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One of the best introductions to Sixties Garage Rock n Roll is ‘The Nuggets, Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968’ compilation. The memory of first laying eyes on this comp still saturates my mind with mist, as if walking once again through the epic and overwhelming jungle of Los Angeles Tower Records.
It was as though I stumbled into one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. The myths were true.
The store was indeed a forest of hungry fingers searching for audio satisfaction. Tower Records was a festival of confetti, records, books, elephants and jewels. Then, with a triumphant “Eureka,” from nowhere appeared an end cap displaying the Rhino Nuggets Box Set.
This colossal wake-up call showed me exactly where to dive into the ocean of Rock n' Roll. If you're looking for direction, this could provide you with a compass and a map. The Nuggets Garage compilation will change your perception about what qualifies as depression and how to deal with it. All attitude and pure emotion!
The Nuggets Garage Comp Will Change Your Life
At that point of my existence, I was hungrily searching for something with a raw energy that I could really sink my teeth into while going through the ominous mazes of this new modern society. The Nuggets, Original Artyfacts is one of the best introductions to Sixties Garage Rock n' Roll and will definitely fill your belly.
As I walked through the record store aisles, it felt like I was strolling on a moving sidewalk straight up to the display. I didn’t waste a second picking it up and going straight home to marinate my mind with the tenderizing, delicious raunch and wisdom of the Garage Nuggets box set of Original Artifacts! I had no idea that my life would be changed forever. The box set infused with my spine and it became part of my DNA.
“Just what the doctor ordered," I thought as I removed the headphones from my head. My tongue was hanging out my mouth with a tincture of drool. I could only compare the experience to watching two turquoise canaries flit around while I'm enjoying custards with blueberries and apricots.
Nuggets Original Artyfacts Releases
The first release in 1972 from Elektra Records showcased 27 obscure bands on a double LP release. It was then expanded in 1998, by Rhino Records on four CDs, to include over 95 bands, even some top 40 hits from the short-lived craze. All of them with the common thread of having fuzzed out roots in Blues, Rock n' Roll, and Rhythm n' Blues from the early Sixties and previous decades.
Born from Blues, Rock n Roll, Rhythm n Blues, and Jazz
The Blues was a main prototype for the Garage, American proto-punk genre as it similarly coerces and consoles the angst, betrayal, and rebellion of outcasts and those broken from love gone wrong. A raw reintroduction of Howlin Wolf’s and Muddy Waters’ very skilled, traditional rural playing into the most primitive, simple patterns and three-chord theory, garnished with the new sounds of Farfisa organ and a tweaking of distorted fuzz from the blues guitar greats.
The Groupies continued this most traditional sound with songs like "Primitive". Los Angeles' own Captain Beefheart and his Magical Band used this formula efficiently, resulting in them winning a Battle of The Bands and lead them to get signed to a recording contract, which a lot of Garage Rock acts didn't have the privilege of having.
In the frantic, honking and jangly guitar riffs of Garage Rock, you hear a straight shot pointing to the raucous Rock n' Roll of the 1950s monoliths like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Little Richard, who had their own ears peeled to the likes of John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner, Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner.
Garage is a darker derivative distorted by the distinct rejection and departure of this brighter brand of 50s Rock n Roll, while still shamelessly utilizing the Blues-Boogie guitar riff and the pounding, locomotive beat as a standard template.
In some of these garage outfits, like the mysterious bands LOVE and The Music machine, you can also hear the Jazz sensibilities of Charlie Christian and T. Monk in early 1940s bebop which, similarly, was a more aggressive and ‘against the grain’ departure from Big-Band Jazz standard. BeBop was the Garage of its time.
Rhythm n' Blues, from the 1950s, was spilling into and co-existing with the Garage Scene in the mid-sixties. The call and response style of songwriting and delivering lyrics with soulful abandon characterized a majority of the Garage Rock aesthetic.
Money, Shout, Land of a Thousand Dances, and Johnny Be Good became standard covers. For example, The Seeds playing a big concert with the Supremes at the Hollywood Bowl along with Buffalo Springfield, was food for the ears.
The British Invasion
The British Invasion is said to be the movement that actually helped spark the US Garage onslaught of bands starting in 1964. In my opinion, American Garage Rock makes the British Invasion seem like a farce. Besides, when those UK bands were eating off the plates of Blues players, Rock n' roll players, and R&B crooners, did the people there refer to that as “The American Invasion?"
Those so-called heroes from this pompously titled UK invasion wouldn’t exist without Blues, Jazz, Rock n' roll and R&B bands that originated coast to coast but mostly in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Mississipi, Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans and Texas. The UK invasion should be labeled overrated. Class dismissed.
So many eras and regions are heard in Garage music that owning this compilation is like entering a four-year degree at a scholar's university and graduating with a degree in physics. However, instead of a diploma, you receive a guitar with a golden pick inscribed with Herco.
There are hundreds of bands to cherish from Garage Rock. All of them offer you something different for your auditory palate. Of the notables, there’s the more popular Crescendo Record All-Stars, The Seeds. Grown from the soil of grief, grit and fuzzed out riffs glazed with sermons, sonatas, and snarls, this band was hard to beat. They constructed the phrase and definition of “Raw and Alive."
Their seething, euphoric brand of sound surrounds you like the coils of a 300-pound boa constrictor. It was this box set with their 'Pushin’ too Hard' single that catapulted me into the underbelly of the mid-sixties Garage scene. California was the nest of this classic band and other bands. Their vocalist, Sky Saxon, said that he wrote the song ‘Pushing too Hard’ while waiting in the car at a grocery store fresh off a fight with his girlfriend.
Music Machine is another favorite band featured in the Garage Nuggets Original Artyfact's compilation along with The Standells, the Monks, The Remains, Zachary Thaks, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Shadows of Knight and other pioneers, inventors, and curators. You can quickly surmise that they were 'Savants' about the Blues, Rock n' Roll, Rhythm n' Blues, and Jazz that recently preceded them.
UK bands, excluding The Pretty Things, Kinks, and The Animals, wished they could make gritty, reflective, authentically fuzzed out and classic lyrical songs with such a strong dose of Raw Power. The rest are pure hype. I mean if you like albums with filler, go buy a British Invasion Album. If you want to feel satiated and feel inspired to start a band, then purchase the Nuggets Garage Compilation.
However! One song that captured my troubled angst is the proto-punk classic anthem “Bad Girl” by The Zachary Thaks. The way the drums wind up your legs and your arms as they dance all night to the moon's light. This one may give you underarm sweat, so wear dark clothes when you give this one a listen.
In retrospect, the box set changed my life and gave me a snarling hope that I could feel within my heart and on my fingers, while confidently exclaiming my right to live my life outside the confines of the modern society and its conformity. The song ‘Don’t Look Back’ by the Remains would serve as a good example of this. Garage Rock displayed creativity, imagination, poets and bands.
When these nuggets are shining, they are hard to contend with, regardless of any so-called 'mania' from overrated bands from overseas. Garage Rock, the musical Gold Rush, revealed itself to me and with my wagon and innocence, I rode off into the horizon with a new understanding of sixties Rock n' roll which was provided by this Garage Nuggets Box Set. I love it, live it and write about Garage Rock n Roll more in depth at Savant Confections.
It is cautionary to restrain from playing these CDs past 1 am, or you may have dreams of angst, heartbreak, and problems...great ingredients for writing a garage song though. In fact, this Nuggets box set of Original Artyfacts is the recipe book.