Before he was part of Patti Smith’s seminal punk group, Lenny Kaye assembled Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965 – 1968 for Elektra Records. Kaye was a music writer and producer at the time, and his vision for Nuggets was a series of eight installments focusing on different regions of the US, but the label wanted something more manageable. Nuggets’ first saw life as a double-album in 1972, then ballooned out to a four-disc box set in the late 90s before this twenty-track distillation was released in 2000.
Nuggets from Nuggets is true to the aims and spirits of the original double-album with twenty of the best known hits, obscurities, cult hits, and novelties from the four-disc version repeated here. If you all you need is a single-disc of 60s garage rock, psychedelic rock, and proto-punk, then Nuggets from Nuggets is an ideal choice. Personally, I just recreated the track list as an iTunes playlist from the four-disc behemoth as a time and space saver, but I can’t say enough great things about the four-disc box.
Back to this collection, you won’t find a single weak link here. “I Want Candy,” “Louie, Louie,” “Incense and Peppermints,” “Nobody But Me,” and “Time Won’t Let Me” are just a randomly chosen sample of the songs on here. This thing rocks just as hard as anything coming out of CBGBs or the English punk scenes just a few years later, and not just because it’s a foundational text for that movement. No, these garage rock classics zip by with energy, nerve, and gusto to spare. The kind of assured and lunatic songwriting and playing that can only come from people purposefully trying to expand rock beyond the British Invasion and into something else.
My only complaint, and this goes back to the box set as well, is the absence of ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears.” That’s a rock classic if there ever was one and its omission stings a bit, but in its place we get plenty of snarling, bratty, brash tunes that make up for it. The full-scale Nuggets is punk’s equivalent to the Anthology of American Folk Music, and this distilled version plays out like a Wikipedia entry for the genre. That’s not an insult. Pop this in, crank up the volume, and smell the carbon monoxide wafting out of the speakers.
DOWNLOAD: The 13th Floor Elevators – “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” The Electric Prunes – “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs – “Wooly Bully”