The brainchild of Elektra Records chief Jac Holzman, Nuggets was a double-album survey of grass roots American garage-rock “one-hit-wonders”, originally released in 1972, at the very moment when rock’n’roll was making its first backwards-looking audit.
Curated by future Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye (whose original liner notes would coin the term punk rock), it documented the widely pervading influence of the so-called British Invasion on ingénue mid-to-late-60s beat combos across the USA.
This anniversary reissue features new, sagacious sleeve-notes from Kaye, while the album’s 27 short, sharp, electric guitar and Farfisa organ-soaked essays remain preserved in musical amber, evincing the impact of The Beatles (to an almost preposterous level – faux Scouse accents and all – on The Knickerbockers’ Lies), The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Them et al on an eclectic tranche of musicians. These acts’ recordings would project British Invasion tropes through the prism of 1960s American musical (and, increasingly, counter) culture.
Typically, The Electric Prunes’ I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night), The Seeds’ Pushin’ Too Hard and 13th Floor Elevators’ You’re Gonna Miss Me – all of which would enjoy deferred ‘classic’ status courtesy of Nuggets – are products of a ricocheting process of cross-fertilisation. US blues and soul-inspired British styles are bent back into feisty, indigenous variants on garage-rock, brimming with ‘out there’ lyrics and disorientating studio effects which bear testimony to a burgeoning awareness of drug-induced altered states.
There are less lysergic, less Anglophone offerings here, too. The Vagrants’ muscular, bluesy take on Otis Redding’s Respect, and Mouse’s A Public Execution, an unmitigated homage to Highway 61 Revisited-era Bob Dylan, for example, while several tracks presage a subsequent wave of US underground punk-rock.
Count Five’s spiky Psychotic Reaction proffers the missing link between The Yardbirds and early Television, while The Remains’ angsty Don’t Look Back might have been the blueprint for Richard Hell and the Voidoids. The Shadows of Knight’s Oh Yeah, meanwhile, is surely the prototype for David Bowie’s The Jean Jeanie.
Thus, Nuggets remains a Rosetta Stone among rock compilations and an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the rapid, wild and vivid evolution of 1960s psychedelia.
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