It’s awesome album cover Saturday here at The Fault. Take a gander at the psychedelic masterpiece above. It has everything a good psych cover should – odd, collagist imagery, a juxtaposition of Victorian and modern styles, and enough surrealist composition to beckon you inside, take a trip, relax your mind, float away, yada yada. I find myself wanting to listen to nothing but old garage/freakbeat/vintage psych stuff two or three times a year. For me, there’s a timeless quality to this music that just puts it head and shoulders above anything else.
A large part of why the Nugget series works so well is that it’s, like the cover art that adorns the music contained within, a melding of multiple styles. You’ve got electric blues, garage, and burgeoning psychedelic sound stylings. The Nuggets series is a great place to hear some truly amazing performances by artists who in many cases went on to greater success with other bands. And that’s something most people don’t realize – bands weren’t meant to ‘last’, at least not in the way today’s acts do. A group of working musicians might have been three or four different ‘groups’ within the span of a few short years. Remember too, that most of these acts were British, and British pop (of which heavy blues, garage, and psych were all parts of) bands were controlled as much by their management as they were by their songwriters. Thus, a band might be garage for six months, and then try to cash in on this ‘psychedelic’ phase that just popped up. So, you switch the brothel creeper boots and sharp suits for paisley shirts and flowers. Same members, different package, different arrangement style. The technology of music was evolving at such a rate that a guitar reverb was a novelty at the time that, if showcased on a record, was likely to become a hit due to it’s relative novelty. Now, anyone can have dozens of delay options for practically no cost. In the 60’s, it’s relative newness gave it a cache that bands wanted to cash in on.
Most people who weren’t there just assume that all the psychedelic bands were trying to promote some sort of lifestyle of dropping acid, smoking mary jane, and kids grooving against the old establishment. This is not the case. For many of them, it was simply a means to an end. Let’s look at some of the bands represented on Nuggets, and their eventual ends:
I Can Hear The Grass Grow – The Move. These guys started as a traditional rock group, dabbled in psychedelia during it’s peak, and went back to rock. Two (eventually three) of the members went on to form a little band in the 70’s known as ELO, much more disco than psych rock. That eventual third was Jeff Lynne, who fronted his own band known as The Idle Race, represented here with Imposters of Life’s Magazine. The band Tomorrow appears with My White Bicycle, featuring guitarist Steve Howe who would later join progressive rock band Yes. Speaking of Yes, another band featured on Nuggets was The Syn, with their entry here being 14 Hour Technicolour Dream. The Syn’s bassist Chris Squire would help form the progressive band Yes that Steve Howe joins.
Nuggets is packed full with a who’s who of players. David Bowie has an entry here as Davy Jones performing You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving. Jimmy Page shows up playing guitar for The Primitives on You Said, while John Paul Jones plays bass for The Poets on That’s the Way It’s Got To Be. There are cuts by The Small Faces, Status Quo, The Creation, and The Pretty Things. Most of these bands would continue in some incarnation or other for years after the psychedelic bubble had burst. Some of the bands represented are unique and certainly were probably cobbled together quickly from competent players to cash in on the psychedelic craze. Bands like The Action, The Eyes, Sorrows, Kaleidoscope – these are the real unsung, disappeared entrants in the psychedelic musical canon. That’s what’s great about Nuggets, it brings all these one-off hits by bands big and small and makes them all available in one place for optimum listening pleasure. Sadly, this box set is now out of print, so hopefully you either stumble upon a used copy or find a download somewhere. Happy listening!