Every iteration of punk and garage rock the world has known over the last four decades can be traced back to the scrappy sounds of the Nuggets compilation Lenny Kaye produced in 1972, long before becoming a punk pioneer himself as Patti Smith’s guitarist. Kaye was the first to look back at the gloriously trashy sounds of ‘60s psychedelia through the garage door rather than kaleidoscope eyes, honoring the primal punky power of “nuggets” like the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction” and the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” instead of the more ethereal end of the psychedelic spectrum. Ever since, generation after generation of rockers has looked to Nuggets as a touchstone, assimilating every feral fuzztone guitar lick, hyper-aggressive organ stab, and lupine harmonica wail. Incredibly, the original 27-track compilation (as opposed to single-disc sampler, expanded box set, etc.) has only just this week been released on CD for the first time, in honor of its 40th anniversary. To celebrate, here’s a handful of the artists who have learned their lessons from Nuggets and offered up their own angle on cuts from the classic comp.
1. The White Stripes, “Farmer John”
The Nuggets version of “Farmer John” was actually a cover itself, as first-gen garage rockers the Premiers slammed their sonic wrecking ball into late-‘50s/early-‘60s duo Don & Dewey’s original, with a riff that was a close cousin to “Louie Louie.” Neil Young & Crazy Horse deconstructed the song even further on 1990’s Ragged Glory, but it took the 21st century’s garage-rock gods to truly get the tune teetering on the edge of implosion in their live sets.
2. Silver Machine,“Psychotic Reaction”
One-off supergroup Silver Machine included Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie, Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, and the Who/Oasis drummer Zak Starkey, assembling in 2010 for the express purpose of playing a festival set of ‘60s covers. It was only a matter of time before they found their way into the deranged Nuggets tune that burned the Count Five’s name into rock & roll history, even finding time to segue it into an equally brain-frying version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” along the way.
3. Bruce Springsteen, “Dirty Water”
The Standells’ 1966 love/hate song to Boston (FYI, the band was actually from L.A.) has been Beantown’s anthem for decades, played at Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games and every bar in town. So when Bruce brought his Garden State gang to Fenway Park this past summer, he had no qualms about extending his East coast ambassadorship a bit further north by tearing into his own barnstorming version.
4. The Undertones, “Let’s Talk About Girls”
West coast garage-rock wonders the Chocolate Watch Band not only had one of the best names of the psychedelic era, they had one of the toughest, bluesiest sounds around, earning a rep as the Rolling Stones of San Jose. But it took another decade and the advent of punk for another band to approach the tune with anything like the same amount of intensity, namely Ireland’s own Undertones.
5. Naz Nomad & the Nightmares, “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)”
This band’s mysterious moniker may initially have you scratching your head, but you know them better than you might realize. Naz Nomad & the Nightmares were actually the Damned working under an alias for an ’84 album full of ‘60s covers, presented as the soundtrack to a nonexistent 1960s film, Give Daddy the Knife Cindy. The Nightmares’ take on the Electric Prunes’ mind-melting signature song further explodes the myth that ‘70s U.K. punks abhorred anything associated with the paisley-patterned past.
Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era, 1965-68 40th Anniversary Edition is out now on Rhino Records.