THE SACRED GARAGE

Where do you file your ‘Various Artists’ albums? By title in the A-Z? In their own section? Luckily that’s not what we are here to discuss and anyway it was extensively canvassed not long ago.

Today we’re here to pay respect to one of the best compilations of all time, Nuggets.

Curated by guitarist Lenny Kaye, Nuggets—Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (to give it its full name) was released in 1972 and set the bar pretty damn high. Kaye was an acolyte of the new thing, the Beatles pop thing, the find-a-wayto-do-it-yourself thing. When Elektra approached him to compile an anthology of his fave psych and garage sides he was not yet the admired guitarist of the Patty Smith Group, but a journalist. More importantly, he was a former record store ‘counter rat’ and record collector. His liner notes to the 2012 re-issue capture the passion:

As rock entered its glorious adolescence, I leapt to faith, the being-in-a-band that is a defining crossroads; coupling with a ‘60s cultural moment that was complicit—rock moving to an awareness of its rallying cry and artistic potential. Thus initiated into the sacred garage, where the tune-up and the turn-up perform their mating dance, I apprenticed myself to the gods of fuzz tone and Farfisa, learning the yowl and the rave-up, the well-placed tambourine, the value of a good hook.

What a fine summary of both ethos and album. The twenty-seven songs of the original Nuggets capture a youthful exuberance and lack of pretence that remains inspirational decades later. Thanks to mountains of cheap and careless compilations, this category of album is often collection landfill. How often to comps get played? Yet a thoughtful, diligent anthology can be a stained glass window into another time or style, full of vibrant shards of colour and light. Such is Nuggets.

The songs are drawn mainly from 1965—1967, with a couple of outliers either end. All are from the US (more on that later) and, despite the title, sounds and textures range well beyond three-chord garage thrash.

Really, I could write about every song, even the few that don’t grab me—often they contribute to the flow and feel of the whole, despite being less memorable themselves. But here are just four songs—one per side—from the original Nuggets. [Song title is a link]

SIDE 1

The Knickerbockers—Lies

It rocks, it sashays, it bounces. Harmony ah-s, a put-down lyric. A perfect teen-angst capsule in 2:41. Covered (rather well) by Linda Ronstadt on her excellent 1982 album Get Closer.

SIDE 2

The Remains—Don’t Look Back

Punky and percussive, this could be The Saints forbears playing. Guitars clash, the backing vocals are almost in unison. The changes of pace around the repeated title/chorus are thrilling. Smells like a garage band to me.

SIDE 3

Count Five—Psychotic Reaction

One of the best known songs on Nuggets, ‘Psychotic Reaction’ is a lurching, pulsing low-fi freakout that perfectly captures the brittle energy of US psychedelia. No tea and whimsy here, kid, this is brain-twisting.

Can’t move onto the final, brilliant side without mentioning the organ-driven celebration that is Michael & The Messenger’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’, an almost-pop hit I simply love.

SIDE 4

Sagittarius—My World Fell Down

A slice of what has become known as sunshine pop, this melodic Mamas and Papas style single has a gorgeous melody, some baroque-pop harmonies and a harp. It also has a strange experimental mash-up “Revolution #9” interlude. Strange and captivating.

Nazz—Open My Eyes

I just couldn’t split this and the Sagittarius. What a contrast! The Nazz is perfect prototype power pop. A riff, an ascending guitar line over a sustained organ note, great melody, catchy chorus. This brilliant Todd Rundgren song deserves to be as famous as ‘Day Tripper’. And it has lashings of phasing too. ‘Nuff said.

File under ‘Timeless Gems’.

*

Nuggets—Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 was, in many ways, the beginning of the rarity-mining industry. Excavated additions included Pebbles and Boulders plus innumerable copy-cat comps. And there are more Nuggets too. Many more.

In the second half of the eighties, Rhino released no less than fifteen albums of Nuggets material which became the source material for a 1998 box set. This monster 4CD collection is just a couple of songs shy of 120 tracks and it’s all from the USA. In addition to the original 2LP set, the lode is loaded with bands you’ve never heard of. Hello to The Gants, The Lyrics and The Human Expression. Of course there are also familiar names, with contributions from The Seeds, Blues Magoos and even Captain Beefheart.

That cultural focus explodes into world-wide psychedelic mayhem with Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond, Rhino’s extraordinary 2001 companion set. Like the above Nuggets box, this collection boasts four CDs so overflowing with untrammelled creativity that it deserves—nay, demands—its own post. There’s more swinging technicolour psychedelia than you can shake a tea service at, even one including a sugar bowl full of acid-laced cubes.

In addition to obvious conscripts like The Pretty Things, Status Quo, and John’s Children we also get gems from Thor’s Children (no relation), The La De Das, and a song vital in first turning on this psych-head, ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ by Tintern Abbey.

There are others anthologies, but the only one I want to mention here is a curious compilation called Nuggets—Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults. This 24 track CD came out in 2004, but disappeared so promptly I was unable to track down a copy. So it was with some pleasure I noted it’s re-issue on suitably psychedelic marbled vinyl for Record Store Day 2016.

While not essential, it’s a lovely artyfact and has several stone classics including The Monkees ‘Porpoise Song’ and ‘Smell Of Incense’ by the preposterously named (but influential) West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.

Nuggets. They’re melting for a smelting.

 

36 comments

  1. Don’t know this stuff at all but I enjoyed this artypost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Scott. I can imagine there might be things about some of this stuff you’d enjoy… the energy, the in-your-face-ness. The song titles are links; if you are inclined try Lies or Open My Eyes.
      Or this…

      Like

  2. Terrific stained glass window comparison Bruce – that’s what compilations should strive to be.
    And that’s a splendid (west coast pop art experimental) pie chart too, interesting that the bookend years combined are still only half of the next smallest year.
    Nice read to start a Saturday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that genuine chuckle, Mr Science and Maths.
      And glad you enjoyed the read too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great looking set. So many bands I have probably never heard of it but still so interesting. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers a lot. Try the link in the song titles for a little taste. It’s ground zero stuff for alt pop, punk, etc.

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  4. Fantastic, Bruce. Tremendous writing: “a stained glass window into another time or style” and “There’s more swinging technicolour psychedelia than you can shake a tea service at, even one including a sugar bowl full of acid-laced cubes” are especially evocative. I love this sound and am humbled by how many bands on the original Nuggets release I didn’t recognize. That Sagittarius number is fantastic! (I noted some comments under the YouTube video indicating that Glen Campbell contributed vocals to that number, so your specifically including that cut is timely). A first, quick glance at the cover art had me wondering if it was by Peter Max, but I see that it isn’t. And I agree with Stephen1001: that’s a mighty fine pie chart!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glenn Campbell contributed to the Sagittarius, did he? Fascinating (and, as you say, timely). He was a very skilled session muso.

      Thanks also for mentioning the wonderful cover art by Abe Gurvin (Art Direction: Robert L Heimall). I’d entirely intended to include a reference but it somehow got edited out!

      Geoff S (1001) is my inspiration for graphs and charts. He often comes up with something tasty at his blog and I’ve been encouraged to try my hand at simple graphics as a result.

      Finally, thanks for the compliments. I did enjoy penning this one and insist that you forgive yourself immediately for not knowing most of this arcane material. But I do recommend it; Nuggets is an important slice of alternate pop history.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice to see a piece from you on Nuggets. It seems unbelievable that it’s 19 years since the first box set appeared! It was quiet a revelation at the time and continues to inspire and excite! Nice one.

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  6. Wonderful, Bruce. Really enjoyed this one and some really excellent writing that made me smile (“There’s more swinging technicolour psychedelia than you can shake a tea service at, even one including a sugar bowl full of acid-laced cubes”) and think “I need to get this”.

    Anyhoo, I had / have one of the CD reissues of Nuggets. Quite possibly a late 90s(?). Really loved that CD and it led to an interest in all things psychedelic, lovely, and occasionally noisy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great, J. If you ever see the 4CD box sets around cheap (which is quite possible at this time), they’re definitely worth grabbing. And the vinyl re-issue of the original Nuggets is lovely.
      So much great music!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I had a look through my CDs and it’s not there any longer, so I guess I’ll be looking to pick some up.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve loved Nuggets since I got it in the early seventies and got the 4CD set when it came out along with two of its successors. The early Pebbles albums are essential with Race Marbles perhaps my favourite Dylan take off of all time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMXEVw6VgZE. I’ve also got a couple of those WEA vaults CDs which I think were all complied by Andrew Sandoval and they are great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On the same page here, Paul. Great stuff, all (or most!) of it.

      Like

  8. Ooo, oo, oooooohh. You are now entering Slender territory. I love Nuggets and Psychotic Reaction in particular. First read about it in a mag which described it as “…a punker so perfect as to inspire the Lester Bangs rant of the same name”. Naturally, both song and rant needed to be researched. An erudite man like yourself will, I’m sure, know that the full title of said rant is “Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung”, the latter being The Count 5’s wholly fictional second album which Lester nevertheless spent three (I just counted ’em) pages reviewing. This attention to detail – the fact that they never recorded an album called Carburetor Dung, but really should have and which therefore must be reviewed – is something I try to aspire to myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Highperdelic Fives, Comrade Slender.

      Like

  9. You, as I believe the young people say, the man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The man who aspire to glottal sowlike gruntings. True story.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. OMG OMG OMG I LOVE THIS SET!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Brilliant. This one is bringing out the Believers!

    Like

  12. Meant to mention – I had this on my iPod as my jogging music for the longest time. It’s sublime accompaniment for dragging my carcass up the road!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can well imagine. Add in a bit of pogo-ing and you’ve got the moves!

      Like

      1. Man, I’m lucky to be coordinated enough to run without tripping. There will be no pogo-ing. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Looking up the WEA vaults releases it transpires that Hallucinations is still available on CD with a different name, same tracklisting. https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Mind-Goes-High-Psychedelic/dp/B000803PPO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice work, Detective Kerr. Still, I think I can be satisfied with the fancy schmancy vinyl.

      Like

  14. Right up my garage, all this stuff. If you start to factor in all the Pebbles compilations too (which were great to start with) you start to wonder if every single American was in a band in the 1960s.

    Farmer John wins for me – it’s my most played song on iTunes, by far.

    Oh and last Sunday I was at Tintern Abbey. Cosmic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good on ya Farmer Joe!
      Hope you were listening to ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ – a song that may or may not be about severely altered states of mind – while undertaking Abbeying duties.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Bought this in the 70’s sometime, as far as I remember it had great picture sleeves.
    Only disappointment were the Barbarians, I had been wanting to hear the band with a one armed drummer (one hand actually as it transpired) but their track was unrepresentative of their general live output. It still appropriated the drummers name for online activities though !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d wondered about the moniker. Good to hear the backstory!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. i was just thinking of all the tributes and compilations i like and you come up with this. I will listen and see if I can mine a few “Nuggets”. Starting with ‘The Sonics’ it really grabbed me. I you and Lenny’s style.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good beginning, CB! Yes, this is the first ‘comp’ I’ve written about. Slightly odd given that we all have dozens of the blighters.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good for you for pulling the trigger. You said it in your piece, These comps can be a “landfill” or a bunch of “Nuggets”. I always dig it when guys like Kaye do this. They are music fans the same as us. Interesting piece of music history. Good choice Bruce.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Fantastic compilation! I hadn’t heard this before, but am listening to a Spotify playlist that someone has thoughtfully put together (search nuggets artyfacts and you’ll find it) and I have added this to my Discogs wantslist.
    Your picks, by the way, are spot on. Barry &The Remains, The Knickerbockers… fantastic names, great songs.
    That Mouse & The Traps songs is more Dylan than Dylan, mind you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is super-Dylan-y, isn’t it? But you can forgive a band with that name almost anything.
      Glad you enjoyed the Nuggests primer, Steve. The 4CD set is overflowing with more of the same!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Do you know what a criminal act is,Vinyl Connection readers? Not coming to licensing agreement with these gentlemen…

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  19. […] on 12 August, I read a terrific post, over on Vinyl Connection, about Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, a compilation of mid-60’s […]

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