Monday, May 11, 2009


I have, in the past, been accused of being a Beatles-hater. This is somewhat unfair. I like the Beatles, I own most of their albums. Only one other band has more MP3s on my computer. Etc. The reason I get the accusation is that I don't go in for the Beatles-worship which seems to be almost mandatory. My pushback against this hagiography reached its high point with the release of Across The Universe, a film I had no interest in seeing.

"Look," I'll say, "The Beatles were a good band. They were a very good band. They had perhaps the longest run of consistently good new music in pop music history. But they're not the Only Band 'Gainst Whom All Others Must Be Judged (and Found Wanting)." To a certain extend, the music of the '60's has become, to music fans but not experts, a history of The Beatles, with The Rolling Stones and maybe Bob Dylan or Hendrix tossed in for good measure. Even groups like The Kinks, who actually had a similar musical trajectory as The Beatles, with poppy dance hits turning into increasingly bizarre but occasionally wonderful concept albums, appear dwarfed by the Fab Four. The Velvet Underground are held up as the counter to the mainstream groups like the Beatles. A group like The Zombies is still somewhat popular, and to be honest, I'd take their two best and most famous songs, "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season" against any two Beatles songs.

But bringing up The Kinks and The Zombies isn't exactly daring in saying that there was other, non-Beatles-based rock'n'roll in the 1960's. Which is where the Nuggets collections come in. The original Nuggets LP was released in the 1970's as a reissued collection of buried treasures from psychedelic and garage rock in the 1960's. It became a big influence on punk rock, if for no other reason than Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye helped put it together. In recent years, Elektra records reissued the original LP with three other full-length discs of American psychedelia. They followed that up with a British and foreign box set, Nuggets II, and more recent psychedelic songs, in Children of Nuggets.

I recently went through my music collection, trimming some places and filling in gaps. I added the Nuggets songs to my collection, to my almost universal enjoyment. It also gives me 60's-style rock music that's not the canonical Beatles and Stones, and in some cases, may almost be better.

Here's one from the original LP, The Knickerbockers' "Lies," which could almost pass a lost Beatles track.

(I have no idea if these embeds will transfer from the blog to Facebook. Only one way to find out!)

Here's another Nuggets I piece of British Invasion pop, The Remains' "Why Do I Cry"

Another notable thing about the bands in the collection is that they have the best band names. I guess it's from before they all got taken. The Primitives, The Smoke, The Sonics, or this one, The Poets, a Scottish group.

The Nuggets II collection from "the British Empire and beyond" has a different feel, which I somewhat prefer. The music seems deeper, darker, and a little more stripped-down. The Wimple Winch's "Save My Soul" is decidedly not a Beatles song.

The Children of Nuggets collection is a bit more hit-and-miss. Some of it sounds simply like old songs with more modern instrumentation, a combination which doesn't always work. One of the places where it works best, however, is in the odd XTC side project, The Dukes of Stratosphear. The Dukes are occasionally called a psychadelic rock parody, but that seems unfair. This is an homage. Maybe a winking one, but an homage nonetheless. (song should be playable on the right of this link)

The place where the Nuggets collection really fit into my own collection became clear when I heard the Them track from Nuggets II, "I Can Only Give You Everything." Them became famous primarily for introducing singer Van Morrison (of "Wild Nights," "Gloria," and "Brown Eyed Girl" fame) to the world, but the song became something of a punk anthem, covered by Richard Hell on his second album. As I mentioned in the "15 albums" meme, Richard Hell was one of my gateways into being a music fan, but my parents were also Van Morrison fans, so deep in my nonconscious mind, there are several Van Morrison tracks. This song brings it all together - proto-punk meets British invasion, Beatles meet Stones, pop meets rock.


BDR said...

I have and listen to both Nuggets albums often. They're terrific.

Wanted to respond here to your comment to my comment over at IOZ's (rather than start a taxonomic debate there).

When mentioning Decembrists and Arcade Fire and DCFC I was referring more to what frustrates me about Indie rather than big corporate Kanye/Beyonce acts.

I don't begrudge the bands their modest success - I'm glad they can make a living making music rather than cubicle-dwelling like I do - but I don't care for their style of Indie, which is a matter of personal taste.

My comment about their effect on this decade's music is more about how their modest success has generated a wave of imitator bands making Indie music I don't care for.

Enough. Just wanted to clarify a bit here rather than try to in IOZ's comments. Besides, some dope just made an asinine comment about twinks - if that's not a comment thread hijack, I don't know what is.

All best.

Rowan said...

I think this is the first time my being logged and posting comments has actually led someone back here. Cool!

I agree with you to some extent. I mean, I do like the Decembrists fairly well, and I think the Arcade Fire have some good songs, but Death Cab For Cutie bores me to tears. Most of the whiny boy indie rock out there just doesn't do it for me.

But I don't think there's a dearth of good new (indie) music because of the whiny boy indie rock. The Gaslight Anthem did a great rock'n'roll album last year. The Gossip's transition from blues-punk to rock-disco has been entertaining. I loved Rilo Kiley's last album. Black Mountain's indie/metal mix is fascinating and entertaining. There's good stuff out there, even if the mainstream conception of indie rock begins at Rogue Wave and ends at the Shins, it's not difficult to move past that.

And I'd take this decade's music over the music of the 90's anytime, at perhaps every level except for forcing me to choose between Sleater-Kinney's early or late albums.

BDR said...

Oh, I'm by no means anti-this decade. I post links to stuff all the time that are current - what I've heard of the new Black Moth Super Rainbow is terrific, I think the new Yeah Yeah Yeah's is pretty terrific.

At the risk of blogwhoring, I've included a link back if you want some music (just click the music category if you don't want the other stuff).

And I think Rogue Wave's song 10 to 1 is one of my favorites.

Rowan said...

Skimming your blog, it doesn't appear we're in too much disagreement about music. Most of the musicians I've mentioned I have at least something positive to say, except Death Cab For Cuties, but nothing all positive. I regret the only Shins album I've bought, and Rogue Wave can turn out a mean song every now and then (I love their cover of Everyday, which manages to tie into both my post about Stubbs the Zombie below, and IOZ's post about Rachel Getting Married. Nice.)

Also like seeing soccer stuff, although I've been almost totally out of MLS ever since I moved away from my Rapids season tickets in 2001.