When Lenny Kaye and Jac Holzman released the compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 in 1972, I doubt they had any idea of the size of the pop-culture floodgate they were opening.

Ostensibly a vanity project by a fan of early US garage-rock (but, in Holzman, a fan who just happened to own Elektra Records), it was a massively successful and influential release for a number of reasons. The first was Holzman’s impeccable taste in picking the sweetest and sourest cherries of the era for his compilation; the second was Lenny Kaye’s liner notes which coined the term “punk-rock” – liner notes which were almost as inspirational as the music itself (Kaye went onto become the guitarist in punk-poetess Patti Smith’s band). And the third – and main – reason for Nuggets’ world-shaking impact was the music.18609

This music – rock-pop singles from the earliest days of guitar-rock – is often mistakenly referred to as “primitive”. Sure, it sounds basic and it is often whacked out with a loose-limbed flailing where precision comes a distant last after more visceral charms – but it is more “primal” than “primitive”. And there is a distinct difference.

That “primal” edge – stripped back, no-frills, down the line, groove based – has been the spine of all great Rock since the early days of rock’n’roll in the 1950s. And it was happening all over the world. The new release Down Under Nuggets: Original Artyfacts 1965-1967, collects 29 Australian releases of the time, with superlative liner notes by Ian D Marks.

And what a strange, snotty, twangy, frugg-adelic trip it is, through the fevered young Australia of the time. Sure the US influence are there – after all, “Wooly Bully” and “Louie Louie” are in Rock’s DNA – but there is so much here to be greatly proud of.

In among all the one-hit wonders (Gawd bless ‘em!), Hit-making names abound: The Masters Apprentices (who, like Billy Thorpe, seemed to have hits in all of Australia’s rock eras of the 60s and 70s: pop, rock-pop, heavy blues-rock), The Atlantics (our still-reigning surf-rock Gods), The Easybeats, Bobby & Laurie (safari-suited RSL Club balladeers in a later life) and – believe it or not – The Bee Gees (years before they became UK Pop Kings and, later, US falsetto Disco Queens). All turn in wild and woolly performances – they have to to be included here among genius rockers like The Purple Hearts (led by amp-melter Lobby Lloyd) and the astounding Loved Ones (their innovative yet groovy 9/8 stomp ‘The Loved One’ was brilliantly covered by a young INXS before the perms, synths and international glitter bloated them).

The-Easybeats

The irresistible charm of this music is that it is all so gorgeously unselfconscious. A good example is the cracker Easybeats song here, ‘Sorry’. This was their Hit prior to ‘Friday On My Mind’ and the difference between the two songs is the difference between innocence and experience, effervescent youth and what-comes-after. Only released a few months apart, ‘Friday…’ is all contrapuntal lines, resolving chords and rococo invention – whereas ‘Sorry’ has none of that bollocks: just a power-riff, a shout-along hook-chorus and Little Stevie going ape-shit – in short, perfect.

The last piece on Down Under Nuggets is a rare surf-film sound-track version of ‘The Hot Generation’ by surf-rockers The Sunsets. It is five and a half minutes long – every other track here is under the magic three minutes. The Sunsets would soon become Oz prog-heroes Tamam Shud, with vocalist Lindsay Bjerre transforming from fresh-faced surfer teen to moustached LSD warlock. The clouds of Prog (and grownupness) were gathering.

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In conjunction with the arrival of Down Under Nuggets Rhino has released Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations. In a strange fun-park mirroring of the past, where an entire generation of bands payed tribute in their own music to the original 1972 Nuggets, this Antipodean Interpolations has Australian bands of 2012, obviously influenced by those bands, paying tribute to the originals as well.

And it is a testament to the enduring vibe of the originals that The Oz bands really don’t have to step too far away from their sound to lovingly recreate the excitement of songs like The Electric Prunes’ ‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’ (nailed by Velociraptor) or The Count Five’s ‘Psychotic Reaction’ (frugged-up real nice by Geelong’s Murlocs).

In his liner notes (yes folks, when it comes to Nuggets, the liner notes ain’t just liner notes) to Antipodean Interpolations, US über-journo David Fricke refers to Baptism of Uzi’s reworking of The Amboy Dukes (reworking of Big Joe Williams) ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ as “Seventies Kraut-Rock hypnosis, Nuggets-goes-NEU!”. As ever he is spot-on – it has to be heard to be believed (when is the world going to wake up to Baptism of Uzi?).

The Straight Arrows’ “Lies”, Pond’s “Hey Joe” (owing as much to Love’s take as Nuggets’ The Leaves’), The Eagle & The Worm’s acid-carousel waltz “An Invitation To Cry”: 18 tracks of great music way beyond just tribute – I allow myself a little jingoistic pride to say they are all bonzer. Taste and see.

 

Published December 2012 on theorangepress.net

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