Thursday, 22 November 2012

Garage Rock Nuggets

Lenny Kaye's iconic collection "Nuggets: Original Artyfacts of the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968" turns 40 this year and a new tribute album is being issued next week where up-and-coming Australian Bands cover 18 songs from the album's original release. It has the equally verbose title called "Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era".

Since the release of this album, there have literally been thousands of like-minded compilations from all over the world, digging up the most obscure 60s singles from all corners of the globe. In some cases these old records have been rescued from landfills and transferred to digital because the original masters have long since disappeared or have been erased.

The question is why are there so many garage rock records to recycle? It's an interesting question, but a very simple one to answer.

The Beatles took everybody by surprise. No one imagined they'd be as huge as they were. The record industry was caught on the back foot but they could see opportunity coming. Rock music became a cash cow and nobody wanted to miss out. Anybody who looked and sounded like the Beatles or Stones were given the chance to make records because no one knew what would be the next big thing, and everyone wanted to be have the newest music sensation on their hands. Tiny labels sprung up overnight to release music by (supposedly) hot new bands. This made for a hell of a lot of records produced in a small period of time.

Of course, the path to fame wasn't all paved with gold. Many bands ended up making a few singles, and even then they may have only sold a few hundred copies. You were extremely lucky if you were given the chance to make an album. In a lot of cases, LPs by smaller groups sunk without a trace, ensuring instant collect-ability. The short supply of original vinyl meant that these records do actually go for hundreds, even thousands of dollars between collectors and dealers.

Clearly, not all these records were going to sell in large quantities die to the fact there were just so many of them to choose from. These records may have been under-appreciated at the time but they have been retrospectively praised and lauded as lost classics in some cases. A lot of bands fell by the wayside the development of pop music in the 1960s was the most rapid it has ever been before or since, with The Beatles as standard-bearers. Young hopefuls tended to be less talented and less able to keep up with the rate of change. Some bands had more enthusiasm than talent and as such sounded to raw for radio to even go near, let alone for people to hear and buy their records.

The original "Nuggets" compilation was mined for songs to cover by the next generation of punk bands in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for newer bands in the 1980s such as REM. Reissue specialists Rhino Records have expanded the original 27 track "Nuggets" album into a 4CD boxed set of obscure American tracks which is essential listening , as is the companion volume "Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969" which has a lot of good Australian and British obscurities on it.

Other series that are highly recommended are:

The "Pebbles" 30 volume series
The "Rubble" series
Back From The Grave (on Crypt Records)
Garage Punk Unknowns (on Crypt Records)
So You Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Star - an essential 3CD set of Australian nuggets from the vaults of Festival Records, compiled by Glenn A. Baker.
Ugly Things - a collection of Australian nuggets from other labels compiled by Glenn A. Baker on Raven Records.

plus various label retrospectives released by
EMI America,
Decca UK and many others

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