NUGGETS (What Impressed Me This Week)


My arm still feels like it’s going to fall off. The pain medicine isn’t touching it and it will be at least a couple of weeks before I can see a specialist so meanwhile, short some miracle recovery I’ll be listening to lot of music (it’s about all I can do) and posts will be short and sweet.

Nuggets is a four-disc box set released by Rhino Records in its glorious nineties’ heyday (a heyday now long departed alas) and based on Lenny kaye and Jac Holzman’s original concept comp–the greatest concept comp of all time–which was released in the early seventies and looked like this and makes up the first disc of the box…


So, being flat on my back this week, I had time to listen to the whole thing straight through for the first time since I reacquired it five or six years ago (the original box having been swept away in the great CD selloff of 2002). What I was left with when it was all said and done were impressions:

–That box cover up top is terrible. I don’t like to give out “worst ever” demerits because the minute I do something will come to mind that tops it. But it’s in the running. (The original album cover I kind of like.) Too bad, because the graphics for the booklet are fantastic.

–The Lenny Kaye who programmed the original had a real genius for it. It was a little unclear to me how much he had to do with the additional three discs in the box, but, despite having just as much great music, they don’t flow the way that first one did…and still does.

–Nuggets=Garage Rock=Frat Rock=Proto-punk=”Real” punk=I guess “White Boy Stomp” was out of the question?

–Make that Middle-Class White Boy Stomp. Some of these guys were genuinely unstable…

…but none of them looked or sounded like they’d ever missed a meal, or lived in a house that didn’t have a garage. Quite the opposite in fact. Nobody yearning for middle class acceptance ever sounded this much like they didn’t give a rip.

–Which begs the question of whether they were collectively naive…or visionaries who saw the end of Europa’s five-hundred-year reign o’er the Earth coming and decided to party like it didn’t matter.

Maybe a mix?

–And if not White Boy Stomp, maybe Sound-Alike Rock? The Knickerbockers take the prize with the greatest sound-alike record ever (and that includes Gene Vincent’s “Be Bop A Lula” which fooled Elvis’ mother and his band).

And then there are Mouse and the Traps sounding like Dylan and Count Five sounding like the Yardbirds and some band I missed the name of (pain makes cowards of us all and pain medicine makes dope-heads of us all, meaning I never got around to looking at the track list while it was playing) sounding like the Rolling Stones without the professional polish and specifically like early Mick Jagger without the phonetic relationship to American English he had to sell his soul in order to transcend (Satan got paid back, along about 1973).

Then there are the real one-off gems galore: the Swingin’ Medallions sounding like the drunken frat boys they played for; the Remains’ Barry Tashian sounding like the era’s great lost voice; the Hombres sounding like one of Jack Kerouac’s narrators; the Turtles sounding like the Turtles,

Mostly though, over the last three discs there seemed to be literally dozens of guys who sounded exactly like another guy who is actually on the set. Namely this guy:

Begging another set of questions: Were they all imitating him because he and his band were the great success story of the ethos? Or was he the most successful because he was the best of a common type?

And are they not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame precisely because they had been doing this for years, since long before the British Invasion was a gleam in John Lennon’s eye? Or just because they weren’t British, too, and had the costumes to prove it?

I only ask because I care!

5 thoughts on “NUGGETS (What Impressed Me This Week)

  1. My only complaint with the original NUGGETS album was that is gave us a cuppla generations of novices who think that Kaye meant that everything on the two records WAS psychedelic instead of merely being FROM the psychedelic era. A subtitle of “Artyfacts form the Late Great Late Sixties” would have been less confusing . . .

  2. Yeah I probably should have mentioned that I never liked the title (beyond the word Nuggets which would have stood quite nicely on its own). “Artyfacts?” Way too cute, though at least its descriptive. And you’re right about “psychedelic.” Granted the term is a little loosely defined but I wouldn’t have classified more than a handful of the cuts as anything like MY definition of the word.

    Actually Time Life did a 2-LP set called Wild Thing in the late seventies or eighties which I would have made some reference to but I couldn’t find a picture of it on the internet. Kaye limited himself to American bands but Wild Things would have been more suitable. That set actually had stronger music cut-for-cut, but Kaye’s programming on Nuggets more than compensated for my taste.

  3. That’s it! I had pretty much the same reaction when I first heard it. It was much more readily available than Nuggets back in the day and it had the advantage of including more famous bands like the Rascals and foreign bands like the early Guess Who and the Troggs, etc. Thanks so much for sharing the link!

    (I put Time Life in the piece as the label of origin…and after I had reminded myself about six times to remember it was Warner Special Products back in the day…all this Ibuprofen is definitely having a mind-dulling affect!) I’ll change it asap!)

    Always loved the cover too!

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