This year marks 40 years since the release of the original Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 double LP through Elektra Records and Warner Music are celebrating this milestone worldwide with a reissue of the compilation. With songs like Dirty Water by The Standells, You’re Gonna Miss Me by the 13th Floor Elevators, Baby Please Don’t Go by the Amboy Dukes and the inimitable opener I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) by The Electric Prunes, this initial compilation has become something of a bible for garage rock fans for four decades.
The new release will feature all the songs that Nuggets essentially made classics over the years and will feature new liner notes from Lenny Kaye, whose liner notes in the initial release became famous as one of the first few places the term punk rock was used.
Warner Music in Australia are taking the celebrations to the next level, though, with no fewer than three releases to celebrate this 40th anniversary. As well as the reissue, Warner are dropping two decidedly Australian compilations – most likely titled Down Under Nuggets and Antipodean Interpolations Of The First Psychedelic Era – being looked after by Warner’s David Laing and Mark Wilson respectively.
“It is going to basically be '60s Australian stuff, a single CD which will hopefully be reasonably close to the definitive best of the '60s Australian garage stuff,” Laing says of Down Under Nuggets.
“I’m talking to a few different experts about it,” he reveals. “There are a couple of guys down here who put together a book called Wild About You, a fantastic book about the Australian 60s scene. Two guys called Ian (Ian D. Marks and Iain McIntyre) who wrote that are kind of involved with it. And Mark Taylor, who was in the Lipstick Killers in the late ‘70s in Sydney, he’s one of the biggest ‘60s garage collectors in the world and really knows his shit so I’ve brought them in for opinions and such. As far as getting as much of the good stuff on a single CD then I think it’s gonna be really good.
“The original plan before the Nuggets thing came up; I was working with the two Ians about doing a four-CD set called Wild About You, which would be basically everything that’s on this CD and a whole bunch more. I still wanna do that, probably next year, but once this Nuggets thing came up we thought we’d just do a single CD and use the Nuggets name. I think we’ll end up with all the tracks we want on there, it’s just gonna be fantastic.”
Laing was also behind the Boogie release, a compilation of Australian blues, hard rock and r’n’b released last month; but he says that accessing garage gems from the decade earlier has actually been a simpler task.
“A lot of it is actually owned by Warner because it was all old Festival stuff, so it’s not that difficult really,” he says. “It’s feeling easier than Boogie really.”
Much of the inspiration for Down Under Nuggets comes from the Australian Ugly Things compilations that Raven Records first issued in 1980 and are now out of print. When looking at the nitty gritty of whom appears on the disc, a lot of familiar name and classic tunes are brought up.
“A lot of the real legendary stuff like Come On by The Atlantics, Wild About You by The Missing Links, Buried and Dead by The Masters Apprentices, Rum Drunk by The Moods, bands like The Purple Hearts, The Elois, The Black Diamonds’ I Want Need Love You, Ugly Thing by The Creatures and hopefully things like The Loved Ones and The Throb, The Lost Souls’ This Life Of Mine,” Laing rattles off. “We’re hoping to get an Easybeats track on there… A lot of it is fairly well known. It’s pretty much building on what Ugly Things was, and they’re all out of print now so there’s kinda nothing.”
Laing hopes the Nuggets connection on this forthcoming release will make people realise just how influential the legendary compilation was on Australian rock bands.
“I think the whole Nuggets thing had a really big influence on Australia, probably thanks to Radio Birdman in the ‘70s doing You’re Gonna Miss Me by the 13th Floor Elevators and they used to do Don’t Look Back [by The Remains] I think they really introduced the Nuggets aesthetic to Australia. Then you had that whole late-‘70s, early-‘80s Sydney thing with The Lipstick Killers and The Lime Spiders and The Wet Taxis and The Psychotic Turnbuckles… and Sunnyboys were doing covers by The Remains; there’s a really strong kind of heritage of it in Australia, so I think it’s appropriate that Mark’s doing this thing with Australian bands and that there’ll be an Australian celebration of what Nuggets is or was.”
When Mark Wilson came up with the idea of getting a bunch of underground rock bands to cover tunes from the first Nuggets compilation, he’d only been at Warner Music for a couple of weeks. A traditional tribute album didn’t sit right with him when talking about Nuggets, so he floated the idea of unearthing quality bands relatively unknown to the mainstream population instead; a project not unlike Nuggets itself.
“Initially tribute albums make my skin crawl; they’re just such vapid, pointless things and people always seem to go for the same old bands to do it every time,” he says. So I thought ‘Why not do something where you get bands who actually embrace the same ethos as the bands on the original disc, who have the same kind of ideas and attitude? They’ll be more enthusiastic and more interesting to listen to than some band who has already had hits and is on the radio and whatnot.’ I thought it’d be more interesting to kind of almost do a little Nuggety kind of thing in itself.”
Wilson, who is best known as the bass player of defunct Aussie rockers Jet, has managed to secure a very credible and exciting list of bands for the project.
“Montero, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Murlocs, The Living Eyes, Frowning Clouds, Palms, Step-Panther, Bloods, Straight Arrows, Tiny Migrants, Baptism Of Uzi, Eagle & The Worm, Pearls, The Gooch Palms, Velociraptor and Pond,” with two more very exciting names who have expressed interest but not yet delivered a song.
“I didn’t want everyone to be a garage band, I wanted there to be some sort of distinct difference between them,” Wilson explains. “The whole thing I wanted to avoid was for it to be a pastiche. So I thought it’d be good to mix it up. With the artwork I’ve gone for a modern psychedelic feel, rather than try to do an old style. All I said to the guy doing the artwork was ‘I don’t want it to be a pastiche of ‘60s psychedelia; it has to be modern and interesting.”
“We couldn’t do all 27 songs, it’s just too much, and it’s not really a commercial thing so we don’t have a massive budget on it obviously. I wanted to pay the bands and I didn’t want anyone to be doing it for love.”
Working with a bunch of bands that, for the most part, have and will never be associated with a major record label, Wilson said he wanted to make the process easy and friendly for the artists.
“We made it so that they can use the song as a 7-inch straight away without anything to do with us; really simple terms, artist-friendly stuff, just so they could have a good experience and enjoy it,” he says. “These guys aren’t gonna go to a lawyer with their contract, very few of them did anyway, so I wanted it to be easy to understand.”
There is already a fair amount of buzz surrounding the release, with Rolling Stone magazine Senior Editor David Fricke approaching Wilson and asking if he could pen a few words about the release.
“David Fricke got in touch with me and said he wanted to be a part of this and write some liner notes,” Wilson says. “He’s been emailing me every day thanking me for letting him be a part of it and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re welcome!’ “
And while it’s not confirmed, Wilson has hopes that Lenny Kaye might lend his time to offer a few comments on the release as well.
“I chased Lenny Kaye for weeks and weeks – my band used to be signed to Elektra and Atlantic in the States, so I used all my contacts over there to try and get his details and finally got onto him – I’m in talks with him to do liner notes as well.”
Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, Down Under Nuggets and Antipodean Interpolations Of The First Psychedelic Era, are scheduled for a Friday 16 November release through Warner Music Australia.