves seriously and really wanna cash in on the Zimmerman phenomenon. It's a chorus-less pretentious monotonous whine that's not worth even ten seconds of the song it's structured after ("Positively 4th Street"), with Ronnie "Mouse" Weiss even trying to mimick the Bobster's intonation - what an asshole. The liner notes say this had almost passed for the real thing in Texas for a moment. Hah! And oh yeah, I realize I may sound like a hypocrite for having just heaped high praise on the Knickerbockers' Beatles send-up a couple paragraphs above while lambasting this, but look, it's a thousand times harder to create a successful Beatles send-up than an unsuccessful Dylan send-up. Heck, I could take "Positively 4th Street" right now and write new (inferior, but who really cares, as long as I whine and wail like Bob?) lyrics, but it would take me an eternity to come up with a hookline as strong as the one in 'Lies'.
7. The Blues Project: No Time Like The Right Time [B+]
I'm not Al Kooper's biggest fan, so this song naturally leaves me somewhat uninvolved (actually, you may count The Blues Project as a logical precursor to Blood, Sweat & Tears, since at least two of the band's members, Kooper and Steve Katz, are both playing in the band; yet another member, bassist Andy Kulberg, wound up in the underrated Sea Train band). Yet it's a decent pop single all the same, and it probably deserved better success than #96. I'm not really sure if the song belongs here on Nuggets - The Blues Project were a much more serious outfit than most of the artists on here, certainly no ordinary garage band. On the other hand, the song does fit in, what with its simple, yet overdriven melody, cliched refrain (is there really that much difference between "the night time is the right time!" and "no time like the right time!"?), and slight psychedelic flavour. Kooper's organ practically carries the tune, with the lead guitar's function reduced to atmospheric arpeggiated chords. Oh, and is it catchy? It is, I guess.
8. The Shadows Of Knight: Oh Yeah [C]
Not as "offensive" as Mouse's lame Dylan imitation, but even less interesting - I haven't heard Bo Diddley's original, but if it was anything similar to this bland, monotonous cover, then the Shadows of Knight musta had some real pisspoor taste in covers. Nothing happens in the song, except for the same four-note riff repeated over and over again, although at times it is transformed into a loud barrage of wildly strummed chords, only to go back to the original structure again. Blah. Vocalist Jim Sohns tries pretty hard to sound "tough", but no "toughness" works if there's zero percent creativity involved. I mean, I don't expect professionalism or complexity from these songs - but I do expect something to make me go "wow!", and this song has none of it. Funny enough, it went up to #39 on the charts, just once again proving how friggin' random commercial success is - 'No Time Like The Right Time' is SO much of a better song, yet that one stalled at an almost thrice as low position. The only redeeming moment in 'Oh Yeah' is the very very brief guitar solo in the middle - very nice chord changes. Too bad they didn't let lead guitarist Joe Kelley shine more on those studio recordings.
9. The Seeds: Pushin' Too Hard [A+]
Now this is so far the quintessential "Nuggets spirit" song. Fast, aggressive, violent, sloppy, and almost disgustingly primitive. The liner notes proudly state that bass player/lead vocalist Sky Saxon penned the entire lyrics while waiting for his girlfriend to come out of the supermarket, and I'm a-guessin' the melody of the song didn't even have to be composed. And yet, it all works - Saxon's grizzly, slightly out-of-tune vocals, the song's chuggin' tempo and the simplistic, but venomously simplistic guitar solo are all treasurable. For one thing, it doesn't sound as if these guys were aping anybody in particular; most probably, it's just due to the fact that everybody whom they could potentially be aping was a much better player, and this here song is so rudimentary it really sounds like nothing else. And at the same time, they're obviously not "faking it". As far as I know, this one's just about the only good tune that the Seeds ever did, their one definitive moment of glory; and there's nothing surprising about it - you only get a chance like this once in a lifetime.
10. The Barbarians: Moulty [B]
This one probably doesn't deserve such a high rating on its own, but it's easily got the most novelty value out of all these "original Nuggets" - with a story worth retelling. Apparently, the Barbarians were formed around singer/drummer Victor "Moulty" Moulton who lost his hand in an accident and used a pirate hook instead (they don't explain how exactly it is possible to hold a drumstick with a hook, but then again there is a photo of him doing it in the liner notes!). Their producer then convinced them to capitalize on the incident and record this here song as a single, later released without Moulton's actual consent. The song itself isn't so much of a song as it is an autobiographical narrative retold to music (in the vein of what Eric Burdon would start doing regularly soon afterwards), culminating, of course, in the source of all truths - that "Moulty" is all right, he just needs a girl to help him through life. It's not exactly listenable, let alone memorable, but it's fun in a supremely novel kind of way. Interesting tidbit: it was "rumoured" that The Band were helping the guys on this recording, all five of them. But don't tell anybody! It's like starring in a porno movie before hitting the big time!
11. The Remains: Don't Look Back [A]
What this song sorely needs is a guitar solo - and judging by the size of these guys' chops, they were obviously competent enough to get in a great one, so whassup? Ah well, other than that, it's one of the few songs on this compilation that, in some ways, is ahead of its time. They're so tight, so desperate, so aching, and so loud, that I can easily trace Seventies' punksters like The Jam directly to this song (in fact, the Jam sound thinner than these guys!). Barry Tashian yells and scowls just like an iroquois-combed slobbering late Seventies youth, all the while looking like an innocent high school kid (at least, that's the way he looks on the photo); he also gets in some jagged, very seriously-sounding guitar riffs, including a funkier reinterpretation of the Bo Diddley style (notice how the melody of the song changes halfway through, after the spoken intermission?). Plus a catchy chorus and liberation-spirit lyrics - what else do you need for a totally glorious mid-Sixties single? A GUITAR SOLO! Okay, but apart from that? Nothing. The song didn't chart at all, probably due to pisspoor management and promotion; or maybe the general public was just too bewildered to actually scoop it up.
12. The Magicians: An Invitation To Cry [B+]
Nothing to shake your socks off, but a good enough, soulful, waltz of a ballad - the first ballad to be met on Nuggets, actually. These guys came from the same row of New York cafes as the Lovin' Spoonful, but judging by this single, they were a bit more somber than that particular lovey-dovey hippie concoction. The ballad is dark, opening with a gruesome feedback blast and never making the transition into optimism. It's actually pretty well done - the floating organ, the quasi-Gregorian vocal harmonies, the emotional lead vocals, the intelligent transition into the middle-eight - but maybe it's just a bit too muddy and the main hookline a bit too blurry to make it onto "charted" territory. Or maybe they just stepped on somebody's toes. I could actually easily see this become a highlight on, say, one of the early Blood, Sweat & Tears records. Too bad it wasn't conceived in the depths of the Blues Project.
13. The Castaways: Liar Liar [A]
Minnesota scene here - no Bob Dylan influence, though. The Castaways' only brief moment of glory, their debut single got to #12 and actually managed to do so without possessing one of those mega-hooks you can't get out of your head; the only thing here that separates the chorus from the verses is that the former is sung in a near-obnoxious falsetto while the verses are not. But it's got a nice rollickin' groove going on all the same, with a nifty bassline (which you really notice right in the middle when that break comes in) and a competent guitar solo. It does more or less milk just one musical phrase all the way through, but that's not really tedious for a song that clocks in at under two minutes. What else is there to say? Beats me. Oh yeah! I do think that the combination of the organ riff and the beepin' two-note chord after each chorus line guarantee it a low A rating. There.
14. The 13th Floor Elevators: You're Gonna Miss Me [A+]
Another outstanding, unjustly forgotten, classic, and not just because the 13th Floor Elevators were the only band to my knowledge to feature a separate player on "electric jug" (prominently featured in all its hilarious wobbliness on this song). This is one of the hardest-rocking numbers on the CD, and not only that - one with the most intense build-up at that, with Roky Erickson gradually raising his voice from a gruesome snarl to all-out wild animal screaming. These kids are not faking it, they mean it when they go for a sound as crisp and razorblade sharp as possible for early 1966, and, of course, Roky was one of the most aggressive singers of his era; to my knowledge, he's one of the really few singers who could out-Burdon Eric himself (unlike Dick Dodd, for instance). He also blows a mean harmonica near the end, and, again, a good guitar solo is sorely missed, but other than that, this slab of macho violence is perfect. #55? You gotta be kidding me.
15. Count Five: Psychotic Reaction [A]
Boy, this album does kick into real high sweaty gear around this second dozen, doesn't it? This one has a guitar solo, and it's wild, distorted, funky, and yet at the same time precise and well-coordinated - probably the only British band that was doing guitar stuff like that at the time were the Yardbirds. The song itself is, of course, a total rip-off of the Stones' "Off The Hook" or whatever that one was ripped off itself, but it's not so much the main melody that matters as the bizarre transition from the main melody to the fast-tempo instrumental passages, which represent "psychedelic boogie" at its absolute best. Amazingly, this one did make the charts, climbing up to #5, so if you wanted to have a theory about how 'You're Gonna Miss Me' was way too unnerving and dangerous to appeal to the general public, this theory crashes right here - on this track, Count Five show no mercy.
16. The Leaves: Hey Joe [A+]
Okay, so you probably know this from Jimi Hendrix' version and rightly so, but we're not holding Nuggets to Jimi's standard; we just value the energy and the fullness of sound here, and this here version is definitely more energetic than the Byrds' one, and certainly more full-sounding than Love's one. The Leaves tear thru the song like there was no tomorrow: slurry, sloppy vocals, like Mick Jagger on a particularly bad day, fuzzy guitars picking up fast tempos, an insanely speedy (for Nuggets, that is) guitar solo, and a great, voluminous crescendo in the instrumental section, with the fat bassline pumping itself up before you like a hungry monster. At times, it gives you a feeling of complete chaos like none of the previous fifteen tracks do, but that's harmonic chaos, if you'll allow me to say so. Big, thunderous, and totally kick-ass, it didn't mount that high in the charts (#31), but it's a must-hear all the same.
17. Michael & The Messengers: Romeo & Juliet [B+]
After the previous three thunderclaps, this one is of course a letdown, but it's hardly bad. It's basically cheery-faced pop revved up to a fast groove, no teenage angst on here or subdued menace. The central feature is Jack DeCarolis' organ, which flows real well and keeps everything together, and with this steady organ tone, the catchy vocal melody, and the compact rhythm section, the song is guaranteed to please, but probably not guaranteed to knock over. These are clean-cut well-meaning kids giving you a good time (a "club band" as Lenny Kaye called them, and they most certainly did fit that description). Funny enough, this was the second incarnation of the band that had nothing to do with the first, and neither of them had any Michael in it - most probably, they just wanted a name to start with an M to sound cooler.
18. The Cryan Shames: Sugar And Spice [B]
Am I going crazy or is this another band with a hook-handed member? At least, that's what you see on one of the posters reproduced in the liner notes (where the guy seems to be playing a Freddie Krueger in respect to the blonde chick surrounded by the band), and the guy's name is Jim "Hook" Pilster. Considering the fact that he's exclusively credited for 'tambourine', I'm wondering whether he used the hook to hold the tambourine or whether he used it to hit the tambourine... Ah well never mind. The important thing is, this is their only minor hit single (#49 on the charts), a cover version of the Searchers' song, and it's predictably half-folk-rock, half-bubblegum. Nicely done, with fresh ringing guitars, cool-sounding harmonies, and a competent guitar solo, but way too sugary even for my tastes. Besides, I would no doubt prefer The Searchers' version 'cuz they were real aces in this particular matter - and this version faithfully follows the original anyway. Still, nothing to complain about, and a fun "soft" breather in between the meaner stuff.
19. The Amboy Dukes: Baby Please Don't Go [A]
Another breakaway from the Nuggets aesthetics - heck, the song's five and a half minutes long, and most of it is spent with Ted Nugent's penis-caressing guitar wankery! Heh heh. Not that it doesn't rule: the Nuge has always been a first-rate guitar player, and on here he captures all the sweat, excitement, and general whammy bar paradise of late Sixties hard rock playing better than most of his States contemporaries (certainly better than Blue Cheer, for instance). You all know the song, of course, and they do it in the same fast boogie vein as later would Budgie and AC/DC. In between John Drake's rumbling cock-rockish vocals, Ted has some fun with the song's riff, delivers some scorching garagey soloing, and even throws in a quote from 'Third Stone From The Sun' despite the radical difference in tempos. Hey, it cooks, but maybe the song is a bit overlong after all. Although, of course, it was released as late as January 1968, meaning that "overlong" was no longer a problem. Never made it to the Top 100, though. Well - the Detroit rock scene, where these guys hailed from along with the Stooges and the MC5, wasn't exactly chart-lucky in general.
20. The Blues Magoos: Tobacco Road [A]
Really a bit less than an A in pure enjoyment terms, but there's also something to be said for daringness, I guess - after all, the Blues Magoos weren't afraid to release this thoroughly uncommercial stuff as a single in the middle of 1966; predictably, it flopped, never reaching even the lowest chart positions, but history (and Lenny Kaye) had their say on the matter, and in this case, it's a more important say than that of the American record buyers in 1966. The band, one of the leaders of the underground psychedelic movement at the time, took this folk standard (also done by the Jefferson Airplane in a much milder version the same year) and essentially used it as a launchpad for their maniac psycho jamming, partially inspired by the Who but arguably wilder than anything the Who ever managed to put on a studio record. That doesn't mean it's very good - they mostly just go on emphasizing guitar and organ feedback for about two and a half minutes - but to a certain degree, it still kicks ass. I'm actually pretty sure this should sound close to whatever Pink Floyd were doing at the UFO at about the same time: wild, ucontrolled, messy spaced-out musical chaos. But now look what happened to Pink Floyd, and what happened to the Blues Magoos.
21. Chocolate Watch Band: Let's Talk About Girls [C]
Back to the spirit of spontaneity again, continuing with this slight little toss-off by the band that's universally hailed as America's best take on a Stones clone. Well, this particular song sure sounds like the Stones could have done something like that, but only around late 1964 or early 1965, whereas this particular song was released as a single in mid-1967 (and flopped, of course). It's a pretty pedestrian rave-up with a lead singer (Don Bennett - not a member of the group, actually) who sounds half-caveman, half-stoned, and totally unfunny and unmenacing at that; and since the song is a rave-up, that means they don't have to care much about any kind of hook. In short, it's stupid and boring, and as if that wasn't enough, they spend a good quarter of the running time on the lame feedback coda. Well, at least they keep the beat strong enough for me to tap my foot to it, but that's about the only thing there's to like. Definitely far from the best song by the band.
22. The Mojo Men: Sit Down I Think I Love You [B]
I'm hard-pressed into suggesting the band's real name was the Mofo Men, because only a bunch of mofos would want to take a decent, but not particularly outstanding Steve Stills country ballad and turn it into a piece of orchestrated schmaltz, but the truth is, it's worse in theory than in practice. By letting Van Dyke Parks provide the orchestration, they avoid the usual Hollywood-ish/Moodyblues-ish cliches of 1967; heck, the primary accent is on a swirling mandolin of all things, and you don't hear too much Mantovani strings on here either. The melody is good, too, and these guys sound nice and acceptable when they're doing it. That's about it, though - nice and acceptable. No close intimacy or heartbreaking drama. Predictably, the song charted, because in the age of Engelbert "Hampered Dick" how could it not? I wouldn't include it in the package, though, if it were up to me. Then again, there has to be some space left for ballads. The problem is, so far only 'An Invitation To Cry' qualified for me as something I'd like to hear again.
23. The Third Rail: Run Run Run [A]
Deleleelightful! Okay, so this is as thin and lightweight as it gets, and "The Third Rail" isn't really an actual band, merely a false-identity name for songwriter Artie Resnick and his wife Kris and another singer guy, but who cares? It's a little catchy bit of "bubblegum satire", released in mid-1967, and, for once, following in the Kinks' steps rather than in any psychedelia-loaded direction. Two bass rhythms, one fast, another slow, cooky vocal harmonies, and a speedy, rap-like vocal delivery about how you 'stand on the corner and wait for the bus it's late again you start to cuss the papers filled with all bad news fat lady stands on your polished shoes and you run run run run...'. I even like the silly spoken pseudo-Wall Street report in the middle, ending with 'general chaos up one quarter, the Great Society unfortunately down five points'. Pictures of fuss and huss sung by a wuss, in other words. Without any particular anger or pissed-off-ness, just like Ray Davies would be doing it on the other side of the Atlantic. Gets the special Disc 1 prize for "most charming piece of non-substance".
24. Sagittarius: My World Fell Down [A+]
Now there's a gem you wish you could discover more and more of. Sagittarius was a project directed by one-time Brian Wilson collaborator Gary Usher (the guy mostly notorious for penning the lyrics to all those early Beach Boys car songs), and while on a pure melodic level my ears hear more resemblance to the Zombies than the Beach Boys, there's no reason to doubt that this baroque pop masterpiece owed a lot to Brian Wilson's exploration in the realms of the ethereal. The sound collage in the middle may be questionable (although by no means totally out of place), but other than that, it's glorious, gorgeous pop with an unforgettable vocal melody, a complex, sonically deep, multi-layered arrangement, and powerhouse vocal harmony arrangements from Glen Campbell, Gary Usher, Terry Melcher, and Bruce Johnston (yeah yeah yeah wrinkle your noses all you true Beach Boys fans). This is perhaps the least Nuggets-like track so far, more wussy sophisticated art-rock than three-chord garage, but hey, that's what makes the boxset so great in the end - assembling all those totally divergent pieces in one place.
25. The Nazz: Open My Eyes [A+]
You probably already know about how I feel about this song from this review, so there's no point reanalyzing it here. Let me state, though, that The Nazz are a typical (I guess) Nuggets band: their few singles sound so goddamn good you'd never guess how inconsistent and generally forgettable their actual albums were. I have a deep fear this holds true for the absolute majority of the bands on here. Ah well, as they say, every bad poet has written at least one great poem in his life, and this certainly holds true for The Nazz: 'Open My Eyes' is absolutely terrific (and so, by the way, was the A-side, 'Hello It's Me', not included here. Why the single never amounted to anything higher than #112 is beyond me, but then again, so's a lot of things about this world, so you might just shoot me now).
26. The Premiers: Farmer John [B]
Every Neil Young fan probably knows this song, as it was a long-time favourite of his (he played it as early as the pre-Buffalo Springfield period, later resuscitating it for Ragged Glory). This one here might be the version he learned it from, or it may be not, as it was already made into a hit before The Premiers, a mostly Hispanic L.A. band, covered it in 1964. Nothing particularly great in the common sense, even if the band displays a certain amount of professionalism and certainly knows how to put its twin saxes to good use, but it certainly gets by on the strength of the Nuggets vibe - sloppy, stompy, visceral, energetic, radiant, and exuberant. Not to mention the phoney "live party" atmosphere which actually predates the Beach Boys' Party! by a good year or so. Good choice.
27. The Magic Mushrooms: It's-A-Happening [A]
And so we conclude the original Nuggets with this bizarre psychedelic, or mock-psychedelic (since no one can really tell) single from a little known band that released it in mid-'66, and so must be considered one of the absolute pioneers of the genre along with the 13th Floor Elevators and suchlike. The A rating takes that into account, as my personal "enjoyment" rating would rather be a B+ or something - the chorus is catchy, the colourful organ patterns are pleasing, but then there's all that midsection crap where the band stops and starts sprouting psychedelic nonsense, culminating in a rather gruesome 'a mushroom hangs above the ground!' statement which I'm sure must be related to Alice In Wonderland but in my mind keeps being related to the Cold War. Ugh. Anyway, the problem is that nobody knows if these guys were serious or they were already mocking the psychedelic movement; it's a bit too starry-eyed even for 1966. One of those cases where everything ultimately depends on personal interpretation.
1. The Music Machine: Talk Talk [A]
These guys were fun - dressing in black from head to toe, dying their hair black, and playing black guitars. And way before Black Sabbath did so on a more, um, explicit level, they were already tuning their guitars one step down, creating heavy, murky music in mid-1966. 'Talk Talk', their first single, suffers from a somewhat simplistic hook line and a somewhat messy structure, but is otherwise perfect, one of those rare cases when heaviness, melody, and socially relevant "angsty" lyrics really all come together. In just two minutes, they manage to change the melody several times and yet bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. Too bad I can never hum meself the song when it's over.
2. The Del-Vetts: Last Time Around [A+]
Whoah! This song does everything the last one did and more. Unquestionably the heaviest tune recorded in 1966: not sure if these guys were tuning their guitars down or not, but fact is, that brutal, crushing, devastating ascending-descending guitar riff is as close to Black Sabbath's style as anybody bar maybe High Tide ever got before Black Sabbath themselves. The Yardbirds may have served as inspiration, but the Yardbirds were really anything but "brutal", and these guys are. They're also lyrically bleak - 'well I know this is the last time around for me' goes the chorus - and they're also taking good care of the melody and adding a jangly mid-section, and they have a credible sincere-sounding lead vocalist, and they're adding a kick-ass distorted wildman guitar solo! (In retrospect, the solo is the song's weakest part since it's been lifted almost note-for-note from the Yardbirds' 'Mr You're A Better Man Than I', but let's just call it a matter of practical borrowing). AND - get this - A FALSE ENDING! And all this in less than three minutes! Really, I can't find fault with this song. It's the epitome of The Mighty Garage done perfectly.
3. The Human Beinz: Nobody But Me [B+]
Damn good, but a bit of a disappointment coming off the two previous monsters. Not that it has anything to do with 'em: it's a plain R'n'B cover, a recreation of an older Isley Brothers hit, the most interesting thing about which is that it was released in mid-1967 with the band's name spelled as "Beinz" instead of "Beingz" ("be-in", see?) even if the Human Beingz were actually a Southern band and didn't want much to do with the hippie movement. Even so, the song took off and was even played on R&B stations - good achievement for an all-white band. It's tight and ripping, with a steady loud bass groove throughout and tough call-and-answer vocal deliveries, plus a nasty fuzzy guitar solo and all. You can groove to it perfectly, but it doesn't display that much creativity. Still, good choice.
4. Kenny & The Kasuals: Journey To Tyme [C]
Eh, pretty weak. These Texan boys sure look sincere about their stuff and try to rip it up all the way through, with speed, fuzz, and screaming, but that can't help disguise the fact that the song's riff - the most, if not the only, memorable thing about it - is directly taken from either the Kinks' 'Come On Now' or the Beatles' 'I Feel Fine', you choose what you like best. That doesn't quite equal creativity to me. Maybe if I didn't know that, I'd like the song better, but that just goes to show you how a little bit of musical knowledge can kill the potential germ of excitement. Aaarrgh. The guitar solo is okay, I guess, but ultimately these guys are nothing more than a weak combination of their influences (add the Yardbirds to the mix). Of course, that's a judgement based on one song only.
5. The Sparkles: No Friend Of Mine [A]
Sometimes all you need is put a LOT of fuzz in your bass, just as much fuzz in your rhythm guitar, back it up with a three-four note organ riff, and you got a great sound going to knock your socks off. That's the formula to this song - a simplistic, but absolutely mammoth-sounding garage cut, with Lucky Floyd's constantly off-key, ragged, hoarse vocals completing the picture. Although, of course, a good song can't exist without dynamic tension, and here they reach the climax in the chorus - after the long long verse in which Floyd's scattered ramblings seem to never stop, the band steps in with the 'you ain't no friend of mine, you've been putt'n' me on all this time' chorus which is undescribably cool. Yeah! Denied the A+ rating because nothing can compare with the garage perfection of 'Last Time Around' anyway, but that's really just minor quibbling. The song never charted. Too bad.
6. The Turtles: Outside Chance [B+]
Not much to say here, except that it's a pretty good Turtles song. Jangly delicious guitars, decent organ solo, the future "Flo" and "Eddie"'s impeccable vocal interplay, and a modest two minute running length. Oh, and, of course, misogynistic lyrics a-plenty, which, I suppose, in the long run helped 'em Flo and Eddie merge with Frank Zappa's "shocking" antics. Not sure what the song is doing on Nuggets, though - if anything, the Turtles are easily the best known band on this entire collection, and their greatest hits records still sell well. They might as well have put the Byrds' 'Mr Tambourine Man' on here. Oh, by the way, the song was written by Warren Zevon, but it suits the Turtles' style just fine.
7. The Litter: Action Woman [A]
Yeah baby, that's the way I like my rock'n'roll. If you thought that was a cliche, well, so is the song, and it still rules. The message is clear and simple - I'm gonna get me some, but not from you girl 'cuz you're too stiff - and so is the music, driven by a wild fuzzy riff that's nowhere near as "unusual" as the one that drives that Del-Vetts song, but then again, few things are. The best thing about the song is actually the guitarwork; a great economic, but still quite professional solo, and especially the way the lead guitarist builds up the tension towards the end, playing this flurry of speedy licks that few Nuggets bands could really allow themselves. There's no innovation value here, but as far as mid Sixties hard rock formula goes, 'Action Woman' is up there with the best, definitely. Too bad it never rumbled the sacred ground that much outside the boys' native Minneapolis, but it's all competition, ladies and gentlemen.
8. The Elastik Band: Spazz [A+]
This, man, is, like, the greatest song ever written. These guys appeared out of nowhere, stayed on the scene for a couple of singles, then disappeared back into nowhere, and left us to shake our heads in total disbelief as we listen to this song. A cross between psychedelia, blues, absurdism, and street hooliganry, I personally never heard another song sounding quite like this. Lyrically, it's a mockery of spastic people - which would seem cruel were it not so blatantly self-mocking, with macho lead vocals and a totally unexplainable shift into 4/4 blues territory in the instrumental section. But then what are these fuzzy acid riffs doing out there? And these medievalistic acoustic guitar overtones? And that insane drum pounding? Yes, it's all total novelty, but I have NO idea how anybody could come up with such stuff. Geez, it's more unpredictable than Zappa or Captain Beefheart, and at the same time, totally listenable. If you only had opportunity to download one or two songs from this collection, this would be one of the most obvious choices.
9. The Chocolate Watchband: Sweet Young Thing [B]
Okay, this is one of the band's better Stones imitations, but the only really funny thing about the song is that wobbly high raga-like lead guitar line reminiscent of the Glimmer Twins' Meet Elmo James' 'Paint It Black'-style Indian-drenched psychedelic explorations. It's derivative, but memorable, and the song does click after a few listens - still, it would at best match the quality of those several likeable, but filler-likeable Aftermath tracks that nobody really remembers although everybody enjoys when the album is on. Fact is, I don't much care for dead-on imitations, even if the singin' guy on here is almost undistinguishable from Mr Sleazy Jagger. But I gotta give 'em their due anyway.
10. Strawberry Alarm Clock: Incense And Peppermints [B]
This went as far as to hit #1, and it's easy to see why: it's psychedelic and trippy, has a distinctive hook, and at the same time totally and absolutely inoffensive. They actually had to think out that organ part, but they certainly didn't have to think out the vocal melody, which is about the same as in a good half of nursery rhymes ever created. But add just a little bit of "ominous" atmosphere in the chorus, and suddenly you're looking at a mind-opening LSD anthem. Or something like that. Plus, a few nice Zombies-like organ flourishes at the end. The final effect is pretty, but I don't think this could be anybody's personal favourite unless you have nostalgia reasons or something. One thing that baffles me to no end is how the band's guitarist Ed King could eventually end up in Lynyrd Skynyrd - I like Lynyrd Skynyrd, but... ah well. Then again, how could Ted Nugent end up in Ted Nugent?
11. The Brogues: I Ain't No Miracle Worker [B+]
This song's appeal is not so much in the melody (straightforward garage with a decent fuzzy riff) as it is in the lyrics and vocal delivery - on here, The Brogues are doing exactly what the Clash would be doing more than a decade later, venting their social frustration rather than just looking for some. There's a sence of creepy, almost unbearable desperation here, as the lead guy screams 'I ain't no miracle worker, no, no, I ain't no miracle man!', and it's strange the song wasn't a hit: I figure every last unhappy outcast at the time just had to spend his last dollar on the single. Normally, I don't fall for songs that are all protest and nothing else, but this one boasts a really fine performance, and in a way, says much more than even the Who said with 'My Generation'. Still, it hasn't got much in the way of memorability, and thus the streak of "good, but far from eyebrow-raising" songs on this second disk continues even further.
12. Love: 7 And 7 Is [A]
One of Love's best rockers, no doubt about it, and the nuclear mushroom explosion alone is worth enduring the song's frenetic pace (for a complete review of Da Capo, putting the song in context, go here). Love are actually one of the best known bands on Nuggets, particularly due to the cult classic status of Forever Changes, so I'm not sure if the song deserved inclusion on the 'rareness' basis, but still, if it helps some people to get more of Arthur Lee's records, that can't be a bad thing. Thumbs up.
13. The Outsiders: Time Won't Let Me [A]
Who says jazz-rock didn't exist before Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago invented it? Well, probably nobody does, but few people could name any rock bands with a full-blown brass section before these two (certainly the lonely saxophone of the Dave Clark 5 doesn't count). Meet the Outsiders, releasing their debut single in January '66, with a very prominent horn section lifting up the main melody and soaring to a tremendous climax in the chorus. Plus competent organ and guitar playing, and a catchy chorus. The atmosphere in general is a little bit bubblegummy, but gee, is that really a surprise? No, it isn't. And it probably helped the single to soar up to #5 on the charts, too, which is, I guess, a good thing.
14. The Squires: Going All The Way [A]
Further dispelling the myth about all those bands not knowing how to play their instruments, 'Going All The Way' is an example of tight, driving, magnificently gelled pop-rock - all it lacks is some kind of extra unpredictable spark to push it over the top, although the ecstatic guitar solo at the end really comes close; it's one of the best guitar solos on this collection, a true moment of emotional inspiration, pushing higher and higher as if the player were some sort of an early Clapton form. In other words, the solo here is a value in itself, not just an obligatory tribute to an obligatory trend. But the moody Byrds-influenced melody itself is no slouch either, with its quiet desperation and these unnerving high-pitched organ "squeals". As the liner notes specify, this was pretty much the Squires' only creation of notice, and luckily it's been preserved here for everyone to see.
15. The Shadows Of Knight: I'm Gonna Make You Mine [B]
A big improvement on 'Oh Yeah', but still not enough to convince me of the band's greatness. They're trying to play it rough here, and as a result totally drown out the song's half-decent melody in amateurish, boring feedback - again, I ask you to revert to the Del-Vetts tune to see a much more reasonable use of feedback. Here, the vocals (lead as well as backup) seem like they're coming from the basement, and most of the song is reduced to two fuzzy power chords played over and over again, in a very primitive fashion at that. Still, the song is not a Bo Diddley rip-off this time, and with better production, it could have ended up among my favourites. Besides, you just might like that kind of messy, not-know-what-you're-really-doing slop.
16. Kim Fowley: The Trip [C-]
I'll grant that, given the time of the single's release (late '65), 'The Trip' might have made some kind of impact back then. The way Kim Fowley spews forth his psychedelic, or, actually, mock-psychedelic, lyrical imagery of silver bats and emerald rats and whatsoever over this one repetitive riff was certainly novel, and after all, psychedelia had barely started, and here was somebody already ridiculing it way before Frank Zappa's arrival. Problem is, we don't really know if this is ridicule or if it's just a particularly lame way to cash in on the upcoming LSD craze. What we do know is that there is something to be said for "datedness", brothers and sisters, and this 'song' is most certainly dated. Kim Fowley, is of course, the enfant terrible of the late Sixties era, a guy who's managed to not only bring down his own reputation (which he really never had) but also that of the Byrds, and this is one of his more terrible oeuvres. At least it happens to be just two minutes long. I don't question its inclusion, though - as a lame historical curio, it deserves to be heard once.
17. The Seeds: Can't Seem To Make You Mine [B-]
Not hopeless, but very much indicative of the fact that 'Pushin' Too Hard' was really just a fluke. This song has a nice guitar hook and a semi-acceptable vocal melody, but otherwise screams "lame!" all over the place: the vocals are ragged, hoarse, and extremely ugly (that ugliness worked in the context of an angry, pissed off song, but hardly works in the context of a desperate love song), the guitar hook repeats itself over and over until you're not really interested any more, and the pathetic excuse for a "keyboard solo" just further confirms the suspicion that these guys took like two hours of musical training each. 'Course, musical training is about the last valid criterion for discussing a Nuggets song, but you sure start looking for playing quality when you don't see much songwriting one. As a result, the song is a mere so-so trifle that hardly even registers anywhere. The band's first single, if anybody cares.
18. The Remains: Why Do I Cry [B+]
Looks like you can't always count on the Seeds to deliver good entertainment, but you can always count on the Remains. This song, their first single, is somewhat more formulaic and "basically early Beatles-derivative" than 'Don't Look Back', but you always have to start somewhere, and as far as Beatles imitations go, this one's up almost up there with the likes of 'Lies'. Barry delivers a great vocal melody (the bridge is the main attention-attracting moment here), there's a good solo passage, and... uh... what else is there to say? I could use better production, though, because in comparison to 'Don't Look Back', the instruments aren't nearly as distinctive and the vocals are shoved up the mixing engineer's bottom.
19. The Beau Brummels: Laugh Laugh [B]
One of the few bands that are somewhat known outside the limits of this compilation, but I'm not sure 'Laugh Laugh' is exactly the best way to get into them. Not a bad song, but essentially what they do is they take the sweetey folksey approach of the Searchers and distill it into an even more bubblegummy-like concoction. Lead singer Sal Valentino sounds totally like one of those innocent clean-cut 1961-style pop singers, the guitars are wimpy beyond recognition, and they even try to make the harmonica sound all syrupy. Ah well, that's "bubblegum folk" for ya, I guess. The melody is good, though, and at least they wrote their material themselves. So don't deny yourself the experience, but I'd say that style of music was already a bit out-of-date for 1965, with 'Mr Tambourine Man' coming along and all.
20. The Nightcrawlers: The Little Black Egg [B+]
And even MORE folk bubblegum comin' atcha! This one's better, though, because it's more Mother Goose than Frankie Avalon, and what's a good Nuggets box without some Mother Goose? A naggin', almost annoyingly repetitive two-chord guitar hook, lyrics about a little black egg, and a smash hit for the state of Florida actively covered by performers who couldn't wiggle even that kind of melody out of themselves. Oh, and cute kiddie vocals to boot. In all, just one of those songs that you can't help but remember even if there's hardly anything truly "creative" about it.
21. The Gants: I Wonder [A]
You know, if there's any way to clam up all the Beatles naysayers, one might make a fine pro-Beatles case by collecting all the wannabe Beatles songs on Nuggets, specifying exactly the location of each of these wannabe Beatles bands. The Beatles made a better case for rock as a unifying power than Woodstock, it seems. All these Southern bands, for instance. Take away the Beatles influence and they all go back to their redneck ways (I'm lookin' at ya, Ed King!). Add it and you get a band like the Gants, hailing from Mississippi and turning in a song that, along with 'Lies', qualifies as the finest Beatles imitation on this record. Heck, I swear one of the band members even looks exactly like John Lennon on the photo - and if it is Sid Herring, lead vocalist and main composer, then he sings like Lennon too, and writes songs based on "variations" of Beatles melodies; in this case, a variation on the theme of 'In My Life', but a different enough variation to be considered a song in its own rights. Excellent tune, too, if not quite up to the highest Lennon standard, but let's not be too harsh.
22. The Five Americans: I See The Light [B-]
Or even a C, because apart from the fact that the song is fast and it, uh, like actually rocks, man, I can't think of anything to say about it. Yeah, fast rollickin' beat and a not quite usual organ part - but the vocals are a laugh, leading me to believe that they wanted to just have a good groove. Well, the groove is decent, but if it's a groove, then by the end of two minutes you just merely gotta start getting yourself on fire, and by the time you actually get the urge to wiggle your feet the song is already over. I don't have the subtlest wish to doubt these five guys from Dallas' good intentions, but the jury is out ladies and gentlemen, and these candidates simply don't qualify. Next position please.
23. The Woolies: Who Do You Love [B+]
A fairly decent, and up-to-the-point (two minutes and stop!) rendition of the Bo Diddley tune, with no pointless "embellishments" a la Doors version. I like the way they just kick into the groove with one brawny introductory "weeeeeell!" - no build-up, nothing, just a wild rhythm and a lot of sweat. Oh, and a cool organ backing. On the other hand, the shortness also works against the band: no interesting solos (just a bunch of sloppy chords - apparently, getting a better lead guitarist wouldn't be out of place for these guys), no development, just kick-ass. Then again, looking at the band's photo in the book, it's a wonder they even could work out such a groove: they look just like your average high school buncha hooligans. Hailing from Michigan, by the way. Point in their favour: all the lyrics are fairly discernible, so if you had problems with, you know, all the other versions of that song...
24. Swingin' Medallions: Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love) [A]
Way before (or, actually, at the same time as) people started making music on LSD, people were making music on a mug o' beer, and this is a great example. Not only are the lyrics to this, uh, burp, love song replete with alcoholic references (starting from the title itself), the band also adds lots of drunken crowd noises and a "swirling" organ rhythm probably designed to represent the spinning head of every single member. There's not much more to the song than that, but who friggin' cares? The idea is to transfer the drunken brawl of a South Carolina barroom on record, and it works. It even charted, climbing up to #17, showing how many a hard-workin' American truly and sincerely identified with the mood of the song.
25. The Merry-Go-Round: Live [B-]
This thing sounds nice and fresh and carries a huge optimistic message, but frankly speaking, I've heard way too much of that upbeat martial-style chord sequence in pop songs of the time to get any extra kicks. The best thing about the song are the vocal harmonies - single-tracked high-pitched vocals in the verses (bearing a slight resemblance to Russell Mael's tone), double-tracked in the chorus, plus atmospheric crooning all around. But the monotonous simplistic melody grows old really quick, and the song doesn't register much higher than standard generic Merseybeat imitation on my scale. The liner notes insist that further recordings by the band displayed a lot of songwriting talent, so I hope 'Live' isn't really the primary indicator.
26. Paul Revere & The Raiders: Steppin' Out [B]
The song is not exactly enough to convince me of Paul Revere's greatness, but it does have an edge to it - the combination of Revere's decisive organ, the crunchy fuzz bassline, the 'Tobacco Road'-derivative but still fun guitar riff and especially Mark Lindsay's exaggerated God-knows-which accent, sort of works in a sort of way, even if the hell I know what way exactly. It forces you to listen, even if deep down in your heart you know these guys are just modelling themselves after the Animals on this particular song. Still, it's nice to have them speed up for the mid-section, and with a couple extra twists like a sorely lacked guitar solo it could have become one of me favourites.
27. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: Diddy Wah Diddy [A]
Before Don Van Vliet became the baddest weirdo guy on the planet, he used to play the blues (actually he never lost the love for classic blues throughout his entire career). The best examples of his blues roots can be found on his debut album, Safe As Milk, but this here single, released as early as March '66, is hardly worse. He's got his voice - raspy, hoarse, sounding like a ninety-year old black man already in his twenties - and he's got the "untrivial" approach to recording, combining rumbling grumbling fuzz bass with sort of a carnivalesque harmonica-and-organ part. I bet you could listen to this as soon as it came out and mutter, 'hmm, this is no ordinary blues-lovin' guy, this cat's gonna go far'.
28. The Sonics: Strychnine [A]
From the moody, non-hasty electric piano intro to the song you'd never guess it was going to be one of the package's wildest rockers, but it is; the Sonics kick up a groove that's harsher, heavier, and wall-of-sound-er than most of the others (perennial favourites Del-Vetts, of course, excluded). I deny this an A+ because the song itself, melodically speaking, is not particularly interesting. But they do go for the groove primarily, with the piano, the brass riffs, the garage guitar solos, and, above all, lead vocalist Gerry Roslie's brawl, all working together to reach that ass-kickin' Nirvana we all love so much. And not to mention the lyrics, which should have caused them much more problems back in 1965 than that stupid 'Suicide Solution' caused Ozzy a couple decades later. Oh, that's right, the Sonics' song wasn't a hit (it wasn't even a single - a rare exception of an album track here). Too bad, as it was much better.
29. Syndicate Of Sound: Little Girl [B]
A classic case of a song being ruined by its own greatness - the "jangly" descending guitar line which it's based upon is a marvel, but it does nothing but repeat itself over and over and over and over again, less discernible while they're singing the verses, more discernible when they're not. Even the so-called "instrumental break" doesn't manage to rid the song of its only hook in favour of a different one. Then again, I guess persistency gotta account for something - like for the single going up to #8 in the charts, for instance. But me, I've played this three times in a row, and it's still jangling in my ears like an annoying fly. The vocalist lacks any kind of personality as well. The guitar line, however, is well worth studying, I guess.
30. Blues Magoos: (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet [B+]
The riff will probably be familiar to you - most likely, you've heard it, in a slightly modified way, as used by Deep Purple on 'Black Night', although Purple ripped it off not from the Magoos but from Ricky Nelson's 'Summertime', and I guess the Magoos did as well. But even if we don't count the riff as a Magoos achievement, well, there's still the vocal harmonies - and the near-psychedelic organ accompaniment - and the slow bridge - and that rising acid guitar line - and that high-pitched ecstatic guitar solo - well you know what I'm hinting at. Nowhere near as reckless as 'Tobacco Road', but still a heck of a lot of fun, a good combination of upbeat rock and roll with all those fuzzy outside influences, if you know what I mean.
31. Max Frost & The Troopers: Shape Of Things To Come [A]
You can always count on the Brill Building and its "trooper" team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill to come up with a top notch tune, even if it's used in a campy movie about a teenage revolution. "Max Frost & The Troopers", of course, aren't a real band, but that's no reason to deny the excellence of the song - pretty simple but tremendously effective vocal hook, and a passionate delivery that almost makes you suspect a deep belief in the movie and its values. The only complaint is that it's so unbelievably short - what, three verses and one mid-section? With a fast tempo at that? You may be "The Troopers", but you sure ain't no Residents, guys, give us a guitar solo or get out of the kitchen. Just kidding, of course.
1. The Hombres: Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) [B]
Good way to kill some of your spare time: make a direct count of Beatles, Stones, and Dylan rip-offs on this boxset and see who comes out first. This one is undoubtedly a Dylan rip-off, but better than most others - because the Hombres at least make sure they get Bob's humorous side transferred as well, and besides they've managed to come up with a fun, bouncy rhythmic pattern that is not found on any particular Dylan record I know of. Especially considering that, if we are to believe the liner notes, they thought of this right after hearing 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' - the fast flurry spoken vocals principle is the same indeed, but on practice the two songs have very little to do with each other. Amusing little two-minute throwaway that somehow made it onto the charts - inessential, but certainly showing talent. Well, at least that's how I find it to be.
2. The Golliwogs: Fight Fire [B+]
When I first heard this, I was disappointed - so that's what the future Creedence Clearwater Revival used to sound like? No wonder their pre-CCR career flopped so horribly altogether: third-rate British Invasion imitators with nary a hook in sight. Later on, the song grew on me, and the minor hooks revealed themselves - and when the Bo Diddley-like instrumental section comes along, you sure start to feel a little of that incredible band energy that later realized itself so much more fully. I guess it's just the fact that you expect the Fogerty brothers to be kicking major rootsy ass all the time which gets you derailed: this is, after all, a wimpy Merseybeat send-up at the heart, not at all John and Tom's basic "line of work". But the guitars sure sound good.
3. New Colony Six: At The River's Edge [B-]
According to the liner notes, these guys dressed in colonial era clothes and thought themselves sort of a collective George Washington to the collective British King George or something. Nice thinking, but the song out here is pretty mediocre for an ardent militaristic answer - sure they rant and rave and rage with passion and commitment, but I detect no creativity in this approach. The bass guy is good, pumping out his flurry boogie notes so loud you can't hear anything else, and the main melody is kinda catchy, but there's not even a bridge or a friggin' refrain. Well, it's R'n'B, stylistically, you don't need a refrain, but when was this stuff released? February '66? The Stones did better R'n'B interpretations in '64 for Chrissake! And their session keyboard players didn't hang on to one-chord organ sequences for ages! Decent stuff, but very routine.
4. The Daily Flash: Jack Of Diamonds [B+]
The third disc is obviously much more mediocre than the rest of this stuff; if New Colony Six represented "low mediocrity", The Daily Flash represent "high mediocrity" in that the track kicks much more ass than the would-be George Washingtons' one, but is equally devoid of personality and creativity. This time the guitar solo steals the show, pretty advanced and threatening for mid-66, especially when coupled with the gritty feedback blasts in the background. But perhaps it's just this traditional tune that didn't lend itself very well to a punchy hard rock interpretation or something, because I don't feel like identifying with it. Play it back to back with 'Last Time Around' and you'll see the difference between real grit and competent "poseur" stuff. Sorry guys, you're not in my book... although I wouldn't mind having one more listen, at least.
5. Lyme & Cybelle: Follow Me [B]
"Lyme" is a young aspiring Warren Zevon, and "Cybelle" is some - probably also young and aspiring - chick or something (so much for your PC level, George). Nice tune, kinda. Cute guitar, sorta. Pretty vocals, I'll bet. Tender hippiesque lyrical matter, you may be sure of that. What else is there to say? Just one song in a million. "Psychedelized Sonny & Cher", as the liner notes put it, and there probably ain't no better description, except that there's really not that much psychedelia in this stuff - unless you count any attempt to put some wobbly echo on your multi-tracked vocals as a psychedelic experiment. In short, mediocrity on the run.
6. The Choir: It's Cold Outside [B+]
And still more mediocrity. Bubblegum a la Herman's Hermits, lively and not particularly offensive, but not even the Beatles at their sappiest used to do stuff like this. The melody prob'ly took three minutes to write (or, rather, to find), every single guitar chord and vocal harmony movement had been worked to death by everybody in the business, and at 2:46 the song seems overlong, with next to no development at all. But on the positive side, it's danceable and moderately energetic, and good. It's sort of like attending a high school graduation ball or something like that, so if you have that sappy sentimental vibe to you, bring it on.
7. The Rare Breed: Beg, Borrow And Steal [C]
Indeed. Maybe if I formed a garage band in the mid-Sixties, I would also want to begin my career by taking the unmistakable riff to 'Louie Louie' and building a "different" song around it. I would have nothing to lose either way, what with me lacking musical talent and all. But these guys probably had to lose something, and if this is the only song of theirs considered for inclusion into the boxset, well, I can only imagine what their worse material looked like. Sure sure sure, I'm not supposed to think of Nuggets in terms of originality, but would that mean that next time some smartass takes, say, 'Day Tripper' and thinks of some new lyrics to it and then claims the song as his own, I'm supposed to like the song? Respectfully disagree. These Nuggets guys may have had their main strength in spontaneity and unprofessionalism (not all of them though), but never in displaying a lack of creativity as well.
8. Sir Douglas Quintet: She's About A Mover [B]
These chums were marketed as yet another of America's answer to the Beatles, but turned out to be more of an American answer to the Dave Clark 5. Nevertheless, their biggest hit, 'She's About A Mover', hardly sounds like either - it's an upbeat R'n'B stomper the likes of which you'd rather expect from the Stones or the Yardbirds. Only the joint vocal harmonies remind you of the Merseybeat approach. And the song is nothing special either; the interesting repetitive organ pattern makes it slightly more distinguished than, uh, I dunno, the norm for this kind of thing, but unless it's your first memory of a Sixties song, you probably won't memorize it particularly well. Even if the band was a bit odd - Hispanics disguised as Brits playing American music? - their personality doesn't at all come through. A shame.
9. The Music Explosion: Little Bit O'Soul [B]
Oy this is somewhat groovy, but p'raps a little boring. Take 'Little Black Egg' and give it a massive R'n'B flavour and you pretty much got yourself this here formula - innocent little kiddie tune for some reason worked into a stomper for flaming libidos; no wonder it soared up the charts 'til it stopped at #2. The silly nasal whine of the lead vocalist betrays the Anglophilia, though, and the deeply rooted "whiteness" of the whole outfit... not that it's necessarily a putdown, but you gotta admit, you probably won't feel that much of a punch when listening to this bit of so-so musical activity. Probably!
10. The "E" Types: Put The Clock Back On The Wall [A]
Finally, the first really memorable composition on this disc. This slightly "unconventional" pop song has it all - a moody hook in the verse, an upbeat hook in the bridge, a sassy hook in the chorus, and a whole couple of memorable guitar/organ riffs to hang on to, not to mention a stop-and-start structure and an almost Zombie-like keyboard line at the end of the song. This is the way me likes me pops - in less than two and a half minutes, a vast array of creative ideas and emotional punches. So it's not 'Spazz', and you won't be wondering where on earth these guys got their ideas from, because they wear their influences on their sleeves - Beatles, Kinks, Zombies (they even look eerily like the Zombies on the photo!), Merseybeat in general, you know the drift. But it's a good reworking of those ideas, and the band sure had potential; for reasons unknown, the song never charted (why? I can just imagine Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction singing the song instead of 'Flowers On The Wall'!), and we never heard of these mysterious "E Types" again.
11. The Palace Guard: Falling Sugar [B]
Perhaps the only more obvious name for an American band would be "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Nevertheless, if your main punchline is in the name you call yourself, you're bound to fall, and these guys fell - having nothing better up their sleeve than this second-rate Beatles/Hollies imitation. The harmonies on the chorus are impressive all by themselves, what with the trading between members and all, but that wouldn't be different to do for anybody with a good bunch of Hollies' singles, provided he's not tonedeaf or anything. There is a hook and a ho, and you just can't tell the song a no, but in the long run, this train ain't kept a-rollin' all night long, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, good party fodder, the definition of pleasant mediocrity. What else? Nothing.
12. The Gestures: Run Run Run [A]
Ah well, now this is good. It dates from as early as 1964 and has a surprisingly deep and sophisticated sound for the epoch - for all I know, certain lameass garage bands were still recording in the exact same vein three or four years later. Musically, the song is rather inspired by the Shadows than the Beatles, but it's a damn great imitation, with a tight, interesting guitar solo, and a fast driving beat - I'd sure like to have that drummer in my band, he's technically better than Ringo (not that it says a lot, but it's 1964 we're talking about, Neil Peart was still reading Tolkien at the time). The vocals are the best thing, though: slightly echoey and even otherworldly, almost with a proto-psychedelic tinge to them. In short, the song has little ambition but perfectly hits every mark it aims at. So who minds the title in the end?
13. The Rationals: I Need You [B]
'I Need You' was the Kinks' third re-write of 'You Really Got Me', and the worst of the three, which is probably why The Rationals decided to cover it. The only thing I can say is that it was dang brave of them to release this minimalistic garage rocker as a single in broad '68, when neither garage rock nor the Kinks were cool any more. Apart from that, they get a good guitar sound going, uh... plenty of energy in the solos, too. The guy's lead vocals suck, though - c'mon guys, hitting the notes alone isn't gonna let you through, you need personality to do it! This guy sounds like he's been taking cold showers in between takes (if there was more than one in the first place, of course). Close another door, please.
14. The Humane Society: Knock Knock [A]
A little dark drama of sexual tension; one could say it's simply an inventive Stones rip-off, but hey, Mick Jagger would never come knockin' on the door of a bitch who'd walk out on him, would he? He'd just write another 'Stupid Girl' or 'Ride On Baby' about it. Danny Wheetman, on the other hand, can't stand it when his girl dumps him, and he keeps storming her front door, first slowly and menacingly, to the sound of dirty distorted echoey guitars and ominous tambourines, gathering steam and then exploding in a quasi-insane fast-tempo rant with froth at the mouth and the whole band going nuts. Musically, there's nothing particularly interesting about the song, but as a little slice of "Garage Theater" it works perfectly, and if they'd want to shoot a video of the song, I know perfectly well how it could be visualised, too. Funny trivia tidbit from the liner notes - the song was "concealed" as the B-side to an innocent little hippie ballad called 'Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips With Me'!
15. The Groupies: Primitive [A]
They called their style "abstract rock", and even if the basic melody here is anything but "abstract", being ripped directly off 'Smokestack Lightning', The Groupies are indeed flirting with the avantgarde and the modernist on this single - released in January '66, before even The 13th Floor Elevators rose to prominence. I don't know whether I like it that much or not, but I'm giving it thumbs up for the sheer will to construct something different alone. Naturally, it's a snub-nosed bohemian quasi-intellectual manifesto ('primitive, that's how I live') that could only come out of the vicinity of Greenwich Village and nowhere else, and this automatically presupposes that it's either genius or total crap, but at least it's definitely not mediocre. Oh, and how does it sound? Well, you take that riff, spice it up with echoey tambourines, nasty harmonicas, lots of one-note overdubs, and a very ugly singing voice, and there you have it. Sort of like a tentative deconstruction of the Rolling Stones sound. Take it or leave it.
16. The Sonics: Psycho [B+]
More up to the point. The Sonics ride high again: two minutes long, two (maybe three) chords rich, lots of distorted guitar and sax, and a guy who wails very very loudly and very very wildly, plus a Dave Davies-derived guitar solo for good measure. Nowhere near as catchy as 'Strychnine', but just as good in the energy department, and I sure wish I could blow my own throat to pieces like their lead vocalist does; John Lennon could sure take a couple of lessons here. 'Sall I can say, really.
17. The Lyrics: So What!! [B+]
After the Sonics, the Lyrics... say, don't it remind you of a series of proper names from the Asterix comics? Never mind... Just another ferocious bluesy rave-up, another respectful tribute to the Yardbirds and the Stones at the same time. Unlike the Sonics, though, who had this tough brawny wild proto-Slade screamer, this here lead vocalist, Chris Gaylord (boy, that's some last name) specializes in sneery atmosphere, putting down his wealthy girlfriend with real gusto. No interesting melody to speak of, but the band plays tight and powerful, preferring a triple guitar-bass-harmonica attack to showcasing any individual instruments. Best moments arrive when Gaylord actually screams out the song title - "so what???" indeed, hardly anything left to say. So move on down the line.
18. The Lollipop Shoppe: You Must Be A Witch [B]
Cool song title and cool overall message - the way Fred Cole belts out his misogynistic message, you'd think he were really scared of the gal he's putting down here - but, unfortunately, the song ain't at all memorable. It's fun to see the riff of 'I Wish You Would' sometimes pop out of nowhere and then just as quickly disappear into oblivion, but overall, it's just a mess of distortion. They can't even get a decent rhythm going. However, if you do rate these songs according to the level of sexual tension expressed, then I guess it's an A++, easily, and material worthy of a Ph.D. thesis.
19. The Balloon Farm: A Question Of Temperature [A+]
Now THIS is a masterpiece, a bizarre crooked little chef-d'oeuvre from a group that's as little-known as The Elastik Band. Part psychedelia, part garage, and part avantgarde, it just plain smokes during its two and a half minutes. And what's that, is it the sound of a scratched LP I hear in the very beginning? Can hardly be anything else, so here's the beginning of hip-hop for you, heh heh. But jokes aside, it's got a great catchy vocal melody, a ton of tiny organ/guitar overdubs and even a bunch of electronic bleeps in certain places that puts these guys in a league similar to that of the United States of America. Well, not quite, but it's definitely out there even for late 1967, when the single was released. Plus, the lyrics are hilarious: 'is it a question of love?' [insert wicked echoey laugh here] 'is it a state of mind? oh no no no, it's a question of... OF TEMPERATURE!'. I tell you, it was well worth to wade through the uneven and inconsistent selections of the third disc just to discover this little gem.
20. Mouse & The Traps: Maid Of Sugar - Maid Of Spice [A]
Hey, I was right when I said in my dismissal of 'A Public Execution' that the best thing about that song were the tight, fluid opening guitar lines. For their second single, Mouse wisely dump the Dylan copycat image (leaving only the general Dylanish sneer evident in the lyrics and vocal delivery) and concentrate on power-packed garage rock, and the guitar work is astonishing - how come Harry "Bugs" Henderson never became a guitar legend after this song is one of those little mysteries that make the job of snobby rock connoisseurs all the more useful. The song itself is nothing special, just a standard fast beat with no special hooks, but man, when that guy hits the chords in the instrumental breaks, it's total ecstasy. It's that kind of ravenous, unbridled headbanging where you don't get thrown off by even one mistake or unexpected pause - perfect slashing and plucking all over the place. For the solos alone, the song deserves an A, and this Henderson guy deserves a public monument.
21. The Uniques: You Ain't Tuff [B]
Punk rock with Southern flavor? Or Southern rock with punk flavor? Whatever. The Uniques don't quite match their name, but they sure blow a mean harmonica and get a little bit of a "swampy" vibe going on here, interspersed with obvious Dylan references. Funny thing, way too often it looks like all these snotty teenagers learned their misogynistic schtick from Mr Zimmerman rather than the bad boys of British rock, let alone old bluesmasters. At least this here band is trying to put down the proverbial "tuff girl" with 'intelligent' lyrics like 'you'll never be the Queen of Egypt, you'll never be the Queen of Sheba'. Heh. Pass on that. Curious tidbit: a certain "Mike Love" is credited for drumming! Wouldn't it be nice??..
22. The Standells: Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White [C+]
There's a message in here... somewhere. Can you guess where? Well, I personally liked 'Dirty Water' better, because that one at least had the crazy riff feature and somehow the snarling was better, too. Here there's nothing of interest except for the message. The guitar plays one or two chords... slowly, the organ wails along the lines of one or two notes, slowly, and overall, there's nothing on here worth saving. Sure the line "don't dig this long hair? get yourself a crew cut baby!" sounded great for the rebellious teen in the Sixties, but Jesus Christ, don't select your Nuggets material according to the lyrics!
23. The Mojo Men: She's My Baby [B+]
These guys obviously went for the dark mysterious sound of the Old Bluesman, criss-crossed with some freshly grown garage anger. Not a very memorable tune, but at least these guys know how to get a great sound going - pissed-off fuzz bass, wailing harmonica, Stonesy guitars, and a complex, near-tribal drumbeat. Oh, and a three-note riff that spells M-E-N-A-C-E, of course. And is a direct rip-off of 'I'm A Man' and the like, but that's to be expected. The perfect example of the perfectly acceptable, but personality-devoid, blues-based nugget. A little more guitar prowess couldn't hurt, though; if anything, all these Stones imitations regularly fail so much because none of the imitators ever took the time to refine their playing techniques the way Keith Richards and Brian Jones did.
24. Unrelated Segments: Story Of My Life [B+]
A fun little ditty all the segments of which are quite related (in fact, 99% of the song is just the same incessant 'Can I Get A Witness'-like beat over and over), with an expectable misogynistic message to boot. The lead singer is hoarse and whiny, but not very exciting, and I wouldn't care much for the song if not for the fact they got an outstanding bassist out there, running up and down the frets as if his life depended on it. Sure it's impossible to determine based on just one track whether the guy could or couldn't rival John Entwistle, but whatever the case, it's always exciting to discover snippets of outstanding musicianship on compilations like these.
25. The Third Bardo: I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time [B]
Psychedelic macho rock: the lead singer struts his stuff as he proudly proclaims how cool and advanced he is compared to everything else out there. A novel gimmick which can either push the song rating up or down, depending on your moral stance. On one hand, these guys recorded the song in 1967, when they could only be "ahead of their time" if taken in the same boat with all the huge psychedelic/acid scene of 1967 as compared to mainstream tastes in music; by themselves, they sound like a weak amalgamation of Pink Floyd and the Doors. On the other hand, this self-conscious "sociological strutting" exposes an unusual type of bravado that few of the bands of the time dared to expose (or cared about, anyway). So make what you think of it. The vocal melody resolution is somewhat catchy, but that's hardly the song's main strength.
26. We The People: Mirror Of Your Mind [A]
Well, looks like we're picking up speed and steam towards the end. The liner notes rant and rave about "We The People" as sort of the ultimate Southern proto-punk cult band, and you know, they might just be right, although the band gets on not through minimalism, but rather through a terrific wall-of-sound. When the instrumental break comes on, be sure to turn the volume up loud and watch yourself drowning in the vast layers of sound. The drummer abuses the cymbals in a way only Keith Moon would dare, there's a frantic harmonica wail that's mixed somewhere in the middle, which means you can hear it all right but it never overshadows the dizzying guitar licks or the vocalist's nasal screaming. Without being too heavy or too sloppy, they drive such a ferocious groove home I only have to tip my hat. Oh, and the chorus is catchy, too!
27. The Shadows Of Knight: Bad Little Woman [A]
So much better than that stupid 'Oh Yeah' thing. The "proto-wah-wah" introductory chords that pop up in the beginning, in the middle, and for the conclusion of the song, almost give it a shade of the Zeppelin mystique, but the song itself is a ferocious rocker which knows for itself where exactly to speed up and where to slow down as the guitarist stops playing that totally quintessential rock'n'roll break which even Keith Richards couldn't play better. Meanwhile, the naggin' organ line gives the song extra pizzazz, and the bassline almost sounds like a cool nursery rhyme played with low notes. Pretty much everybody, including the drummer, shines, and there's at least ten or twelve tiny touches of creativity here, as compared to the one or two basic (and stolen) ideas of 'Oh Yeah'. Shame on Mr Kaye for including 'Oh Yeah' on the original Nuggets instead of this puppy. Probably had something to do with the fact that 'Oh Yeah' charted sixty positions higher than 'Bad Little Woman'. People are stupid.
28. The Music Machine: Double Yellow Line [A]
More Music Machine is better Music Machine! This really sounds nothing like 'Talk Talk' - the opening organ line almost seems to be predicting Eighties synth-pop for God's sake! But, of course, we can always count on a gruff fuzzy lead guitar line throughout as well, and on a catchy chorus, too. Where 'Talk Talk' was all twisted and explosive, this is a much more carefully structured number, but not any better or worse, just different. The guitar/organ interplay here is really special, quite unlike anything heard previously on this boxset. Obligatory complaint: where's the guitar solo? This song could have kicked even more arse! Non-obligatory compliment: the organ playing is really really clever. The keyboard guy must have taken some serious Zombies listening, I guess.
29. The Human Expression: Optical Sound [B]
More psychedelia for youse, but this time, not a lot of substance. Of course there's the echo and the drone effect and the enigmatic lyrics and the stoned vocals and creepy effects on the guitars to make the music colourful and the sound "optical". But these ingredients have to be met on every respectable psychedelic track. This one is still a bit too bubblegummy, though, with way too sappy vocals and stuff, sort of like the Psychedelic Monkees but without the catchiness. Still, there's more thought and work that went into this song than in the entire career of N'Sync, if you wanna make a good case for Sixties music. And yes, I know that's an exaggeration, but I just had to make one.
30. The Amboy Dukes: Journey To The Center Of The Mind [A+]
Ah well, now this is psychedelia I do like! No bluesy wanking from these guys this time around... well, some, but this time it's served with a hallucinogenic flavour. It's just as bubblegummy and innocent a pop single as the Human Expression's, actually, yet with much more gusto, much more catchiness, and that Ted Nugent fella sounds like he's just born to add his guitar talents to a bunch of drug-addled freedom-loving radical-minded hippies, now doesn't he? His destiny, it is, heh heh. Gotta love how they launch into the 'Last Time Around' riff midway through (well, to be frank with you, I don't even know who invented that riff in the first place). In short, a classic that makes me actually interested in the band. Looks like the Detroit scene really lives up to its reputation.
1. The Chocolate Watchband: Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In) [B]
Too much honour for these guys, marking their third entry on this boxset - come on now, surely there could have been better candidates? The only thing this track is remarkable for is the strangely aggressive approach with which the lead singer is belting out the supposedly peace-and-love message of the song. (Okay, so the lyrics are ironic, so who cares). But the melody is weak (although suitably distorted), the attempts at guitar solos not as much pathetic as non-existent, and the main chorus hook is flatfoot and isolated. I don't want to say the song completely lacks creativity, but it's one of those middle-of-the-road cases where you can have the same stuff done better (to take your breath away) or much worse (to make you snicker and sneer). Certainly not the best of introductions to this final CD.
2. The Leaves: Too Many People [B+]
Not featuring quite as many creative ideas as the Paul McCartney song of the same name, it's still a pretty decent pop-rocker from the guys that brought you the Definitive Version of "Hey Joe" For Snub-Nosed People Who Think Hendrix Is Overrated. This one's nowhere near as rampant and ravaging, but still has a fun quirky bassline, sing-songey Beatles-style (Lennon-style, to be correct) vocal harmonies, protest lyrics and a spine-ripping garage rock solo with a bit of jazzy inspiration. Nice to play air guitar to, but I sure wish they'd turn that unimpressive harmonica wailing down. Can't concentrate on the vocals.
3. The Brigands: (Would I Still Be) Her Big Man [B+]
They're starting to run out of bands by the time the fourth CD comes along - see, the first two songs are by already represented acts - but there's still space left for The Brigands, a totally non-hit wonder who wrote this song about a poor guy who buys his girlfriend all kind of expensive goodies and is terribly afraid that one day she is gonna find out how poor he really is (where he gets the actual money from is sort of a mystery, though). Sort of an imaginative soap opera for two and a half minutes, and the melody and refrain are catchy and fun, although a bit bubblegummy for my personal taste. I think the Monkees could do better with this kind of material, but even as it is, it's still a hoot. Not too appropriate for repeated listens, though, unless you really empathize with the protagonist.
4. The Barbarians: Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl [B+]
Well, this one's definitely an approvement over the total novelty of 'Moulty'. The song is constructed as a bouncy little comic ditty with comic lyrics, but the topic in question is anything but comic, just giving a weird twist to the painful question of "letting one's hair down", if you know what I mean. 'You're either a girl, or you come from Liverpool' - capisci? Since the message is underpinned with a simple, but catchy guitar riff, and the refrain is so nicely constructed as well, it also gets extra points for melodicity and crap, but basically, it's a case of an interesting, original approach to the regular Nuggets lyrical topics rather than much of anything else.
5. Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs: Wooly Bully [A+]
The Traviata of rock'n'roll. The only question is, was it placed on the boxset just to make it more commercially attractive or just because nobody in their right minds would actually buy a Sam The Sham greatest hits CD? Certainly this tune boasts universal popularity, and for good reason; the only reason the Ramones didn't have it covered, I guess, was because they wouldn't be using a saxophone then, and the dumb, cooky sax solo is essentially vital to this piece of Tex-Mex minimalistic idiotic pleasure. The "uno, dos, one, two, tres, cuadro!" introduction alone is worth a fortune in gold, and if you do happen to "know" the lyrics to the song, don't tell me cuz I don't even wanna know. The miraculous thing, of course, is that no rational explanation whatsoever can be offered about why the song rules so much. It doesn't even rock in the true sense of the word. It just IS. It's "Wooly Bully", take it or leave it. But if you leave it, you'd better leave rock'n'roll altogether.
6. The Strangeloves: I Want Candy [A]
Everybody knows this through the one-hit wonder Bow Wow Wow Eighties' cover, but, of course, the original is better. Arrangement is key here: the melody is just your basic Bo Diddley beat. But it's done with these big big big booming African drums, it's accompanied by this almost sentimental, lyrical Spanish guitar line, and these stupid saxes - and you get sort of blues-meets-Latin-meets-world-beat kind of vibe, set to the dumbest set of lyrics imaginable. It was probably an accident - after all, judging by 'Nighttime', the Strangeloves weren't too imaginative a bunch of songwriters - but a damn funny accident it was.
7. The Kingsmen: Louie Louie [A++]
The 9th Symphony of rock'n'roll. The day you find a guitar/organ riff with fewer chords/notes to it that has the same impact, let me know. Again, not a very understandable inclusion, but then again, hey, I'm not really on the lookout for the Kingsmen catalog, so it's nice to have the most famous version of the song here. (My current favourite, though, is the lengthy, almost opera-lengthy, Flamin' Groovies version of it, followed closely by the Motorhead version - what's yours?).
8. The Knickerbockers: One Track Mind [B+]
Nice, but, I'd say, not quite up to the standard of 'Lies'. Interestingly enough, while 'Lies' was indeed credited to actual members of the band, this one wasn't - it's the product of professional songwriting, and somehow it seems to show, because the delivery is just a tad less passionate. That said, as far as secondhand Beatles imitations go, it doesn't suck at all. There's a nice poppy guitar riff, fine-sounding, if about a hundred percent derivative, vocal harmonies, and the classic verse/chorus/middle eight separation of the melodies. The production sort of sucks, though. The instruments sound flat and indistinctive. Oh sure they sounded the same on 'Lies', but 'Lies' had soul'n'spirit to it. This one just has the melodic backbone.
9. Wailers: Out Of Our Tree [A-]
Now this is a prime "nugget" if there ever was one, and the only thing that leaves me a bit underwhelmed is the relative lack of invention (the first twenty seconds of the song more or less say it all). But there's undeniable power here as these proto-Sonics (at least, that's what the liner notes hint at) concentrate their communal effort at driving the listener under the ground with screaming power-chord fuzzy guitar, screaming organ, screaming drums, and screaming group singing. Not that the screaming ain't hook-based - it is. The result is sort of a very loud, very hyperdriven rock'n'roll attack (file under the "Stones" category here). Actually, I was a bit wrong about everything happening in the first twenty seconds: they try a loud-and-quiet dynamics approach in the coda, which is very naive but still fun to have. Good song, pretty rabble-rousing for late '65. (The Who's My Generation hadn't come out yet, you know).
10. Harbinger Complex: I Think I'm Down [B+]
More Stones-imitation, and I do like this more than your average Chocolate Watch Band. The riff has the exact same fuzz tone as 'Satisfaction' and can't even hope to match it, but at least it's a riff and it's not a bad one, and when you add a substantial vocal hook in the chorus and, above all, a goofy, almost carnivalesque atmosphere, you get a pretty damn good result. The "humoristic" nature of the song is the key: so many bands were keen on ripping off the 'aggressive' side of the Stones that their poppier, funnier side was all but ignored, which is a goddamn shame - the Stones were more than just pure testosterone, and Harbinger Complex pay a fine homage to their "lighter" aspects. Cool fuzzy solo, too. Lots of potential here, unfortunately, never truly realized, as the song didn't chart and, as the liner notes state, very little is known about the band as a whole.
11. The Dovers: What Am I Going To Do [A]
Well, yes, the riff of this song is sort of a cross between Smokey Robinson's 'My Girl' and the Beatles' 'What You're Doing' (the latter is especially obvious). But it's one of these few cases where I really don't care, because it is borrowed to make part of a wholly different entity. This cutesy little pop ballad is way too heavy on the organ to sound like a Beatles imitation, and has way too peculiar vocal arrangements to throw it into the "we're little snotty boys wanting to take over the Motown machine" bin. In fact, the somewhat detached, 'abstract', melancholic vocals are the main snazz of the tune - there's something delicious about how the lyrics are so passionate and the vocal delivery is so - superficially, of course - 'somewhere out there'. And the chorus even has a tinge of the upcoming psychedelic vibe, which was pretty nifty for late '65. A good 'un.
12. The Charlatans: Codine [B-]
I must say, I'm not exactly the happiest man in the world when I hear country music as a Nuggets-band's main influence. These guys might have looked pretty (the photo has them all dressed like a bunch o' dandies straight out of Victorian times), but if the song's typical of their sound, well, I'd take the image over the music then. This is just a well-dressed country waltz with a competent guitar solo that doesn't boast any special identity. Probably the best thing about it is the "wobbly" guitar sound, which is, however, muted about three seconds into the song by layers of much more ordinary jangle and much more ordinary vocal harmonies. As for the guitar solo, it is pure Stones, which, come to think of it, is also not very usual for a country tune. But that's only if you come to think of it. Anyway, gimme some Lovin' Spoonful over this any time of day.
13. The Mystery Trend: Johnny Was A Good Boy [B+]
They're obviously telling a story here, but I can't be bothered about deciphering the lyrics, hey, I can be excused if these guys themselves, as the liner notes state, were really named after a misheard line ('the mystery tramp') in 'Like A Rolling Stone'. But the music is nice! I especially like the "flapping" rhythm guitar, particularly well-heard in the introduction, and the nice flashy embellishments (are these fart noises tubas or what?) they introduce into this basic "folk-punk" rocker. Sort of like a slightly rougher and angrier version of the Bee Gees circa '67, albeit with less experience in the vocal harmony department. The main drawback is that the melody is very simple, and no tricksy embellishments can really make it outstanding. If a "B+" is supposed to mean something like "really good in form, but still essentially mediocre in spirit", this is THE rating for the song.
14. Clefs Of Lavender Hill: Stop - Get A Ticket [A-]
Wow, what a nice song! Upbeat, fun, heartwarming, and, best of all, memorizable in about five seconds. There's absolutely nothing "special" about it, apart from maybe an odd emphasis on the drums that are mixed even higher than the vocal harmonies, but do they ever love the vocal harmonies. The chorus, which really consists of little else but repeating the title, is one of those little moments of sheer genius that you will hardly be complaining about when it gets firmly stuck in your head. Is it a coincidence that this oddly titled "band" (actually the songwriting duo of Travis and Coventry Fairchild) was formed in Miami? It's got the tropical sun and the palm beaches written all over it - not explicitly, mind you, but rather in terms of general atmosphere. Listening to this song is the equivalent of a good freshly-squeezed glass of orange juice, if you'll pardon me metaphor.
15. The Monks: Complication [A]
Not that I like listening to this stuff regularly, but it definitely deserves at least an A for sheer daring. Well, it wouldn't be entirely true to say this kind of music didn't exist in 1966 - in style, the Monks have a lot in common with the Mothers of Invention, for instance. But the Mothers of Invention were enjoying civil and artistic freedom soaked in the progressive environment of California, while the Monks were a bunch of American GIs stationed in Germany, rather a long way from direct influences of the creative centers of their motherland. 'Complication', their first single, is sort of a cross between garage, wild carnival muzak, and pre-Monty Pythonesque absurdism. The guitar rhythms are jagged and broken (not entirely unlike some of Captain Beefheart's experiments, although definitely more "normal" and rhythmic), the uncontrolled Hammond organ chokes on itself, and the vocals mainly consist of a paranoid barking guy shouting 'Complication!' and 'People kill for you! People die for you!' while his bandmates are happily harmonizing in the background. For the modern listener it probably won't make any sense, but back in Germany this kind of music was well-received by the locals because, well, there weren't too many English words in the song, if you know what I mean. It must have looked double weird, of course, what with The Monks sporting tonsures and wearing black robes and ropes around their necks. In short, one of those admirable historical oddities that makes life worth living.
16. The Sonics: The Witch [A+]
The plus is given to respect the fact that this song was recorded as early as 1964, which almost singlehandedly establishes the Sonics as the most raucous, noisy, ecstatic band of that year bar none (of those I've heard, obviously). It definitely helps that they did not have a classy producer or a serious recording studio at their disposal - it is the muddiness, the painful rawness of that sound that gives the song its unbelievable - for 1964 - edge. The brutal, simple-as-hell five-note riff is as primal as the one in 'Louie Louie', the guitar solo sounds like the blueprint for about ninety percent of the Velvet Underground's droning (which took place three years later, remember), and Gerry Roslie's howl, which you would later hear on 'Strychnine' and 'Psycho', is already firmly established. Add some brutal, "misogynistiest" lyrics, and you're all set. The only thing the song lacks is subtlety - no concealed, allegoric menace here, everything's in the open. But then again, it could only have gotten some subtlety at the expense of everything else, and then this wouldn't be classic Sonics material. Hooray for the Northwest! Looks like Kurt Cobain didn't just appear out of nowhere.
17. The Electric Prunes: Get Me To The World On Time [B]
Produced in more or less the same style as 'I Had Too Much To Dream' - meaning an overall psychedelic atmosphere, ominous breathy vocals, wobbly 'hallucinating' guitars, etc. - but overall a much weaker song, melodically at least one or two steps backwards. The "odd" Bo Diddley-esque section doesn't save matters much because, well, it's obviously there just for the sake of providing a counterpoint, and the closing swooooooshing whistle just gets on my nerves every time. Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd these guys were not, even if they occasionally tried. The chorus is kinda catchy, but mainly because they just repeat the seven-word title several times. The rest is openly so-so.
18. The Other Half: Mr Pharmacist [B]
Rate this one a bit higher if you find it on a compilation that does not also include 'Psychotic Reaction', a song that came out three months earlier than this romp and which obviously served as a blueprint for The Other Half's mildly-disguised ode to the pleasures of living a drugged-out life. Not only did they rip the main riff of the song and the "steady - RUMPUS! - steady again" structure, even the wild drum pattern that introduces the battle-in-the-middle copies the Count Five precisely. And, needless to say, these guys display a rather shoddy musicianship when compared to their betters. They do get bonus points, though, for daring to tackle the drug topic so goddamn openly. 'Mr Pharmacist, words cannot express...'? Heh. Sure it was late '66, when the times were rather forgiving for the LSD cult, but still, the song's, like, an open slogan to getting some "energy". I can only speculate on what the consequences would be had it been recorded by somebody with a bit more popular appeal - the Beatles, for instance.
19. Richard & The Young Lions: Open Up Your Door [B]
More mediocrity. I'm sure these guys meant well (and so did the "unknown studio musicians", who apparently played most of the instruments), but there's just nothing particularly outstanding here. Just your basic guitar jangle and your basic tambourine-shaking. The main idea of this pedestrian mid-tempo pop-rocker is apparently to 'raise hell' in the middle-eight with a mighty crescendo, but that's no The Who we're talking about, not to mention the Animals. Boys - repeating 'I, I, I, I, I' five hundred times in a row does not equal all-out rockin' catharsis. Besides, these session musicians were just poor. The instruments have no bite to them. The saving grace is the moderately catchy vocal melody and the fact that, well, they actually took some time to write it, even if stylistically the song is pure formula. Oh, and the unexpectedly gritty fuzz bass in the instrumental section. Oh, and the amusingly snarlish vocalist. Well, guess it ain't so bad as you could have thought from those two opening sentences. But it sure don't rock my world nohow, and apparently it should.
20. Paul Revere & The Raiders: Just Like Me [C]
Guess everybody likes this one but me. Yeah, it bloody rocks. So do approximately thirty-five million other songs written in the early Sixties. This one is distinguished by the fact that it (a) indirectly rips off the Kinks 'All Day And All Of The Night' during some of the verses and (b) directly rips off 'Louie Louie' during the others. Naturally and predictably, Mark Lindsay menacingly hushes and pants during the 'softer' verses and screams his head off during the 'harder' ones, and there's a chaotic Dave Davies-inspired guitar solo. That the liner notes proudly call this forgery "the definitive American hard rock tune of the period" is either a joke, or a serious unintentional putdown of American rock'n'roll. (Confound it, why couldn't they bestow the title on something by the Sonics instead? Just because the Sonics were too frightening to chart and these guys were inoffensive enough to do it?) But hey, if all it takes is to grab two well-known songs and cross 'em, that means I can write me some Nugget-style material too. I can be cooler than Paul Revere & The Raiders! Well - guess that's the point of including this number.
21. We The People: You Burn Me Up And Down [B+]
Had they released this rant half a year earlier than September '66, it would have been a fury, but the times were flashing by so rapidly back then that it was already a bit retrograde. Nevertheless, 'tis a fine chunk of brutality indeed, and, as usual, it's hard to determine whether they play so sloppily because they can't do it any better or because they don't want to do it any better or both. The four-note up and down riff reaches new levels of minimalism, though. The song mostly gets by on its caveman, Troggs-like vibe, but that's no mean feat either: let's let a little history our way and see that the Rolling Stones definitely weren't that ferocious in their sexual bravado in 1966. Whether that was a good thing or not is a different matter.
22. The Lemon Drops: I Live In The Springtime [A+]
Here I was already preparing myself for the inevitable onset of so-so album closers, and this one took me by surprise. It's a curious melange of influences that really sounds like nothing else. The rhythm guitar plays with that fat jangly tone a very banjo-like chord sequence, which gives away the fact that these guys must have loved country 'n' bluegrass. The vocal harmonies are upbeat, joyful, and all-out ringin', which gives away their love for the Beatles. The production is dirty, fuzzy and muzzy, not to mention echoey, which sort of gives away their love for psychedelia (released 5/67), unless we're just talking studio limitations here. And the guitar solo is all ragged and droning, which sort of gives them away as a Chicago-residing minor brother of the Velvet Underground, no less. By all means, this masterpiece is "accidental", and these guys hadn't released anything else in their prime, but this song deserves to carry on. And - get this - no drums!
23. Fenwyck: Mindrocker [A-]
And to think I expected an early version of ELP's 'Nutrocker'! What a disappointment! Seriously now, this song is definitely slightly more conventional than its predecessor - this one is just a pure example of psychedelic pop, replete with ethereal vocal harmonies and "mind-blowing" swoops of the ugly-sounding Farfisa organ. And a reference to the Left Banke's "pretty ballerina" in the lyrics. And raga influences, of course (a '67 psychedelic single without Indian influences is like a hair metal video without the hair). That said, it may be formulaic, but it's still catchy and moderately creative. Written by the same guys who provided the Knickerbockers with 'One Track Mind', by the way - however, Fenwyck were obviously more gifted when it came to untrivial arrangements of "passable" material.
24. The Rumors: Hold Me Now [B]
I'm gonna have to assume the Animals and the Dave Clark Five as the primary influences here - the former as reflected in the vocalist's raunchy 'Roadrunner'-like 'AAAAAAAAH!'s at the end of each verse, the latter as reflected in the overall bass-heavy wall-of-sound that obscures the melody on first listen and boosts it up on the second one. Slightly obsolete for late '65, of course, especially considering these guys were from LA and not from some God-forsaken hole in Minnesota, but who the heck cares when the sound is so voluptuosly big? Nice inclusion, if not spectacular. Used in a McDonalds commercial of all things! I suppose it wasn't the wild guitar solo section.
25. The Underdogs: Love's Gone Bad [B-]
The vocalist has a nice painful rasp going on, and there's little reason to doubt his sincerity as he wails and howls on the subject of the Motown song title. Unfortunately, there's little else to distinguish this cover from millions of sound-alikes. The guitar playing is just pathetic for January '67, and they probably realize it themselves, because apart from the instrumental passage, the entire song is mostly carried by a witty, not-un-creative organ riff and (later on) vocal harmonies. However, there's some historical significance here - these guys represent the Michigan area, and so, along with The Woolies and maybe a couple other bands on here, serve as the natural precursor to the Detroit proto-punk scene. Geographically, of course, purely geographically.
26. The Standells: Why Pick On Me [A]
Dig this one out! The Standells move out of the raw in-yer-face dirty garage water and embrace psycho-pop, along with raga scales, of course. But what wooed me over in the end was the organ solo which is so friggin' ahead of its time. The way their organist runs over the keys with that kiddie tone makes it sound like somebody having a wild wild wild game of Pac-Man rather than anything conventionally "musical" for late '66. How the heck they got the idea to do it and manage to get away with it is over my head. Oh yeah, there's also a catchy chorus here and enough drive to make you tap and click, but that funny solo is definitely the main selling point, even if it hardly lasts for more than ten seconds. Not that anybody got it, because the record didn't sell. Apparently, people were baffled - they all just wanted another 'Dirty Water' from these guys.
27. The Zakary Thaks: Bad Girl [B+]
A slight, but working idea: take the Bo Diddley beat and speed it up, speed it up until there's just no time for syncopation but the schizophrenic spirit is still there. Woohoo! The Zakary Thaks, straight out Texas, rip it up and tear it up with juvenile playing, juvenile production, juvenile soloing, and a boatload of juvenile energy. In other words, a true Nugget if there ever was one. Now if only this was a little bit heavier and dirtier, I'd rate it even higher - as it is, it's just a tad too limp for me to put it in the row of my perennials. That said, it's one hell of a feat for a band whose average age was around sixteen, if the liner notes are to be believed. Too bad they never had a chance to grow up.
28. Gonn: Blackout Of Gretely [A+]
Now for this kind of action I am definitely a sucker. I likes me a crazy, totally deranged garage-psycho rave-up, like 'Psychotic Reaction' or 'Tobacco Road', and this one qualifies. There's a basic riff that carries the song and it's a bit too reminiscent of the Standells' 'Dirty Water', but, for one thing, it's derived rather than a total rip-off, and, most importantly, it's just an anchor upon which they hang everything else - which includes powerhouse drumming, a vocalist whose lungs almost manage to equal the Sonics guy's, and lots and lots of amateur trippiness. Echo, psychedelic organ, looney guitar soloing, you name it, everything that could be recorded on a shoestring budget goes. Taking into consideration the fact that they used to perform with a Nazi flag in the background, that's some real daringness on display. Not to mention that it's pretty cool to be listening to a song called 'Blackout Of Gretely' by a band named Gonn.
29. The Bees: Voices Green And Purple [A+]
Heh heh. This is weird. A band that nobody really knows anything about, not even the lineup, comes up with this ultra-short (1:35!) outburst of energy that, in a way, presages Wire's Pink Flag by a good eleven years, except there's a serious tinge of psychedelia here (check the title) which Wire obviously did not have. It's all about spontaneity, man: the song moves along so quickly it's gone by almost in a flash, you don't even have the time to consider whether it has a melody, let alone good or bad. Well, actually, it does, but that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is the brevity: "We came, we spake, we're on our way". The Residents would certainly be proud of these guys as well. That said, the in-yer-head aggressiveness of the chorus historically does presage the Stooges and, from there, the 1977 movement - in a way, this is the closest to "true punk" that Nuggets ever get.
30. Davie Allan & The Arrows: Blues' Theme [A]
Since this is the only instrumental composition on Nuggets (actually, one of the themes from the movie Wild Angels), it's probably appropriate that it close the compilation - sort of like a slightly impersonal goodbye from both the performers and the compilators. Basically a surf-style composition played with a lot of flair, flaunt, and fuzz, it's equally playful and menacing - each "verse" starts out cheerfully and slightly enigmatically and then the tone changes to dark and gritty. Which is fine and dandy and pretty much suits the overall style of the entire boxset.
NUGGETS II: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND BEYOND 1964-1969
1. The Creation: Making Time [A]
The Kinks had 'You Really Got Me', which sort of inspired Pete Townshend to write 'I Can't Explain' - which obviously inspired The Creation to write 'Making Time'. Take a listen to the two songs placed next to each other and you'll see how faithfully The Creation are following the formula. Not only does it open with a brutal, simplistic, riff played with the exact same tone as was used on 'I Can't Explain', but the vocalist seems just as braggard and cocky as Roger Daltrey, the chorus is just as poppy, the backing vocals are just as exuberant, and the guitar solo just as sloppy and feedback-based. Oh, and the drummer strives to give his best Keith Moon impression, of course. So why an A? Because, unlike those who steal, these guys borrow - the melody is entirely their own, and the riff, while maybe not as "immediately fabulous" as the 'Can't Explain' one, is still cookin'. Also, the 'seeking new advances' line hints at the song carrying a totally different message: a hint at the advancing psychedelic revolution? I mean, it's nineteen sixty-six already, not sixty-five. There's a huge difference.
2. Fire: Father's Name Was Dad [A]
This band was led by a future member of The Strawbs, and, although you can't really tell (then again, you couldn't guess Ted Nugent's future after listening to 'Journey To The Center Of The Mind' either), there is a tricksy little folksy vibe running through this song, not the least in the "tell-tale" lyrics, arguably the song's main point of interest. The tale, of course, is a special one: 'From a kid of four you don't expect/A supernatural intellect... My father's name was Dad, my mother's name was Mom/How can I take the blame for anything I've done?'. The song does borrow its opening riff from 'Last Train To Clarksville', but still stands as a classy entity in its own rights because, well, it's more than the sum of elements - even if their major source of inspiration seem to have been The Who in their 'I'm A Boy/Pictures Of Lily' stage. Hey, nothing wrong with that. The guitars sound really fresh throughout, although a solo would have been nice.
3. The Move: I Can Hear The Grass Grow [A]
Well, this is The Move. I like the Move, which means I naturally like this song - it's one of their classic singles, after all. All I'll say is it doesn't sound much different from the classic Move sound around 1968. If you've heard 'Omnibus' or 'Walking On The Water', well, it's the same kind of sound. Sung by Roy Wood, meaning the vocals are whiny and endearing at the same time. Not quite sure if the Nuggets inclusion was justified, but then again, few people outside of ardent Sixties enthusiasts have heard of The Move, and if this song can get people to dig deeper into the rich, rich, rich catalog of The Move and solo Roy Wood, m'thumbs go up. Plus, I express my personal gratitude because I don't have the bonus-tracked edition of the band's eponymous album that includes the song.
4. The Smoke: My Friend Jack [B+]
Despite the liner notes' ardent praise for the song, I'm not quite as love in it as expected because it's essentially a one-gimmick show. The sharp-edged tremolo effect on the guitar that slices your speakers open right from the very first second is impressive, but once you've gotten past it, nothing else happens in the song. It's got a steady martial punch, a midly catchy chorus and nicely masked pro-drug lyrics (which, according to the same liner notes, were the only thing that didn't let the song become a hit), but it's also repetitive and once again I yearn for a guitar solo or something. I mean, heck, it was 1967, not 1999. I have the right to expect more than one point of interest from a supposedly great 1967 song.
5. Tomorrow: My White Bicycle [A+]
Like from this one, for instance. Steve Howe's former band could sure give some of the best psychedelic outfits of the day a good run for their money! This is the second great psychedelic anthem concerning non-motorized vehicles (the first one being, of course, Pink Floyd's 'Bike'; that should get some of you people to start thinking of a subject like "The Bicycle As a Relevant Semiotic Object In Psychedelic Subculture of the Sixties", and I'm perfectly serious about that), and the second excellent one, although it is, of course, somewhat more "normal" than Syd Barrett's lunacy. Backwards guitars, phasing, and sitar-like effects abound on here, but are always kept in check by the main poppy melody. The song is also surprisingly heavy in a way, with the bass so high in the mix you'd think it was played by a young Lemmy on acid. Steve's guitar playing doesn't yet betray any particular "wizard abilities", but that may be partially due to the severe "effect treatment" of every note he plays. A lost psychedelic classic indeed.
6. The Action: I'll Keep On Holding On [A]
A very good cover of a very good Marvelettes song which basically has all the necessary good attributes of a very good cover. (Sorry, I'm not in a particularly verbose mode today, am I?). Anyway, naturally, there's a great uprising chorus, a nice crescendo in the middle (that totally justifies the extra forty seconds at the end of the three minutes), and easily the best thing here are the harmonies - energetic and at the same time with a tinge of sadness and melancholy, as if the singer guy (Reg King) doesn't really believe in "holding on" even if he's claiming that he is. Note that the song was produced by George Martin, which explains the perfect cleanness of the sound and the equally perfect separation of instruments, including harmonies - which get pretty complex midway through, but, just like he did with the Beatles, George never really lets the complexity transmute into chaos.
7. The Eyes: When The Night Falls [B+]
Not a great achievement, but the elements fall together well. A basic rockabilly-derived vocal melody married to Who-like minimalism and mixed with just a pinch of timid proto-psychedelia - and you have something that probably won't have your eyes bulging out and your tongue sweeping the floor, but, with a little luck, will pluck your attention. Maybe it's the way the "twilight-like" melody fits in with the lyrics, or the cute interaction between the minimalist feedback solo and "midnight harmonica", I dunno. Isn't it funny, though, just how much that classic early Who sound has been influential? We're only seven tunes into the depths of the boxset and at least four of them already owe more to the Who than to anybody else. (Which, by the way, is definitely not the case with the American Nuggets, where the Beatles and the Stones had these gruff Mods beat severely).
8. The Easybeats: Sorry [A+]
Now this is one great tune. Finally moving out of UK territory, here's a terrific accomplishment from Australia's chief Sixties claim to glory (never mind the Bee Gees, for now). Curiously, this is the first true Nuggets I-style song in the package (although 'Making Time' came close): no artsy-fartsy leanings, just straightforward garage, hard and mean. On the other hand, "straightforward" is too rough of a definition - this is intelligent and creative garage. The scraping "proto-funk" rhythm guitar on here has been used and reused by countless later bands, but has it really been used by earlier bands? For 1966, that's a pretty unique playing style. And then midway through they just totally change the melody and give us a weird "sorta jammy" section built on a repetitive riff which - and I am mighty positive about it - was, consciously or subconsciously, expropriated by Tony Iommi for the immortal 'Paranoid'. Plus a catchy hook in the chorus, plus wild drivin' soloing, all in all, a song that truly deserves its A+. Lots and lots of Nuggets material bring you pleasure, but it's stuff like that which really makes the compilations worth dying for.
9. The Idle Race: Imposters Of Life's Magazine [A]
The cultural baggage is really dragging me down - say, wasn't that wonderful upbeat guitar line that drives home the Kinks' 'Arthur' (the song) lifted directly off this song's bass hook? At least, the first several notes? Never mind - the liner notes hint that Jeff Lynne might have nicked that hook himself off some Move track that I can't seem to remember right now. Whatever be, it's a fine Move-style single from the finest Birmingham-based Move competition around at a time when not only did Jeff Lynne not try to merge classical music with disco, he didn't even have facial hair. The title is probably the coolest thing about it, but so is the squeaky Farfisa organ (is that a Farfisa or a mouse?) and the glub-glubby wah-wah guitar underneath the rhythm that Lynne later carried over to the Move. And the melody has enough unpredictable twists and turns to keep you consistently entertained for all of its two minutes (say, there was a time when Jeff Lynne used to do two minute songs? You're bullshitting me!).
10. The La De Das: How Is The Air Up There? [B+]
Now, this can't be a coincidence - only the second song on the set to come out from the Southern hemisphere (New Zealand, this time around), and these are the only two songs that unequivocally fall under the "crude garage rock" category as opposed to the "artsy psycho-garage" category. Them sheep-herders be rough, scrubby boys. The song gets a B+ because it doesn't take my breath away and besides is actually a cover of a tune by The Changin' Times, but otherwise it's one fine piece of proto-punk. The riff is bouncy and memorable, the chorus sure sounds like a bunch of mean-meaning guys mocking a weather forecast (well, of course it's not about that, but I have fun imagining it could be), and the whiny organ provides a nice background - what else are you waiting for? Astral Moog noises and stoned hippies singing about white bicycles? Toto, we're not in swingin' London any more.
11. Les Fleur De Lys: Mud In Your Eye [B+]
There is something special in this psycho-rocker, but I can't seem to lay my hand on it. Maybe it's the unusual vocal style - Chris Andrews doesn't really sound like anybody I know, with this hoarse drawl, slightly scary and slightly lazy at the same time. Maybe it's the unbearably raw lo-fi production: not even the Stones were so "rough" on their contemporary records (and theirs was some of the 'worst' - in the 'homebrewed' sense, that is - production around those times) - check out the ridiculously high mix on the background vocals in the middle-eight (or is that the chorus? never mind). It's definitely not the generic, if powerful guitar solo. Maybe it's the "freaky" part at the end where Chris explodes in a series of Eric Burdon-ish wails and howls. Whatever. At the very least, I did give you a hint, so now it's up to you to check the real potential. One thing I don't remember at all is Gordon Haskell's bass, but then again, I hardly ever remember anything about Gordon Haskell.
12. The Motions: Everything (That's Mine) [C+]
Two minutes of a two-chord riff that maybe deserves existence as a five-second introduction but instead carries the entire song is a bit too much for me (and makes me a little bit hesitant, to tell you the truth, to check out the catalog of Shocking Blue, whose founding father was the leader of this little-known Netherlands outfit and the author of this song). There's a sorta nice chaotic punk-art bridge in the middle, though, which saves things from being catastrophic, and it's funny to see them so directly aping not so much the Who's general musical style as their brand of atonal noisemaking a la 'Anyhow Anyway Anywhere'. Other than that, I honestly wouldn't recommend this one.
13. The Mickey Finn: Garden Of My Mind [A-]
Heh, this is like Les Fleur De Lys revved up on heavy heavy fuel. In fact, the first thing that caught my ear here was how, even if the whole musical arrangement screams "acid", vocalist Alan Marks actually sounds like his preferred passion is Jack Daniels. The second thing that caught my mind was: 'Hey, that lead guitarist sure can play!' The third thing was: 'They're certainly not as far out there as Barrett's Pink Floyd, but they're much more listenable!'. So these are my credentials. Retold in a more cohesive form, this series of flashes will look something like: generic freakbeat tune rendered special with an unusually soulful delivery, a little reminiscent of Arthur Brown, and an extremely professional and energizing lead guitar part. Gets an A- from me because I'm sure there's better things to come.
14. The Sorrows: Take A Heart [A+]
John Entwistle would probably hate this song even more than 'Magic Bus', but it all depends on the perspective. Actually, it's a fine, harrowing piece of music, and for 1965, a pretty dark one. Somber even, I'd say: there's no obvious snarling menace here a la Rolling Stones, just a very quiet, but grim overtone to the minimalistic pounding bassline, the echoey proto-acid guitar, the rattling drums, and the singer's bleak husky voice. Nobody's screeching their heads off or bashing the cymbals, although when the guitar solo comes on in the middle, it's just the necessary steam power release that is needed (I would welcome a more explicit solo at the end, too, but you can't always get the girl and eat it, too). Oh, and, by the way, I swear I wrote this stuff without looking into the liner notes that use pretty much the same description, so I guess we're both catching on to something. Definitely a major highlight of style.
15. Q'65: The Life I Live [A]
More long-haired Dutch boys for your pleasure. It's funny that music-wise this song is little more than a slightly "jagged" piece of bubblegum while the lyrics are pretty daring for '66 - hey, no wonder Netherlands were the first European country to legalize marijuana if people were openly singing about smoking joints back in '66 there. I don't much care for the message, though, as I'm no pot smoker, but what I do care for is how the song's so insanely catchy and entertaining while using only the smallest of possible means. Even the production is pathetically thin for '66 (production-wise, it sounds like the Stones circa '64!). However, the amazing transition between the "normal" verses and the near-hysterical chorus ('this is my life of sadness! this is the life I live!') more than makes up for any shortcomings. Up with the Netherlands! Sure didn't kick those Spanish butts for nothing four hundred years ago.
16. The Pretty Things: Midnight To Six Man [B+]
Hey, what are The Pretty Things doing here? Aren't they a bit too well-known to deserve a place on Nuggets? Well, then again, if the Move made the grade, then I suppose the Pretty Things are entitled to it as well - at least this inclusion might make people actually go out and buy their records, which is realistic, unlike in the case of most other bands on here. This one's a typical Pretty Things wild pop-rocker from their early, pre-psychedelic years, with the trademark aggressive Phil May delivery, trademark bashing drums, and trademark garage-style guitar riffs that lack the subtlety of the Stones but can actually get your blood pumpin' even faster. However, it's not one of their best by all means. See the full page for more details.
17. The Marmalade: I See The Rain [A+]
And this is an excellent song. The liner notes proclaim it was Jimi Hendrix's favourite song of 1967 - I wouldn't dwell on it unless you're a big Phil Keaggy fan as well (Hendrix arguably holds the world record for "controversial" statements attributed to him) - but there's no question of it being a fabulous "psycho-folk" number anyway. It might seem a bit Sonny-and-Cherish on the surface, but it's rougher and more honest-sounding on the surface, and has a really great melody to boot, as well as a distorted psychedelic guitar solo. You have to get over the somewhat 'draggy' qualities of this slow, lazy number, as well as the fact that it was definitely influenced by Lennon's 'Rain' (which, coincidentally, was also slow and lazy), but essentially it's quite an independent creation, and a very, very pretty one at that.
18. The Koobas: The First Cut Is The Deepest [C]
Bad bad bad. Not a Nugget, not a Nugget, not a Nugget by any means. I don't like this song at all, and I don't care whether it's being done by Cat Stevens or by Rod Stewart or by these guys. It's just a very poorly written blue-eyed soul pastiche, generic, formulaic, and unmemorable at that. And it's three times worse when it's being overblown way out of proportion by a band who's been obviously listening to way too much Bee Gees, imitating their orchestration and singing techniques. Oh dear, they have a distorted "psychedelic" lead guitar part on there. How bloody cool they are. I have no doubt that some will be castigating me for this decision, but if you really like this stuff, I have no idea why you shouldn't dearly love Engelbert Humperdinck as well. And if ever Nuggets were meant as sort of a 'protest' compilation, this song has about as much right to be on here as 'Close To The Edge' on a proto-punk compilation.
19. The Mockingbirds: You Stole My Love [A]
It's really weird that Graham Gouldman wrote so many hits for bands like the Hollies and the Yardbirds, yet this song for his own band, the Mockingbirds, did not become one even if it's just another magnificent pop song from the Meister, certainly not one ounce worse than 'For Your Love' (which it actually resembles in terms of vocal arrangements, structure, and mood). What elevates it above genericity are small subtle tinges like slowing down what would have otherwise been a very run-of-the-mill intro, inserting the super-slow, almost waltz-like middle eight, and then contrasting it with an unusually ferocious, bass-heavy instrumental break. Well worth hearing and treasuring.
20. The Haunted: 125 [B]
Canadian this time. A pretty straightforward mid-tempo record the most memorable thing about which was the controversy over the lyrics (initially referring to a prostitute, then, after the company protested, referring to the company). Full-sounding, with the Hammond organ carrying the melody, lots of harmonica, decent ragged singer. Competent blues guitar solo at the end. Nothing really Stones-like about it, as the liner notes say. Nothing particularly remarkable either. Just a song. Sorta.
21. The Small Faces: My Mind's Eye [B+]
Good song, maybe more than just good, but not great. Actually, it's a bit too Beatlesque for these supposedly Kinks-and-Who-bred mod kids: maybe the main melody is lifted from 'Gloria In Excelsis', as the liner notes suggest, but the harmonies are one hundred percent Beatles, and the 'everybody I know says I've chaaaaaaanged yeah' is a direct little nip off 'Ticket To Ride', in case you haven't noticed already. But they got a good fat anthemic power-pop sound going on anyway, so why complain? Except maybe if you want to join the band in their sulkiness about how the greedy company actually released the demo track of the song, which is why there's so very little happening except for the basic rhythm guitar track and the harmonies. I mean, surely they would add a sitar or some backwards tapes, right?
22. Los Bravos: Going Nowhere [A-]
Hey, I like these lads! Spanish muchachos backed by an accent-less German singer, no less. This is, like, very fast-played R'n'B with no pretense of innovation but with plenty of energy and youthful naive sincerity. The fuzzy guitars lend a little bit of grittiness to keep this away from bubblegum level, although it is hard to keep it completely apart, because the vocal melody is just so damn cutesy (and so are the chimes and so is the brass). However, it's great how this guy modulates his voice to almost imitate a solo guitar during the verses - don't believe me? check out the actual solo that imitates his vocal delivery, or was that vice versa? Catchy, uplifting, and sunny, with just a light touch of professionalism to render complaining useless.
23. The Thoughts: All Night Stand [A-]
Something familiar in the melody? If so, pat yourself on the back - it's a Ray Davies song, and the gentleman generously contributed it to these guys through the, ahem, "mediation" of Shel Talmy. I've heard the Kinks' own demo version on their Great Lost Album, and it hardly sounded better (especially since Dave was singing it, if I'm not mistaken). Describing a Ray Davies vocal hook is a pretty useless matter - yeah, Cicero would fail at this, too, so let me just say it ain't one of his best, but it's got the trademark Kinks charm to it, and these Liverpudlians, fortunately, are able to preserve that charm, even if they're hardly able to expand on it. Too bad this was their only single, but at least we gots to hear the song in a full-clad arrangement as performed by somebody.
24. The Masters Apprentices: War Or Hands Of Time [A-]
Aussies once again. Good boys, too. Not only is this one of the earliest and most articulate anti-war messages among the pop crowds (after all, Vietnam was only just starting, so it's more like the number was oriented at war as an abstraction), but the song itself is immaculately crafted, with a wonderful shift of tempo in between the verses and the chorus. The vocals betray a heavy Stones influence here (not surprising for "rough" Australian rock), although, of course, lead singer Jim Keays never really tries to mask the accent, but the guitars are more Byrds-like, jangly and full-sounding, further coloured with a tremolo effect and occasionally relapsing into power chord mode to, well, get more power 'n' stuff. If there's anything to complain about, it's the unimaginative generic garage-like instrumental break - a clever song like that certainly deserves a better constructed solo.
25. We All Together: It's A Sin To Go Away [A+]
I'm a little confused about the chronology of these Peruvian guys - the liner notes say that this song was recorded in 1970, but that the band actually formed in 1971! Anyway, regardless of the fact, it is yet another excellent inclusion, absolutely and totally non-Peruvian and non-South American in origin, but instead heavily influenced by British psychedelia and art-rock. Slow, stately, crawling at a relaxed, unhurrying tempo, with faraway "celestial" vocals, classical-influenced organ, fuzz guitar, and backward solos, it's part time Beatles, part time Moody Blues, part time Beach Boys, part time Love, displaying no signs of true individuality but functioning as a magnificent 'team paper' on late Sixties' pop music. In fact, in terms of melody it's better than any individual song on Forever Changes, if you wanna know my honest undiluted opinion. So there!
26. Kaleidoscope: A Dream For Julie [A-]
I wonder if vocalist Peter Daltrey is in any way related to Roger Daltrey... nah, prob'ly not, even if it really only takes a couple clicks to find out. Anyway, this is yet another cute little example of "bubblegum psychedelia", a colourful mess of guitars, harpsichords, and whatever else is there in the instrumental section; kaleidoscope indeed. If the charming vocal melody weren't so infectious and the chorus didn't taunt you so much to clap along, could easily be dismissed as a second-rate Pisces-era Monkees imitation, but fact is, you can never beat a charming melody. These guys may be visionless hacks with no ideas of their own, true enough, but they really don't let it show throughout this song. Unless, of course, you stick to the "strawberry dogs" lyrics, which milk the 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' vibe a bit too bluntly for comfort, but hey, then again, nobody would say a word if John Lennon tried to sing about strawberry dogs instead of plastic horse people, either.
27. The Tages: I Read You Like An Open Book [A+]
Sweden's pride and glory (until ABBA came along, that is). And there certainly is a lot to be proud of, judging by this, the band's final single. Take, for instance, the fact that there are three distinct and very different hooks - one in the introductory riff, one in the slow "heavenly" verse, one in the upbeat Beach Boys-like chorus. In fact, the Beach Boys analogies are more than welcome, because it was quite typical of 1966-68 era Beach Boys to make these totally unexpected mood/melody shifts - but as far as actual melody is concerned, everything that's not the chorus here is anything but Beach Boys-like. That boppy riff is great mod-pop, and the verses, they're... umm... Zombies-like? You get what I'm hinting at: once again, we deal with a fantastiwastic combination of influences with no hints at true originality but then again isn't a weird influence mix-up original in itself? For better effect, they should have redubbed themselves The Zombie Boys (or "The Beach Zombies", even better) for this particular release. Hey, I'm not mockin' nobody. I like these guys.
1. The Misunderstood: Children Of The Sun [B+]
A bit too chaotic for my tastes, but what the heck. Funny the song was only released in 1969 - by 1966 standards, it was reckless avantgarde, in 1969, it was already a thing passe, although in terms of sheer power it rocks as hard today as it did forty years ago. These guys were "American psychedelic exiles" to England, and it's easy to see why: this stuff fits nicely into the UFO Club mentality, being just a bit too outrageous in its flower-power proclamations for "normal" American garage rock, which was less about getting some mind-opening than about simply getting some. Anyway, 'tis a good song, if a bit too straightforward, with frightening howling from vocalist Rick Brown (hey, if you're gonna shout at me like that, buddy, I ain't gonna join no children of the sun) and great guitar leads from Glenn Campbell. The band also includes Tony Hill on rhythm guitar, yes, that same Tony Hill who formed High Tide several years later. He's nowhere near as frightening here, though.
2. Wimple Winch: Save My Soul [A]
"The Greeks don't want no freaks", as some tell us, but lead singer Dee Christopholus definitely sounds like a freak on this little gem, which, despite its ferociousness, actually has the main hook in the verses - the funny tingling guitar line which carries the song. The melody is pretty simple, but on here, it's not the melody that matters, it's whether they can make a convincing energy build-up and a blood-pumping climax - and they can, with a particularly cool "quiet" fuzzy guitar solo instead of the usual "play as many mad licks per second as possible" Dave Davies-sanctioned attitude. It's also interesting how at certain points the rhythm guitar plays something remarkably close to a funk pattern (in 1966!), but I guess that's pure accident. And the sound-cluttered madhouse at the end of the track is classic. Or should be classic, at any rate.
3. John's Children: Desdemona [A+]
Marc Bolan's first band, although he doesn't take lead vocals here (his unmistakable bleating can be heard in the background, though). The song itself is excellent, rock'n'roll, bubblegum, psychedelia, and naughty hooliganry ('lift up your skirt and fly' - the line caused the single to be dropped off the air!) all in one. And that title? What does Shakespeare have to do with all this? Never mind. The song doesn't strive for much, but it's also short, and makes its point quickly and accurately, namely, picks up the classic "free yourself from the clutches of sterile society" topic and marries it to romanticism, absurdism and hard rock at the same time. What else is there to be said? Nothing.
4. Van Morrison: I Can Only Give You Everything [B+]
This version of the song, actually recorded by Them but for some reason credited to Van Morrison alone on here, is considered a classic, and I partially agree, but a part of me rests slightly unsatisfied because, frankly speaking, there's nothing besides Van the Man's magnificent vocal to distinguish this from stereotypic garage rock. Not even a friggin' guitar solo. He is a great singer, no doubt about that, but I'd rather appreciate his talent within the scope of an entire LP, you know.
5. The Troggs: Lost Girl [A]
This song (a single) wasn't present on any of the Troggs LPs I've reviewed on my page - too bad, as it's an excellent representative of their style. (Actually, the same boppin' rhythm pattern was also used by them on 'From Home', but this song is better). However, I think the song would be little but fluffy bubblegum weren't it for the insane punkish guitar breaks, so it's one of those rare cases where the guitar solo actually makes the song, completely turning it on its head. There is some deeply hidden caveman menace in Reg Presley's vocal delivery, but you'd never understand it if they never started raising hell after each chorus - as it is, even the nursery-style boppin' becomes ominous after you've heard the storm. It's not as immediately grabbing as 'Wild Thing', because it's a bit more complex and all, but hey, it still is an undiscussable Troggs classic.
6. The Craig: I Must Be Mad [B]
Carl Palmer's earliest known drum experience, and oh boy does he ever deliver! Other than that, it's a pretty standard R'n'B sendup (although I really like Geoff Brown's powerful vocals), but the drum track is magnificent. Apparently, Palmer's virtuoso capacities were already in full bloom in 1966, and his bandmates realized that, making him the centerpoint of the song with his fills and mini-solos. Granted, his primary influence at this moment was most probably Keith Moon (then again, what drummer's primary influence wasn't?), but the differences are already visible - Palmer's drumming is much more tight and controlled, with no room for true spontaneity. So choose whatever you like best!
7. The Birds: Say Those Magic Words [B]
It's actually a cover, so I guess The Birds weren't all that fascinated with the song, but it's a good enough song, I guess. Verse, bridge, chorus, harmonies, energy, and a weirdly simplistic effect-laden guitar solo from young Ron Wood. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Ron Wood did start his music career as a lead guitar player after all, even if knowledgeable people usually only know him starting from his bass work with Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart. But it's nothing to write home about anyway; I honestly don't see too much 'pop art invention' in the song, as the liner notes proclaim. 'Hooky commerciality', yes, but there's not enough energy and youthful excitement to make this truly work.
8. Caleb: Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad [B]
To be honest, I should have given this a C- or something, but it's one of those "so bad it's good" cases. Caleb Quaye writes and records a song that could only be dubbed 'archi-generic psychedelic' - slow, phased all over, fuzzy, hallucinogenic, and with each vowel dragged out as in a trance. If you were going to go psychedelic in 1967 but didn't have one single individualistic idea in your head, this was your type of song. Admittedly, the vocal melody ain't that bad (not that good, either), and judging by the liner notes, it was more of just a one-time 'divertissement' for Mr Quaye who usually did session work for other people, so I'm not mad or anything. Plus, he's actually quite effective when it comes to the brief guitar solo - although he'd probably have done better had he saved it for the truly worthwhile years of his career that he spent working in Elton John's band.
9. Golden Earrings: Daddy Buy Me A Girl [A+]
Pop perfection. These Dutch lads (later simply 'Golden Earring') were chart darlings in Europe for quite a long time, and if this song is a good indication, they're well worth investigating. The liner notes justly indicate the non-trivial lyrical subject (rich boy suffers because all the girls only love him for his dough), but as good as the lyrics are, it's the melody that deserves the most accolades - a terrific exercise in Brit-pop, driven by the obligatory harpsichord, of course, but with chord changes and vocal modulation all its own, and an insanely catchy verse melody as well as middle-eight. Plus, Krassenburg's lead vocals just ring with classic Sixties' "radio freshness", and at the same time convey just the right tinge of sadness and moodiness. I can't help but admire every second of this thing.
10. Ronnie Burns: Exit Stage Right [A]
Well, it's actually an early Bee Gees pop composition, and you're justified in expecting something really good. I'd actually prefer one of the Gibb brothers singing this - this Burns fellow's got this generic "mildly tired" white R'n'B voice that ain't nothing special. Also, the instrumental mid-section is almost entirely lifted off 'Day Tripper' (and the main melody is tremendously Beatlesque, too), but hey, it's the Bee Gees we're talking about. On the positive side, the 'exit stage right, baby I've got stage fright' strikes me as genius for some reason, and everything is done so immaculately well that I've got no true reason to show my being annoyed other than showcasing my questionable musical knowledge.
11. Timebox: Gone Is The Sad Man [A+]
More pop perfection. For some reason, sounds like early, pre-hard rock Spooky Tooth for me, which might be one of the reasons lead vocalist Mike Patto later did serve a brief stint in late period Spooky Tooth (although The Mirror is nowhere near close to this song). Verse, bridge, chorus, powerful garage-psychedelic instrumental passage, and an excellent flower-powerish arrangement with impeccable Britpop vocal harmonies - apart from the very fact that not a single element on here offers anything 'new' in any way, there's hardly any fault I can find with the hook-filled song. Of course, I guess it was that very fact that prevented Timebox from making it big: already by 1968, when the song was released, that niche was so heavily stuffed and the sound itself was becoming so obsolete, making way for music that either rocked harder or paid far more tribute to Tchaikowsky than to Chuck Berry, that they were doomed. But we're not supposed to give a damn, are we?
12. The Eyes: I'm Rowed Out [C+]
Aarrgh. That's it - from now on, not a single 'I Can't Explain' rip-off (and I've already lost count!) will get anything more than a B-, and this one is one of the most direct ones, so... At least the chorus has bits of originality to it, but even the chorus doesn't inspire me because it oh so obviously demands group harmonies, according to every basic law of Sixties songwriting, and Terry Nolder, although a good strong vocalist in his own rights, can't substitute several voices at once. I can't for the life of me imagine why they needed two songs by this band when even the first one ('When The Night Falls') wasn't particularly strong, but you can never tell with these compilers. And just look at the awesome winning streak that they broke with this one.
13. Davy Jones: You've Got A Habit Of Leaving [B]
Not the Monkees guy, this is young David Bowie in the hands of gangmaster supreme Shel Talmy, cranking out something floppy, hoppy, and Britpoppy. I've already covered the song on the Bowie page and wasn't all that impressed. In the overall Nuggets context it seems a little bit firmer in place, but still, one can't get rid of the feeling that Bowie actually paid the compilers extra just to get himself included in there (there's never a thing as too much power and glory, you understand). To give credit where credit is due, the chaotic midsection is very chaotic, and the arrangement is very professional, and Bowie's early 1965 croon is so unlike what we usually expect from Bowie the vocalist that, well, it's at least well worth a listen. No hard feelings.
14. Rupert's People: Reflections Of Charlie Brown [C]
It's actually a beautiful song, but there's a catch: it is a one hundred percent rip-off of 'Whiter Shade Of Pale'. (And don't give me no crap about how the songwriter "insists he'd never heard" the original in the liner notes. What, do you expect him to come out and say "Yeah, I nicked it, so sue me!"? Of course he'd "never heard it"). Stealing is bad. Borrowing works fine, working within the same stylistic formula is acceptable, but this is a case of not only jumping on the bandwagon, but actually stabbing the coachman in the back as well. You could argue that Procol Harum stole the "song" from J. S. Bach, of course, but that was actually a bold attempt, at the time - practically one of a kind, at erasing the border between genres; Rupert's People erase the border between authorship and appropriation. So they substitute Reid's obscure lyrics with a realistic Kinks-like lyrical tale of a little man. So what? It only adds insult to injury.
15. The Mascots: Words Enough To Tell You [B-]
"Mascot Worshippers" would be more like it. This is probably the exact way all those early pre-ABBA Swedish bands sounded like: starry-eyed bubblegummy romanticism and prostration before the altar of 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' without the realization that a huge part of the charm of 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' was due to the handful of grit the Beatles always had ready for their teenage sentimentalism declarations. 'Words Enough To Tell You' is like 'I'm Happy Just To Dance With You' in form, but rather like 'Ask Me Why' in substance - so many rosy clouds and so much glucose I feel like overdosing by the second note. The melody ain't half bad, though, and the imitation is credible - but it's still more Herman's Hermits than Beatles. The Knickerbockers definitely understood their idols much better than these way-too-innocent Swedish kids.
16. The Poets: That's The Way It's Got To Be [A]
Now here's some sadly unrecognized - and unrealized - potential. There's a strange sense of darkness and sadness emanating from this song that's almost unique for its epoch, at least if we're speaking in very specific rather than general terms. The Poets were Glaswegians and happened to catch the eye of Andrew Oldham, the Stones' manager: hardly a coincidence, but if this single is representative of their sound, they were pure pop rather than Stonesey blues-rock, and "dark pop" bands were still a rarity in 1965, before the Doors came along. They did have it all: the main guitar line is derivative, but creative and catchy, the lead vocalist hasn't got much power, but has plenty of range and conviction, and the vocal hook is impeccable, because that's the way it's got to be! No guitar solo, which is a pity, but not a tragedy; and apparently they also used the talents of future Zepster John Paul Jones for this particular recording, which helps explain the "monstrosity" of the bassline. Never caught on, though - either they were too late in coming, or too early. Too bad.
17. The Syn: 14 Hour Technicolor Dream [B-]
There's a lot that can be said about the song, but (a) most of it doesn't concern the actual music and (b) can be read in the liner notes. Assuming that you've lost yours, maliciously and illegally downloaded the song, or are nuts enough to be reading all this without having heard any of the songs I'm referring to, here's a brief rundown: the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream was a psychedelic London happening in April 1967, pretty much marking the highest point of the underground acid subculture of the times, and thus, naturally, had to be commemorated with a song, the 'honour' of writing which fell to The Syn, a band most famous for serving as the starting platform for Peter Banks and Chris Squire, the founding fathers of Yes. Cool tools - but the song itself isn't much to speak of: the melody is weak and shallow, Squire's and Banks' talents still remain to be uncovered (Banks does use an interesting, shrill, almost kazoo-like guitar tone, but he sure wasn't the only one), and there's way too much silly hippie naivete over too few musical merits. It doesn't flat out suck, but it's clearly perfunctory, though not without its own historical merit.
18. The Pretty Things: Walking Through My Dreams [A]
Well, it's the Pretty Things at the top of their psycho game - 1968, the year of S. F. Sorrow (this particular single was released slightly before the rock opera itself and can also be found on today's CD edition of the album as a bonus track). What else can be said? Apart from their bold rock opera move, the Things mostly followed instead of leading, but they followed steadily and self-assuredly, and all the angelic harmonies, dizzy guitars, romantic lyrics, and druggy atmospherics are firmly in place. Perhaps this particular song is a bit too heavy on the Beatle-idolizing thing, since the track's frenetic drive can't help reminding me of the coda to 'Strawberry Fields Forever', but there certainly have been much more obvious rip-offs. The Pretty Things did have an artistic vision of their own, and no obvious signs of fakery can be detected here.
19. The Primitives: You Said [A]
I normally don't care much for by-the-book R'n'B performances, and since this band obviously modeled themselves after the Pretty Things, who, in turn, modeled themselves after the Stones, normally should have rated this lower, but it's just too much fun for me to do that. Fun, yes, and one of the wildest tracks to come out of early, pre-Who 1965 - the vocalist snarls just like Mick Jagger, only louder, the rhythm section alternates between shcizophrenic and chaotic, and the lads were clever enough to have Jimmy Page play the guitar break for them (a guitar break which actually makes me doubt that it was really Dave Davies to take the lead on 'You Really Got Me', so close are the two; however, it may well be that Jimmy wasn't above taking spontaneity lessons from non-professionals). Generic, yes, but so was much of the Stones' and Animals' repertoire, and in terms of energy and wildness, on this track at least, the Primitives can seriously compete.
20. The Lost Souls: This Life Of Mine [B+]
Isn't that folksy drone a bit boring? Okay, maybe it's just my unwarranted impression, or maybe I don't want to issue out too many As in a row. It's a good song, nevertheless, the only known single from this unknown Australian band, 1966, protest song, Byrds in melody, Who in attitude, you know the drift. Nice catchy chorus, but the structure (verse-chorus, long instrumental break, verse-chorus, END) isn't all that inspiring, although the echoey production makes the guitar sound REALLY huge and bombastic when it first cuts in. Unfortunately, they change the pitch then, and it begins to whine rather than roar. I'd say a good injection of personality would be needed here to transform it into an A.
21. The Action: Shadows & Reflections [A]
One more cool pop single from these guys - this time, typically Brit-pop, combining a Kinks-ey music-hall backbone with psychedelic lyrics and neat George Martin production touches; I'm pretty sure it's not coincidental that the arrogant brass embellishments on here are quite similar to some of the Beatles' brass sounds of the same period. This and too much reliance on harpsichord (which, around 1967, was the same to Brit-pop as the sitar was to psychedelia) certainly betrays a jump-on-the-wagonism attitude, but the melody is anything but not original: great transitions from verse to bridge to sing-along and clap-along chorus. Maybe not a chef-d'oeuvre par excellence, but stands quite proudly on its own anyway.
22. The Easybeats: Friday On My Mind [A+]
I'm ashamed to say my first exposition to this song was through the horrible Bowie cover version on Pinups; and twice ashamed to say I hadn't heard the original version until I finally came across it on the Nuggets box. (Which certainly justifies the inclusion of well-known pop classics along with the truly lost gems, I guess). What's to be said? It's 'Friday On My Mind', one of the cornerstones of Sixties' pop culture and the greatest song to ever have been written by anybody bearing the surname of 'Young', although supposedly 'Let's Roll' comes close.:) Anyway, the only thing I got to say is I'm amazed at how many different melodic ideas they manage to combine and seamlessly integrate within these three minutes - there's loud, abrasive guitar pop, psychedelic droning, elements of boogie, and all of them united by a common theme. Truly terrific, awesomely terrific songwriting.
23. Love Sculpture: In The Land Of The Few [B]
Mixed feelings here - I bow before the coolness of the melody and the complexity of the arrangement, but something about the track just spells out "b-o-r-i-n-g" for me, in a way that a competent, adequate, professional, but not too exciting second-hand art-rock band can be boring. Maybe it's the "faraway" effect on the whiny vocals, or the fact that everything merges in a blurry mass apart from the aggressive garage-style guitar solo. Whatever it is, this song, released in 1968, already smells of the Seventies to me, and thus is ever so slightly out of place on this compilation, although, I guess, if it has to be kept in memory somehow, it doesn't have any other places to go. Sung and partially composed by Dave Edmunds, by the way, later of Rockpile fame, having about as much to do with his former image as Ted Nugent would have with his.
24. The Motions: For Another Man [C]
I don't know what the heck is this thing doing on here. It's okay as far as general acceptance of stray sonic waves goes, but the only true virtue of the song is its brevity. As for everything else, it just looks like a clear case of a lack of both talent and professionalism. A minimalistic jangly ballad with generic lyrics, no hooks at all, and not a whiff of personality. Even worse, it looks like they actually tried to do something with the melody - the lead guitar rambles backwards and forwards, there's some sort of riff sort of driving the sort of tune sort of forward, but absolutely nothing works; the Ramones, with 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend', actually achieved much more with much less a decade later. Second song by the Motions on this collection and second duffer - guess I won't be digging much deeper into their catalog in years to come.
25. The Move: Fire Brigade [A]
Now this Move song I know quite well, as it was included on their self-titled album. I actually lost it out there among all the other highlights, but it's a brilliant song all the same. So much to talk about - the clever twist on traditional love song lyrics, pushing the 'burning heart' motive into the realm of the absurd ('get the fire brigade!'); Roy Wood's patented ecstatic yelping in all the necessary climactic moments; the transitions between the 'Mr Spaceman'-like, Birds-influenced jangly verses and the pseudo-martial, Brit-poppy middle-eight; the technically out-of-place but still groovy surf guitar line popping up from time to time; and the utmost in economy, as the song clocks in at 2:24, having said everything it wanted to and not a note more. The only reason I don't give it a plus is because there's plenty of stuff in the Move catalog that's even better. Yep.
26. The Boots: Gaby [B]
Another bunch of Germans making every possible effort to pass for Brits. Well, whaddaya know, it was 1966, for Chrissake. And whatever you do, you can't accuse them of not succeeding - the lead singer's delivery is completely accent-free, while the musicians effectively ape the... well, it's hard to tell exactly who they're aping: they're certainly closer to the Stones camp than to the Beatles one, as the liner notes state, but the actual melody rather resembles an old folksy drone, so I guess they took lessons from the Byrds as well. Anyway, it's a decent enough, er, uh, shuffle, with prominent feedback and enough evil-man-harmonica to suggest "coolness", but the main body of the song is just a bit 'flat' for my tastes, at least, I can't put it any better than that. Plus, there's hardly any development, except it's sometimes louder and sometimes quieter. Still must have been a pretty bizarre style for Germany in 1966, I guess.
27. The Creation: Biff! Bang! Pow! [B+]
Looks like these guys had a true knack for taking the meat brew of the Who and using it as basis for their own culinary exercises. First they rewrote 'I Can't Explain' as 'Making Time', which was no big deal - everybody rewrote 'I Can't Explain' at some point or other. With this song, they tackle 'My Generation', which was a somewhat rarer feat, and although they make the arrangement more sophisticated by adding a boogie piano track in the background, it still sounds like the Who because the piano is unmistakably played by Nicky Hopkins, who was a prominent feature on the Who's debut album (but! - didn't actually play on 'My Generation'). Anyway, the B+ is not for ripping off; the B+ is for the completely original vocal melody, which is far poppier than the one in 'My Generation' and sucks any potential aggression right outta the song, but replaces it with playfulness. Oh, and the drummer does a cool Keith Moon-like job.
1. Cuby & The Blizzards: Your Body Not Your Soul [B+]
Hollanders again! And they sure know how to silence ol' George here - by stuffing him with a riff so fine, he just won't look convincing enough no matter what else he's ready to complain about. Okay, so the song feels a bit clumsy, the vocalist ain't got personality, the chorus is non-existent, blah blah blah, but the riff, that relentless "chugga-chugga-CHUG-chug, chugga-chugga-CHUG-chug", like a slightly more vivacious Winnie-the-Pooh bumping down the stairs, is irresistable. Plus, they have a tasty guitar tone in store for you when the solo comes round. Why didn't everybody have that guitar tone in 1966? So powerful, so uncompromising - not like all that wimpy Frisco shit, that's for sure. Well, you can always count on our good friends the Dutch.
2. The Twilights: Cathy Come Home [B+]
From the Netherlands to Australia, faster than a jet plane. Since none of the Twilights seemed to resurface in later, better known bands, I'll just state two silly facts. One, their lead vocalist proudly bears the surname of McCartney, even if the actual singing is closer to Allan Clarke. Second, they have A WOMAN DRUMMING! A WOMAN DRUMMING! Granted, she's pretty masculine-looking on the photo, but still, we've finally found some company to the Velvet Underground - and, unlike the latter, these guys at least had some chart success, albeit only in their native homeland. Oh, and the song? Cute '67-style Beatlesque pop with a tinge of psychedelia (trippy accappella vocal intro, faraway "astral" guitar sounds, and, of course, the obligatory sitar twiddlings). The rhythm part is pretty generic, but let's not be too demanding - there's a great vocal melody out there, and the 'whoah-whoah-woo' part will get you swayin', I promise!
3. Les Fleur De Lys: Circles [B-]
I have a confession to make: 'Circles' never was among my favourite Who single tracks. Maybe it was a bit too chaotic without attaching a strong hook to it, or something like that. I have another confession to make: Les Fleur De Lys aren't a very good band. They didn't convince me with 'Mud In Your Eye', they don't convince me much here. (I never did like Gordon Haskell in King Crimson either, come to think of it. Man, when I hate, I hate hard. Gotta get it ouf of the system). Yeah, their version rocks, practically as good as the Who's own. But that's the problem - they aren't able to offer an independent interpretation, and even if the Townshend-esque guitar, with all the obligatory fuzz, distortion, and power chords, is emulated pretty well, I sure can't say the same for the rhythm section - Entwistle and Moon these guys are not. Bring on the next one.
4. The Matadors: Get Down From The Tree [A]
This is a fun composition, but, of course, its musical qualities are completely overshadowed by its place of origin - Communist Czechoslovakia. Of course, it helps to realize that it actually came out in 1968, right before Soviet tanks started rolling in and putting a happy end to the "Prague Spring", but nevertheless, it was no mean feat for an East Europe country band to display such a mastery of British-style garage psychedelia. For instance, even the earliest examples of (then completely underground, with absolutely no hope of ever getting anything on record) Russian rock music already share the 'Russian flavour', and singing in English was never popular and almost always limited to live performances. The Matadors weren't afraid to try themselves at completely 'alien' territory - and came out with a winner, a solid slab of trippy riffage, acid organ solos, and raunchy (and practically accent-free) vocals. I don't know if the title of the song is supposed to be a veiled hint at life under the Iron Curtain (the rest of the lyrics don't really concern the political/social system), but it still packs lots of energy. The only complaint is the odd discrepancy in volume level, as if they had a drunk guy at the controls or something. Maybe we should blame it on communist recording studios, or maybe it was an intentional (and silly) experiment.
5. Q'65: Cry In The Night [B+]
A little weaker than 'The Life I Live' (to which it was the B-side), maybe because the battle cry of the former was a little more rousing than this more straightforward Stones imitation. Well, on the other hand, no: the jagged garage touches on the song are way rougher than the average Stones blues-rocker. Maybe it's just the melody that's not all that fascinating - but on the other hand, no: the prolonged climactic chorus is nigh near perfect. Or maybe it's the playing that ain't special... but on the other hand, no: Dave Davies would have been proud. Ah, fuck it, it's a great garage rocker. There's just no special "oomph" to put it into the gold medal category.
6. Los Chijuas: Changing The Colors Of Night [A]
Mexican folk-rock de luxe. As the liner notes correctly state, the most remarkable thing about the song is how authentically West Coast-like it sounds, coming out of a scene that much more frequently preferred to merge rock with Latin elements than to tackle it head-on. That is, if we take it in its ethno-social context; if we just judge it as an independent nugget, the most remarkable thing about it is how smoothly the plaintive bluesy verses metamorphose into the anthemic pop of the refrain and then into the airy, light-psychedelic bridge between the two, while the guitar break reminds us of a Birdsey drone (whoops, can't get it out of context after all). Pretty, if a little late on the scene to make any impact.
7. The Bluestars: Social End Product [B]
Gets extra points for social value - the lyrics on here arguably reflect more social/political maturity than all the Haight-Ashbury declarations put together. On the other hand, one might simply accuse these guys of being too straightforward and propaganda-oriented; you know you're in trouble when the words 'society' and 'social' are met way more often within the confines of a two-minute single than they should be. Still on the other hand, they're New Zealanders and can be forgiven. :) But they can hardly be forgiven for stealing Keith Richards' 'Satisfaction' fuzz guitar tone and not doing anything particularly interesting with it, other than colouring an otherwise quite unremarkable bubblegummy riff.
8. The Syndicats: Crawdaddy Simone [A+]
Many bands wanted to be noisier than the Who. Few actually were, even considering that the Who left most of their noise onstage, only taking a small dose of it into the studio. But somebody's always gonna get lucky, and this time the somebody is the Syndicats. What a sound. The main part of the 'song' (more an excuse for jamming, actually) is Stonesy rather than Who-like, but once the band gets to the instrumental part, all hell breaks loose. Ray Fenwick bashes everything to be bashed out of his guitar, sending blasts of feedback, sparks, and probably broken wood pieces all around the studio, and the rhythm section, along with the guy at the electric piano, pretty much follow suit. The fade-out coda is the wildest bit of music I've ever heard coming out of 1965 and 1966, i.e. the pre-Hendrix epoch. It's a doggone shame the band had to burn out so quickly - but then again, with an attitude like this, it was hardly a surprise.
9. The Sound Magics: Don't You Remember? [A]
A true one-song wonder from Holland (the liner notes can't even recreate the full member list, much less who played what and what later became of them). A pity - they were derivative (but who else wasn't? Not many), but they were exceedingly pretty (and who else was? Not many). In the musical sense, of course; on the photo, the band looks way too nerdy to be called 'pretty'. 'Don't You Remember' is simply a great example of folk-pop, with brilliantly arranged three-part harmonies and jangly guitar, reminiscent of the Searchers, but actually much sharper and more expressive: there's a real whiff of sorrow and sadness and nostalgia in the song that captures the heart. I could nitpick, of course, and say that at least the intro to the song was mercilessly copped from the Beatles 'Things We Said Today', but that wouldn't be an accusation - the song's main melody, guitar tone, harmony style, and general atmosphere are all different, and there's nothing like a bit of borrowing from genius to make a good song even better, is there?
10. The Guess Who: It's My Pride [B]
Aren't these guys a bit too well-known to be represented here? Oh well, then again so are the Small Faces and Status Quo. Anyway, this is one of the Canadian boys' harder-rocking singles from the heyday of the psychedelic epoch. (Not that there's anything psychedelic about the song except for the vaguely Hendrixian fuzz guitar tone). The melody is kinda recycled and silly, the lyrics are kinda trite and silly, and Burt Cummings' "soulful" delivery is kinda overwrought and silly, but triple silliness occasionally works, which makes up for a good, if not special, song. The biggest problem is a lack of identity - there's nothing to distinguish their brand of garage rock from the rest of the stable. And I'd certainly take, for instance, The Del-Vetts over this "neither-fish-nor-fowl" approach any day.
11. The Open Mind: Magic Potion [A+]
Sure, I only know one other song from the same epoch which sounds somewhat close to this monster of heavy psychedelia - Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild', which, come to think of it, is positively tame compared to the caveman beat of The Open Mind. But I know of an entire band who dedicated themselves to worshipping this sound, and that is Hawkwind, of course. Indeed, when the first chords of the bass guitar echoed around the room, my initial thought was: 'LEMMY!'. Nope, no Lemmy. No Dave Brock, either. A fantastiwastic coincidence? Or did Hawkwind really take this song as the basic inspiration for their entire career? Who knows! In any case, this song rules quite mercilessly - not only is the vocal melody memorable, but it's got some of the most uniquely kick-ass guitar/bass interplay this side of 1970. This is the kind of sound all those Frisco bands could only dream about having. Of course, they ended up rich and famous and The Open Mind ended up poor and non-existent, but what do you expect from such a shitty thing as Life?
12. The Missing Links: You're Driving Me Insane [B]
Australia again, and these Aussies are WILD! All of them. You can tell the Bee Gees really weren't native - there must be something in the soil out there that works wonders for the average adrenaline level. Although the Missing Links aren't really wild in the classic punkish sense of the word. They're more like "dirty-mindedly" wild. The song is slow, repetitive, mantraic almost, lazy freaky guitar chords (as many as two of them), soft-psychedelic organ, and vocals that suggest either being stoned out of their minds or horny to the point of losing said minds. Probably both. "Stoned and horny", yeah, I guess that's the kind of mood the song offers. Too bad it doesn't offer a particularly great melody; the one it does offer is just standard thoroughfare, like the Animals' 'Story Of Bo Diddley' or whatever else there might be. But when they do gather their forces for some raging guitar fury, the result is good.
13. The Jury: Who Dat? [B-]
Yawn. Sorry, maybe Canadian rock just don't do it for me. At this point, it takes more than a simplistic fuzz riff and a derivative vocal snarl to attract the reviewer's attention. True, they do have a slightly unusual instrumental break, when the guitars scatter apart and the whole thing starts sounding suspiciously like an amplified jugband performance, but that's hardly enough to make the song really register. Besides, these guys aren't really punks: the vocal melody is all poppy as hell. It's as if they stole the guitar tone from the Stones, the guitar break from the Byrds, and the vocals from the Searchers, and that may be cool by somebody's standards, but is pretty boring by mine. Swell production, though, even if they had to go to Minneapolis to get it.
14. John's Children: A Midsummer's Night Scene [A]
I almost ended up mistakenly typing in the title as 'Petals And Flowers' - that much replication there is in that song. Nevertheless, it's one more terrific creation from the band which (as far as I'm convinced now) was obviously among London's most underrated products of the flower age. The A+ is denied because of horrendous recording quality, but that's not really their fault: budget is budget and besides, the single didn't even get a fully official release (the liner notes mention 50 (sic!) copies in all, as if they were living in the 2000s instead of the 60s). It's a brilliant marriage of chaos, pop hooks, and good vibes, more daring than anything Brian Wilson could ever dream of, even if nowhere near as professional. (The strong emphasis on accappella vocal harmonies with only occasional interruptions by instruments indicates that the band must have had a strong Pet Sounds influence, though). And get this: totally free of Marc Bolan's trademark bleating. If that isn't enough for even the sincerest T. Rex hater to be sent on the noble quest of acquiring the song, I don't know what is.
15. Sands: Listen To The Sky [A]
I'm really starting to develop sort of a sixth sense here, I'm a-guessin'. Here I sit listening to these guys and all of a sudden I'm thinkin', "Don't they sound exactly like the Bee Gees trying to sound exactly like the Kinks circa 1967?". And now lo and behold who produced this single - Robert Stigwood of all people, the guy behind the gibb! Coincidence? Never in my sweet short life. The bestest thing about the song, though, is that midway through they just totally abandon the melody and concentrate on the story. You'd think with a title like that and with a year like 1967, it'd all be just another take on the 'Lucy In The Sky' vibe; it isn't. Instead, Sands, as the liner notes tell us, proceed to musically reenact the Battle of Britain, simultaneously preceding the Kinks (who'd only use the same air sirens two years later on Arthur) and King Crimson (who'd only offer the world their own interpretation of Holst's "Mars" three years later - granted, it'd be more complete than the Sands version, but they're still the pioneers). Obviously, such a weird, brave, and yet understandable combination of styles can't get anything less than an A from me. (Sidenote: surely Blur must have taken part of that melody as inspiration for their own 'End Of A Century' in 1994?).
16. The Mockingbirds: How To Find A Lover [B+]
Strangely similar in some of its elements to 'For Your Love', even if that song was actually written by Graham Gouldman (later of 10cc fame) and this one wasn't, despite being performed by Graham Gouldman's band. Same kind of passionate vocal delivery, although the song is nowhere near as "pleading", and same kind of crafty, but not overwhelming vocal hooks. A very short pop single indeed, not even over two minutes, with just a main verse melody occasionally interspersed with the title serving as the refrain, over in a flash; probably reflects the band's not really giving much of a damn anymore in 1966, with Gouldman's career as professional songwriter overshadowing the band's activities. So what's to be said? Nice and comestible, but inessential.
17. The Idle Race: Days Of The Broken Arrows [A]
They almost had me there! When I first heard the intro to the song, the immediate reflex was: "Wow, and I never knew Ray Davies used to sing incognito for another band in the Sixties!". Hear the song for yourself and you'll sympathize. But then, of course, the intro was over and everything fell into its right place - normally, there's only one band in the world to use that kind of vocal harmony, the Electric Light Orchestra. Since we're talking Sixties here, though, it just has to be yet another offering from The Idle Race, this time from 1969, and much closer in spirit to late period Move/classic period ELO than 'Impostors Of Life's Magazine'. What's to be said? If you, like me, are convinced that ELO are responsible for some of the most gorgeous vocal melodies of the 70s, you'll probably love this song as much as I do and maybe even more. Hook after hook after hook, alternating gentle and sweet with cheerful and upbeat and a head-spinning psychedelic jam at the end. You know, maybe there will come a day when Jeff Lynne will want to re-record all of his 70s hits without the cellos but with more guitars - and then maybe ELO will be reinstated in the eyes of the critics the same way that Idle Race was in the eyes of the compilers of Nuggets.
18. The Elois: By My Side [B+]
Aussies again, and by now you should know it's gonna be something wild. The idea is simple - take an aggressive boogie bass line, preferrably the one that drives forward 'Baby Please Don't Go', and have as much punkish fun with it as is possible within the confines or two minutes. They do have a great guitar sound going on, and the guitarist knows pretty well how to handle feedback. However, the poppy bridge, to me, doesn't really seem to fit in, wasting precious space, and as a structured song, the piece simply does not hold water; it's nothing more than a wild rave-up, and not an exceptional one. In fact, for 1967, maybe already a little bit obsolete. Again, refer yourself to "Last Time Around" to see how these things are done best.
19. The Factory: Path Through The Forest [B+]
I'm sort of starting to figure out why all these garage bands hooked on to psychedelia. Psychedelic music is droney, and there's nothing like a good drone for somebody whose knowledge of chords can be spread over five fingers! Okay, that was a cruel joke, but it didn't grow out of nothing. It grew out of this song, for instance, which is just a steady one-note drone (relatively fast, though) with creaky cranky astral solos in the background and megaphone-style vocals which are, as usual, urging you to go the obligatory open your mind routine. But it isn't a bad song! The vocals are, in fact, hypnotizing (or just "sleep-inducing" for all you cynics), and the solos are cute and padded with nifty references to Eastern music. Other than that, I don't know what to say.
20. Episode Six: Love Hate Revenge [B]
Ian Gillan on vocals, Roger Glover on bass; in two years time they'd join Deep Purple and start making history. Here, along with the other four band members, they're just making a decent cover of an excellent pop tune. There's little to suggest the kind of passionate high-pitched heavy metal scream Ian would work out later, and the song itself is dressed up in innocently psychedelic overtones (being built around a monotonous raga-like guitar line). The big hook comes in the chorus, which is almost like a revelation after the unremarkable and even a bit bubblegummy verses: the final line is nearly cathartic in character. Alas, they fail to expand on this one marvelous idea: no middle-eight, nothing particular going on in the instrumental section, and a boring fade-out instead of a massive coda that this song really begs for. Which certainly doesn't stimulate me into getting more of the band's output.
21. Status Quo: Pictures Of Matchstick Men [B+]
And what is this doing on here? Wasn't it, like, a very big hit and all? And haven't these guys been the epitome of bandwagon-jumping to actually deserve a spot on Nuggets? Well, maybe not, but then again, in 1967 Francis Rossi and Co. were merely living according to the laws of the epoch. Plus, they wrote a pretty classy tune according to these laws. It certainly would have been little more than a big fat phased-out pseudo-psychedelic nothing without the "annoying" dzhang-dzhang-dzhang-dzhang-dzhang little riff, of course, but that's why that riff is there in the first place, you know - so you don't ever forget the song, in fact, once you've heard it, you'll probably always recognize it from the very first note. In fact, it's the odd riff that gives the song its true "psychedelic" odour rather than the obligatory trappings like phasing and fading in and out.
22. The Voice: The Train To Disaster [A-]
Wow, make no mistake about it - these guys are serious as they predict the world as we know it may come to an end sooner than the Hollywood bosses might think. Liner notes state The Voice were possibly involved in some sort of apocalyptic cult, and this at a time when John Lennon was making his "bigger than Jesus" statements, too... But I digress. The song itself is actually quite good, a blast of wall-of-sound-enhanced hard rock that's rather dumb when compared to the contemporary Yardbirds/Del-Vetts standard, but does achieve its goals, jumping into action with such fury that the unprepared audience might certainly get a heart attack. Maybe that's why the single wasn't too popular - the people were too afraid of buying it.
23. The (Australian) Playboys: Sad [B+]
This is an interesting song in that, unlike so many others, I can't directly pinpoint it as "an imitation of this-and-this". The Beatles are the main influence, of course, since the boppin', catchy bassline is not unlike something of Paul's creation and the appropriately "sad" harmonies are reminiscent of the lazy melancholic semi-psychedelic approach of Revolver, but that's all putting it very roughly. There's a weird kind of emotion running through the entire tune, sorrow mixed with negligence, I'd say. It's too bad they didn't define it more sharply: the melodic hooks aren't very memorable, apart from the repetitive mantra of the chorus (and mantras are always memorable because they're mantras - regardless of whether they're good mantras or bad mantras). In short, there's something about this, but I'm not sure what it is. Bit of nice trivia - despite the band's Aussie origins, at the time of the single's release it did incorporate a few British players (hence the parentheses, I wonder?), among them Mick Rogers, later of Manfred Mann's Earth Band fame. (Provided that's not a different Mick Rogers, of course).
24. The Slaves: Slave Time [C-]
The Slaves? "Animal Slaves" would be more like it, because there's little else these guys are doing, apart from making a pretty shitty job of ripping off one of Britain's finest beat bands. Now I understand that since they come from Austria, they probably just fall under that quota reserved on Nuggets for continental bands, but surely they could have made a better pick anyway? These two minutes and twenty seconds sound like they've just been extracted from somewhere in the middle of a huge Animals jam and hastily shaped into a "song". Which, by the way, has nothing to boast but a nice simplistic riff that doesn't even have the primal power of 'Louie Louie'. Well, okay, the lead guitarist knows his trade, controlling feedback in a way that suggests he's seriously done his homework of studying the experience of Pete Townshend. That's it. A prime example of very bad garage rock.
25. The Red Squares: You Can Be My Baby [B+]
Now, let's not get carried away. There's only one Red Square, the one where Paul McCartney has played. You know what the KGB has to say to impostors, don't you? No wonder they preferred to leave England and conceal themselves in such a God-forgotten place as Denmark. :) Lame jokes aside, it's a very good, although hardly breathtaking pop single, a bit on the noisy side, as the guitarist displays a passion for power chords and the drummer an equally obvious fetish for Keith Moon. (After getting acquainted with dozens of drummers like these, Keith's own words about how he is "the best Keith Moon style drummer in the world" start to take on a different, far more serious meaning, don't you think?). Funny enough, their vocal harmonies, on the other hand, look like they were lifted from a Byrds song - just as dreamy and high-pitched. The combination isn't explosive, but nevertheless makes the song worth exploring.
26. Scrugg: I Wish I Was Five [A]
For some reason, the liner notes do not mention the Mellotron among the list of instruments used for this track, but there it is - making the track sound like a strange cross between early folksy Byrds and classic era Moody Blues. However, there's absolutely nothing psychedelic about the song: it is really "just" an expression of nostalgia for the lost days of innocence, not any more mind-blowing than, I dunno, Arthur by the Kinks. And that's what makes it so good, because instead of merely jumping on the flower power bandwagon, they're trying to write something important. The final result is a bit too lethargic to truly get under my skin, but I can't deny the hooks or the melodic complexity of these obscure South African guys. And their Mellotron use is fabulous - right up there with the prog greats. And inserting that little 'Frere Jacques' bit in the middle - wasn't that a touch of genius?
27. The Downliners Sect: Glendora [A]
This goddamn song gets me going every time and I have a hard time figuring out why. Maybe I'm just a sucker for simple, straightforward, generically-catchy R'n'B, especially when it's presented in an oddly spicy way. There's heavy crunchy fuzz guitars (for 1966), there's a bizarre sort of guy choking out his vocals as if he were auditioning for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and there are moody female vocals that sound like they were destined for singing medieval Celtic ballads but are instead applied to American R'n'B. And, of course, lyrics that deal with a mannequin fetish, but then the song itself is a cover whose history can be traced back to Perry Como in 1956. (Although I suppose that it must have taken on a whole new meaning in the age of Carnaby Street). In sharp contrast to the previous tune, this one is essentially a novelty thing - but every bit as addictive in its own way.
1. The Pretty Things: Rosalyn [B-]
Not sure why this was included. I like the Pretty Things myself, but this debut single shows one and only one thing about them: they used to be wild. Wilder than the Stones, wilder than the Animals. "Wilder", unfortunately, does not mean "better". Besides, quite a few garage bands on Nuggets were just as wild or wilder. Granted, not in 1964; 'Rosalyn' is one of the earliest tracks on here. Aw well. Phil May can scream, Dick Taylor can play. Dull Diddley-beat melody. I never liked the Stones doing 'Mona' and I see no reason why I should like this song. In fact, I think I didn't even mention it in my original review of the Pretty Things' debut, where it has been happily tacked on as a bonus.
2. The Atlantics: Come On [B+]
Say, what a surprise - another wild song by another bunch of wild Australians. Were I an ignorant, chauvinistic, non-scientifically minded racist, I'd start expounding a theory about what the presence of too many primitive aboriginal tribes can do to yer average white man, but The Great Conservative Revolution of the early 21st Century hasn't yet inflicted permanent damage on my brain, so I'll just concentrate on the song instead and forget about pseudo-ethnography. The song is good, but not great; I'm not a huge sucker for mid-tempo wall-of-sound-based guitar rave-ups - I like my rave-ups fast and kicking. Fortunately, the song really picks up during the chorus, where the call-and-response trick, dressed up as some sort of drunken party-related frathouse brawl, really gets my attention. The Who are obviously a big influence here (every band member tries to sound like the respective Who member, with different levels of success), and, as it so often happens, the followers actually get louder, brasher, and more rebellious than the predecessors, but do they get smarter and more memorable? That's a question.
3. Dantalion's Chariot: The Madman Running Through The Fields [A]
This is really not as "psychedelic" as the liner notes claim it to be. It's better than that: it's exactly what Genesis would sound like in 1967 if Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford weren't still a bunch of shy, inexperienced, diaper-pissing high school alumni, light years away from the heights of Foxtrot. George "Zoot" Money even has that high raspy vocal tone so characteristic of Gabriel. But even more striking is the musical similarity: the entire song is like a complex upgrading of the folk-rock vibe, with deep production, unpredictable shifts of melody, untrivial key changes, atmospheric flute outbursts, and a classic "lonely romantic" feel to it. It's not mind-blowing; everything is quite restrained and the arrangements are never over the top. But it grows on you with time, and eventually has you beat through the subtlety of delivery. Police fans will need to note that Andy Summers (here still going by the name of "Somers") is in charge of the guitars, and he'd later participate in the sprawling Eric Burdon remake of the song on the Animals' Love Is album.
4. The Creation: How Does It Feel To Feel [A]
More Creation, although this one's a radically different lineup, and if these songs can be judged diagnostic, then one might assume that the new lineup was slower, bulkier, lumpier, and sonically denser than the first one. Nothing to get excited about? Weeell... wouldn't say that. Their newly-found psychedelic laziness has a charm of its own, illustrated mainly by Eddie Philips' passion for this weird high-pitched way of plucking his guitar in between verses, as if the instrument had been in a state of suffocation all the time the singer was singing his lines, and only during the pauses had a chance to come up to the surface for a gasp of fresh air. Not that the vocal melody sucks or anything; if they really wrote all that in five minutes, as the liner notes claim, there can hardly be a better argument for spontaneity. Although I wonder if the song wouldn't be twice as good if significantly sped up. But that's just me and my lousy thinking.
5. The Mops: I'm Just A Mops [C-]
God forbid me from making any sweeping generalizations about Japanese rock, or even about Japanese garage rock of the late Sixties; but if there is such a thing as ridiculously bad Japanese garage rock, then this song sure is it, and if there was nothing better the Nuggets compilers could think of... nah, forget it, let's just concentrate on the tune itself, whose chorus consists of one loose line that goes like this: 'But I don't care of them (sic!), so I am just a mops!'. I could just stop right on the spot, but instead I'll also notice that the song has nothing even closely resembling a memorable or original melody, being mostly just a jumbo of assorted garage cliches (speed, fuzz guitar, shouted vocals, etc.); at least the murkiness of it all prevents us from spotting the Japanese accent. In all honesty, you probably wouldn't suspect any Japanese origins here without extra knowledge, and that's the best compliment I can make in relation to this experience.
6. The Downliners Sect: Why Don't You Smile Now [B-]
This one is certainly more interesting from a purely historical viewpoint - as one of the earliest Lou Reed/John Cale collaborations to appear in recorded form (the liner notes quote April 1966), although it sounds absolutely nothing like the classic VU material we all love (or hate) (or love and hate) them for. Per se, it's decent, but nothing more than that, too rough to be atmospheric or hypnotizing, too slow and lazy to be invigorating. The fuzzy riff is eminently Stones-like, but the vocal melody is more like the "fruity" folk-rock of early Jefferson Airplane, and the two elements just don't hold together. It is kinda weird, though, how much Keith Grant's vocal delivery is reminiscent of Lou Reed's own, even if the Downliners actually learned the song not from an original demo, but from an American cover version as well. Transcendental phenomena involved, no doubt?
7. The Ugly Ducklings: Nothin' [C]
This group used to call itself The Strolling Bones - what more is there to be said? Canada is not too well renowned for their garage/punk outfits (unless we somehow throw Neil Young into the fray), and if The Ugly Ducklings are typical representatives, it's easy to see why. There's not a single element of this song I hadn't heard previously from somebody else, from the opening riff to the "tense" delivery of the verses; only the chorus seems 'authentic', and it's also the song's weakest part, because there's no conviction whatsoever to the lead vocal guy's wheezing of 'babeeee, I need nothing!'. [End of hook right there. Hook? What hook? Looks like they forgot to bait it]. And when all of them are taken together, it's just, well, just your average garage thing. After the hundred plus better songs on Nuggets I, I see no reason whatsoever to treasure anything about this one.
8. Los Shakers: Break It All [A]
Too bad they didn't have the courage to include the original Spanish-language version from this fun Uruguay band. The original came out in 1964, and must have been a total smash; this here is an English remake that wasn't released until 1966, by which time these simplistic joyous rock'n'roll outbursts were sort of behind the times. Anachronistic doesn't mean "bad", though. There's not that much invention here, but what matters is the awesome groove these guys are locked in. The guitarist doesn't seem to know whether his rhythm is based on rockabilly, bossanova, or bluegrass, so he sort of plays something in between all three, the vocalist sounds like a self-conscious nerd self-consciously trying to gain respect from the other side, and the sound is surprisingly thick and dense for something that simple and innocent. Besides, this is one of the fastest moving tracks on the entire Nuggets II collection, and this calls for extra points.
9. Timon: The Bitter Thoughts Of Little Jane [A]
Kinda weird - as I'm sitting listening to this song, I realize that not two days ago I've finally watched Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures for the first time, which is why the line 'she'll find a head to pound on' sort of resonates more intensely with me than it would do otherwise... in fact, Timon (aka Tymon Dogg's) song could well be about the very same type of child psychology that has been depicted so well in that movie. And, of course, the violent lyrics are in sharp contrast with the song's sweet, sugary mood, with flutes and recorders and bassoons and mandolins and what-not supposing a "medieval psychedelia" setting instead. Then there's Timon's semi-bleating voice which takes some getting used to (well, not nearly as much getting used to as Marc Bolan's delivery, to be honest). Taken individually, none of the ingredients are all that great - the melody isn't exactly spell-binding, either - but together, this is an odd, disturbing concoction. Thumbs up.
10. The Outsiders: Touch [C]
Okay, the joke's lost on me, I guess. Another Dutch band, and the liner notes are kissing its ass so hard, drawing on quotations from the otherwise cool Richie Unterberger and suchlike, that I had to suspect something was not right here. And it wasn't. Maybe these guys do have some cool material, but this ain't it. This sounds like somebody forgot to cue the band on where to step in, so all they do is play the intro to the song. A nice intro for an intro, but extended to three minutes, it's like Jim Morrison ending 'When The Music's Over' with a burp instead of getting to the 'we want the world and we want it now' exclamation. There's about two chords here in total, but the song doesn't even rock - it limps along like one of those feeble San Franciscan neither-fish-nor-fowl numbers. And get this: the mid-section is even slower and quieter. Too simplistic and flat for a ballad, too wimpy for a rocker, too primitive for a quasi-folk tune, and not a single hook in sight. It's just one of those cases where I really feel like living three million light years away from certain people.
11. Tintern Abbey: Vacuum Cleaner [B]
Well, that guitar solo does sound a little like a vacuum cleaner, although I'd shudder to have that kind of cleaner in the house. It's also the best thing about the song - what, did you think I was gonna rave and rant about the 'fix me up with your sweet dose' line? Now come on, this was 1967 already; everybody and their great-grandmother were being busy getting banned on the BBC at the time. Not sure the song ever even reached the BBC, though. But it's actually quite decent - slow, but not lethargic, dreamy, but not melody-less. Think a Friscan softie like John Sebastian meets a really powerful rhythm section, gets energy and good beat added to folkie daydreams. With a good sprinkling of the heavy stuff, of course. Extra psychedelic effects could have helped to make the song juicier, but I suppose they were on a real tight budget, especially considering that they had to break up in about a year's time upon the single's release.
12. Thor's Hammer: My Life [B+]
Iceland! But don't worry, these guys ain't no Bjork-backing Sugarcubes; it's still the Sixties we're talking about, and if it ain't gonna be a Beatles rip-off, it ain't gonna be nothing. These dudes even "borrow" the lone feedback chord from the beginning of 'I Feel Fine' - except it ain't got much feedback. The feedback and the fuzz arrive later, though, as they launch into this crazy-ass tempo melodic rocker that takes a little getting used to because the vocal melody is just a wee bit dissonant towards the end. But I guess that's what makes it memorable - in the end. They got good speed and good energy, too (well, have to keep warm somehow among all these snows, you know - count this as Viking instinct sublimation). Not an amazing song, but probably as good as it could ever get in Iceland around 1966.
13. The Wheels: Bad Little Woman [A+]
Whew, finally a best-of ranking for a song on Disc 4. A song that's quite ready to turn me into a nationalist, indeed: these Irish guys really whomp the Brits' shrivelled asses when it comes to rage, debauchery, and fits of sexually-transmitted hysteria. As much as I like frenzied guitar solos, this song doesn't need one: vocalist Rod Demick just whips up a double amount of chaos with his delivery. Just like so many other tracks on this set, the melody is nothing much to speak of, but 'Bad Little Woman' sure beats most competition through personality. Imagine a grim, no-good-meaning proto-Doors organ line, joined by a likewise grim, no-good-meaning post-Dylan harmonica part - and that gives one the subliminal creeps even before the vocals step in. And then the 'you're a baaad little woman' line, which is probably just sung with an Irish accent, but almost comes off as 'you're a bad little vermin', and you know that guy means it, and that's even before they speed up and everything, and then that lonesome harmonica chord right at the end before they come crashing down... classic, man. Nuggets II is usually known as the "fruity psychedelic" collection as opposed to the "raunchy garage" collection of the first volume, but 'Bad Little Woman' is one of the tunes that very proudly stands up to the raunchiest that Nuggets I can offer.
14. Pandamonium: No Presents For Me [B]
And back into Pleasantsville Where Nothing Ever Happens. This song is cute but quite... instantaneous. More Beatlesque guitar flourishes; more collectively sweet/trippy vocal harmonies; more backwards soloing at the end of the tape. But the vocal melody is quite flat, not changing all that much from verse to chorus and offering nothing unpredictable within either. It's only natural that material like this easily lost in the charts competition: there's just absolutely nothing to get hooked upon. The lyrics are probably the most important part - not many people in 1967 sang such self-conscious stuff as 'I can see there's no presents for me/Fame and fortune will never be free' - but in retrospect, come off as rather trite, don't you think? And, to tell the truth, I'm really sick of all these vocalists hiding behind doubletracked parts and group harmonies. Come out and show yourselves! So the Beatles could allow themselves this kind of luxury - but not before we all knew that each of the Beatles, even Ringo, has really got an individual voice to call his own.
15. Os Mutantes: Bat Macumba [A+]
You do realize anything less would be an offense, doncha. For those of you who sometimes ask the question - how come "world music" came out of Anglo-Saxon countries in the 1980s instead of, like, the world itself - well, here's a 1968 track by Brazilia's leading band (at the time, that is, before Sepultura took over) that presages "world music" in both age and quality, seeing as how it doesn't really emphasize its importance as "World Music", all capital letters and artsy reverence. These guys just take one of their "native" Afro-Brazilian rhythms, set it to an electric beat, chant 'Bat Macumba hey hey' exactly the way you'd expect a witchdoctor to do, and pepper the track with completely crazyass electronic instrumentation; the only major competition in that department I can think of for 1968 would be The United States of America, but that was a long distance off and quite artsy and self-important, too. I'd betcha anything the Krautrock scene could learn a trick or two from these guys as well. The final result is... brilliant. I know it's hard to believe, but you'll just have to. It's not every day that Ethnic fucks over with Avantgarde and bears Accessible.
16. Winston's Fumbs: Real Crazy Apartment [A+]
It's a little ironic that Jimmy Winston, the former organ player of the Small Faces, who was kicked out right at the dawn of their recording career, went on to actually forge a sound that was far more defiantly psychedelic than that of his former buddies. Sure it was for one single only, but next to 'Real Crazy Apartment', stuff like 'Green Circles' and 'Itchycoo Park' sound like Quicksilver Messenger Service next to Black Sabbath. This song tears! Deep, rumbling production, guitar chords (Winston switched to guitar after leaving Marriott and Co.) that sound like they're coming straight out of the mouth of Beelzebub himself, scary falsetto harmonies, and such a terrifying mood. Supposedly it's just a song about the charms and seductions of a hipster apartment, but if you don't take in the lyrics word by word, you'd think it was the devil himself welcoming you to the apartment in question. "Satanic psychedelia", eh? Something like that. Okay, so it's certainly very tame by the Stooges' standards, but still the sound is quite unique for 1967, which is a pretty big compliment given that in 1967, "unique" was almost casual.
17. The Smoke: No More Now [B+]
Not that Smoke - these guys are from New Zealand. Probably that spot in New Zealand which gets all these fumes and vibes off the Australian coast, because they display a level of gruffness almost comparable with that of the Saints. The vocal harmonies, unfortunately, come straight from the Yardbirds (for some of the vocal modulations I can actually point to 'Heart Full Of Soul' as the exact source), hinting at the songwriting being somewhat below par. In the end, the song is saved by pure professionalism; especially good, I think, is the rhythm section - that bassist is pretty fast and fluent, and they do recognize his talents by putting him high in the mix. The raga-ish guitar solo is also cleverly constructed. But in the final run I'd only recommend the tune to those who can't get enough of that Yardbirds sound, collecting all the available clones and stuff like that.
18. The Birds: No Good Without You [B]
A pretty decent rendition of a Marvin Gaye standard which the Birds are trying to intensify and turn into more of a hard rock anthem. Blazing feedback, immensely fat guitar tones, powerful, proto-arena rock vocal harmonies, it's all there, but somehow doesn't manage to "ignite". Maybe it's because the main riff seems a bit pointless and distracted, wasting volume and heaviness in a way that Tony Iommi wouldn't when he'd get around to it. Already the second Birds song on the set and, just like the first one, really leaves me cold. Maybe it's the rather dull lead vocalist that has to do with it - so it's a good thing the band didn't last too long and Ron Wood eventually left for bigger and better things. (His guitar solo on here is the song's high point, by the way - short, precise, and showing that somebody had really done his homework listening to Jeff Beck performing his schtick. No wonder the two wound up playing together in but three years' time).
19. The Zipps: Kicks & Chicks [B+]
These Dutch boys somehow get to me with their incredible cockiness. Not only are they nerds - they're swaggering about their being nerds with about the same convincibility and energy as you'd expect from somebody like Brian Johnson when he talks about balling whores. Only this time, instead of the 'big guns' you get Jack Kerouac (whose name these fellas actually find rather hard to pronounce). However, they aren't exactly psychos, rather just liberally minded, well-meaning young gentlemen. Because musically, the song is quite timid, normal, well-played blues-rock, the most unusual thing about it being a rather extended instrumental passage, beginning with a recorder or a flute (big hello from 'California Dreaming'?), then replaced by guitar, playing one of these long-winded half-jazz, half-mantra solos. Hardly essential, but good, self-assured fun from a... well, a better age than today.
20. The Acid Gallery: Dance Around The Maypole [B]
Hello, what's the big difference between this one and 'Blackberry Way'? Not a very big one. Roy Wood really loves these folk-martial rhythms, doesn't he? Enough to write some for himself and leave others for his proteges, like The Acid Gallery. This one, though, is about as "traditionally folksy" as the man ever got, starting from the title and ending with the crowded harmonies and all. If you are not at all familiar with this side of Roy's personality, the song is quite recommendable, but I find it slightly inferior to all those marvelous late-period Move singles tacked on as bonuses to Looking On. By the way, Wood is not officially indicated as vocalist in the liner notes, but that's definitely him in the chorus, and Jeff Christie certainly imitates his tone as well. Christie? Yep, you're right, "The Acid Gallery" is that same band that would later be responsible for shoving 'Yellow River' down our throats. Oh those good old days of 1969.
21. The Fairies: Get Yourself Home [C+]
These guys are fairly rabid admirers of the Pretty Things, for sure. But is that necessarily a good thing? Heck, I never thought that much about the early Pretty Things themselves, much less for a second-hand copy of the band (who themselves were a second-hand copy of the Stones, which makes the Fairies... third-hand? fourth-hand? Whatever). This is the band's trusty version of the Pretties' demo tune, which can now also be heard and compared as a bonus track on the Pretty Things CD. I don't know my Bo Diddley as thoroughly as I probably should, but I'd bet you anything the song is just a rewrite of one of his tunes. Or close enough. Musically uninventive, sloppily played, repetitive ad nauseam and quite humorless at that, it is only saved by the fact that yes, these "Fairies" were pretty wild in their delivery. Not exactly Sonics-level wild, but, well, quite wild. I'm rather fed up with "wild" at this point, though. Gimme "subtly wild" at least.
22. The Chants R&B: I'm Your Witchdoctor [A-]
Okay, this one is exactly what I meant by "subtly wild". I've always liked that John Mayall tune, and these young ruffians from New Zealand give it a great interpretation. The vocal melody is perfect - these 'hey hey hey hey hey hey!' "interjections" are one of the greatest blues-rock hooks of the era - but what really makes the song is guitarist Max Kelly's crazyass soloing throughout the entire tune: there's no special instrumental passage, but with all these astounding flurries of licks, there's no need for one. (Alas, not even that cool playing prevented him from eventually being deported as a former Deserter from Australia's Air Forces). The best thing is that, while making the song more ass-kicking than the original, in classic garage style, they also fully preserve its "evil", Voodooistic vibe, and there's nothing more pleasant than something that can at the same time satisfy you on the "gut" level and on the "spiritual" level.
23. The Boots: But You'll Never Do It Babe [A]
Another one of those Pretty Things-style rave-ups (actually, the Things covered the tune themselves a little later on), but this time, light years away from the boredom of 'Get Yourself Home'. Maybe it's the clearer production or the better melody... but essentially, I think, it's just the playing. Much better than on 'Gaby', too, at least, much more reckless. These guys were pretty virtuosic for 1965, all of them, most notably the bassist who, during the frantic instrumental passage, revs up on double speed like a worthy disciple of John Entwistle. The lead vocalist slashes through the lines, cutting them sharp instead of just grumbling or bellowing through them, and the lead guitarist prefers to do the same with his lines. Funny thing, the way they start out, with that lazy harmonica chugging along, I was at first afraid it was going to be something of the early Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac variety. Was I ever mistaken, hoo hoo!
24. The Majority: One Third [B+]
These guys go nicely on the harmonies: three-part, well-placed, although maybe somewhat lacking in true intensity. This stuff is not for exhilaration, like the Hollies; lyrically it's in the "personal critique" way (one could almost think of it as an antagonistic answer to 'I'm Only Sleeping'), but it doesn't quite convince me in the end. Maybe it's the flat production or the fact that individually, these voices are just completely uninteresting. They do deliver a cool guitar solo, rather unusually crunchy for this sort of thing, and the basic vocal melody is well-written. Perhaps a little more echo in the background would have elevated this to... well, you know, in the end I'd describe this as "blunt garage pop trying to be lush and artsy", and you can derive your own conclusions from there.
25. Kaleidoscope: Flight From Ashiya [B+]
More pop dressed as folk and crowned as psychedelia. I have no idea what 'Ashiya' means; the important thing is that the message is trippy and the blurry story told presages some of prog-rock's most odd (if not necessarily most ugly) eccentricities. The high point is the vocal melody, meticulously carved out and flawlessly performed - I especially like how Peter Daltrey sings 'one minute hi-i-i-i-gh!' falsetto, then drops down several octaves to conclude '...the next minute, low'. It's certainly impressive for somebody's first single, this rushing head first into the world of mixed colours and hallucinogenous substances and proper nouns rarely heard in pop music, although I don't think that big fans of Pink Floyd's 1967 sound will find something eye-opening in this ditty.
26. The Small Faces: Here Come The Nice [A]
Well, it's classic era Small Faces, what can I say? And the song that supposedly gave its name to the world's first true progressive rock band. The sound is very typical for the band, an amalgamation of British music hall values with Atlantic rhythm'n'blues, not to mention severely provocative lyrics, even for 1967, about getting the right stuff from the right man. A detailed description of the song is practically impossible, because there's hardly anything particularly outstanding about it; but that must have been the true charm of the Small Faces, having worked out their own formula and hacking away with it over and over again, without losing the listener. The bedazzling thing, of course, is how the heck the song managed to avoid being censored and become a hit, when so many far lesser offenders fell to the guillotine of BBC banning. Call it idiot's luck, I guess.
27. The Rattles: It's My Fault [B]
Not to be confused with the Rutles, not to mention the Beatles, although these German guys might have cherished the unrealistic idea of permanently replacing the Fab Four in the minds of teenage girls after the latter evacuated the Star Club in Hamburg and the former took over. This one song is a might fine and convincing rave-up, although drastically late for 1966 - didn't the Bo Diddley beat get pretty obsolete by, I dunno, mid-'65 at most? (The song's mid-section, however, prefers to emulate Chuck Berry of the 'Memphis Tennessee' era rather than Bo, but it doesn't make that big a difference). The singer is competent and almost free of accent, the guitar solo is fluent and rousing, but, just like so many times before, there isn't enough individuality to make this into something more than a predictable Bo Diddley-Chuck Berry criss-crossing.
28. Blossom Toes: When The Alarm Clock Rings [B+]
And here I was hoping for a masterpiece at the end... Well, it's still a good song. The liner notes rave about how the band was one of the first to follow in the shoes of Sgt Pepper, but this actually does not sound much like Sgt Pepper at all: it's far "fruitier" and "cleaner" (well, they didn't call their debut album We Are Ever So Clean for nothing - obviously, this was in the "psychedelia for housewives" category), with Byrds-like vocals and 'faggoty' flutes all over the place. Bee Gees territory, maybe, or Moody Blues. The arrangements are very tricky, with multilpe guitar, keyboard, and brass parts (no orchestration, though, maybe for artistic reasons, or, more probably, low budget ones). The vocal melody is not exactly memorable-in-a-second, but is enjoyable and not monotonous. And there's a certain morning freshness to the sound indeed; maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to actually have your alarm clock play it every morning instead of the nerve-rattling ringing?..
The Final Countdown
|I-1||I-2||I-3||I-4||II-1||II-2||II-3||II-4||I Total||II Total|
|Nuggets I||Nuggets II|
The most amazing conclusion, of course, is that the number of songs I marked as an A or as an A+ is exactly the same for both Nuggets I and II (and I'm being perfectly honest here - no manipulating whatsoever was involved). This should certainly tell you a thing or two about quality control for the material selection. This and, of course, the relatively low number of C-marked songs (for which a slightly higher percentage is observable in Nuggets II).On the other hand, you probably really needn't bother buying both boxsets if you're not a dedicated fan of Sixties' pop - only a very limited number of the songs are what I would call absolute chef-d'oeuvres. Nuggets is obviously an item for an advanced user, not a beginner. That said, let us just one more time list the songs that I really cannot imagine any general lover of good music spending the rest of his life without:
If you haven't heard even one of these 30 songs, go download it now. If you haven't heard any of them... well, hopefully you have a long and happy life ahead of you.