In 1972, at a time when such things were given little consideration, future Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye put together the first Nuggets compilation, a collection of garage-rock from the mid-'60s. Vastly influential, especially among the nascent punk scene, Nuggets documented the explosion of American garage and psychedelic music that emerged in the wake of the British Invasion. That collection has now been expanded into a massive four-disc, 118-song box set, over three times the length of the original collection. Influenced by acid, the promise of rock stardom, and the early work of the Kinks, Rolling Stones, Animals, and Yardbirds (which was in turn mostly influenced by American blues music), countless young punks (as they were called before they lost the term to the '70s spike-haired crowd) took up guitars and made trippy, ragged rock 'n' roll. With names like The Lollipop Shoppe, The Woolies, The Mystery Trend, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and The Humane Society, some became stars, some sent at least one song up the charts, and some stayed where they began, in obscurity. But many, and virtually everyone included on this collection, made at least one song worth hearing. Great pop sometimes emerged from nowhere, or even Daytona Beach, as was the case with The Nightcrawlers' much-covered "Little Black Egg." The Blues Magoos' "Tobacco Road" finds the perfect mix of incendiary rock, studio weird-out effects, and blistering soloing. And though the term "psychedelic" has become interchangeable with "self-indulgent," it's pop music that sets the standard for the collection. This is the soundtrack of the wide-eyed early days of the '60s counterculture, the high water mark Hunter S. Thompson writes of in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Although the dark elements are already in place on "Last Time Around" by The Del-Vetts, "Complication" by The Monks, and numerous evil-woman-did-me-wrong songs, Nuggets entertains in part because of the seemingly endless possibilities of the moment it celebrates. "Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In)" by The Chocolate Watchband and "It's-A-Happening" by The Magic Mushrooms could only have come out of the mid-'60s, along with such thinly veiled LSD celebrations as "Optical Sound" by The Human Expression and "Voices Green And Purple" by The Bees. It seems a bit silly now, and that's part of the fun; some of it must have sounded pretty silly then, too. The hallucinogenic excesses of legendary songwriter, producer, and svengali Kim Fowley's "The Trip" are outdone only by the melodramatic excesses of The Barbarians' "Moulty," the inspirational spoken-word autobiography of the band's hook-handed drummer. The fact that Moulty's tale of perseverance receives musical support from The Hawks (a.k.a. The Band) touches on another aspect of Nuggets' appeal: the opportunity to hear the early work of future stars. Future loon Ted Nugent pops up as part of The Amboy Dukes on the über-trippy "Journey To The Center Of The Mind," and Warren Zevon, Todd Rundgren, and the Fogerty brothers make appearances as members of Lyme & Cybelle, Nazz, and The Golliwogs, respectively. From simple, energetic songs driven by tired "Louie Louie" and "Hang On Sloopy" riffs to works of true, and truly eccentric, ambition, the Nuggets box captures the era extremely well. It's not only a classic collection, but an inspired, revealing portrait of a specific time and place, a beautifully excessive, expressive, unique happening.
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