Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968

Various Artists

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Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 Review

by Mark Deming

If one had to point to a single initial salvo that launched the garage rock revival movement in the 1970s and ‘80s, it would have to be the release of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 in 1972. Elektra Records had approached rock critic Lenny Kaye (not yet the guitarist with the Patti Smith Group) with the notion of compiling an album of great, overlooked rock tunes, but what Kaye came up with was something significantly different -- an overview of the great, wild era when American bands, goaded by the British Invasion, began honing in on a tougher and more eclectic rock & roll sound, and kids were reawakened to the possibilities of two guitars, bass, and drums. Coming up with a simple definition of this period and its sound proved daunting -- the word "garage" appears nowhere in the liner notes to Nuggets, and his notion of "the first psychedelic era" quickly fell by the wayside -- but the frequent bursts of fuzztone, Farfisa organ, and vocal sneering in the 27 tunes Kaye selected codified a musical approach that flourished in the mid-'60s, and at a time when rock was becoming more self-consciously serious and arty, the primal power and sheer sense of fun audible in this music seemed like a minor revelation that became a clarion call to musicians, fans, and music scribes around the world. Nuggets proved to be of seismic importance in the years after its release, but just as importantly, it's a blast to listen to; Kaye's sequencing gives the album the joyous flow of a great afternoon of AM radio, and the album blends hits both big ("Pushin' Too Hard" by the Seeds, "Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five) and small ("You're Gonna Miss Me" by the 13th Floor Elevators, "Hey Joe" by the Leaves) with high-quality obscurities ("Don't Look Back" by the Remains, "It's A-Happening" by the Magic Mushrooms) and early efforts by future stars (Leslie West in the Vagrants, Todd Rundgren in Nazz, Ted Nugent in the Amboy Dukes). And while many of the garage compilations that would follow would focus relentlessly on the obscure and the noisy, Kaye's set not only demonstrates that some of this stuff actually made the charts, but that there was as much great pop as snotty proto-punk pouring out of America's rec rooms back in the day. And Kaye's liner notes were nearly as important as the music in defining the importance of this music and its era. Very few "oldies" compilations have had an influence approaching that of Nuggets, and even fewer are as rewarding to listen to; if you care about rock music in the '60s, you need to own this album. [In 1998, Nuggets would be expanded into a superb four-disc box set, but the original two-LP set remains available as a standalone CD release.]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 The Electric Prunes 02:57 Amazon
2 The Standells 02:50 Amazon
3 The Strangeloves 03:08 Amazon
4 The Knickerbockers 02:45 Amazon
5 The Vagrants 02:16 Amazon
6 Mouse 02:46 Amazon
7 The Blues Project 02:52 Amazon
8 Shadows of Knight 02:50 Amazon
9 The Seeds 02:36 Amazon
10 The Barbarians 02:34 Amazon
11 The Remains 02:41 Amazon
12 The Magicians 02:55 Amazon
13 The Castaways 01:54 Amazon
14 The 13th Floor Elevators 02:31 Amazon
15 The Count Five 03:08 Amazon
The Leaves 02:50 Amazon
17 Michael & the Messengers 02:02 Amazon
18 The Cryan' Shames 02:29 Amazon
The Amboy Dukes 05:35 Amazon
20 Blues Magoos 04:41 Amazon
21 The Chocolate Watchband 02:45 Amazon
22 The Mojo Men 02:22 Amazon
23 Third Rail 01:55 Amazon
24 Sagittarius 03:49 Amazon
25 The Nazz 02:45 Amazon
26 The Premiers 02:51 Amazon
27 Magic Mushrooms 02:46 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick