This year my birthday came and went without much fanfare. Having to spend it in the suburbs of Los Angeles, it included Go-Karts, Bumper Boats, and a dinner at Outback Steakhouse which concluded with the fantastic Thunder from Down Under dessert. While dribbling through the chocolate sauce, brownie, ice cream, and whatever other gooey substance was involved, my hubby gave me something I've been wanting ever since it was released -- the Children of Nuggets box set.
For those of you not familiar with Nuggets, the original was a double-LP set compiled and produced by Lenny Kaye and released in 1976, gathering the best of American garage psychedelia from 1965-1968. I wore out that set, listened to it constantly, and since acquiring it back in the early 80s, realized that my taste for 60s garage psychedelia knew no bounds. I still can't get enough of it. At the same time I acquired that set, I was also listening to a slew of modern bands that were incorporating the vibe and feel of 60s music into their own sound, and there were little scenes of these bands all over the country, most notably the Paisley Underground bands in California and the New York/New Jersey garage scene.
The first Nuggets set was eventually expanded into a 4-CD box set with a fancy booklet, which made my heart leap with joy. If this wasn't enough, it was followed a few years later by Nuggets II, which gathered the best of British psychedelia! Oh providence Â–- it was too good to be true. The British box was, and is, unbelievably great, each crazy song more tasty and colorful than the next. So when Children of Nuggets (full title: Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1996) was released, covering the "Second Psychedelic Era" -- I just had to have it. The problem was, I figured I already owned most of the records and bands that were on it, so I dragged my feet getting it. Well, I was wrong. There is so much great stuff on there that I didn't have, and it's like a weird time trip back to a future vision of the past. Trippy.
To a complete music nerd like me, the Children of Nuggets has a scope much wider and more forgiving than I would have chosen myself. In addition to bands that were overtly 60s in sound (Rain Parade, Fleshtones, Bangles, Cramps, Three O'Clock), the producers also added a wide range of power pop, Manchester beat, and even a little Seattle grunge to the mix. According to them, any perfect underground pop song with a classic feel was fair game. I don't know if I agree in principle, but the collection is so mind-blowingly good that I can set aside my Comic Book Guy-like attention to detail and just enjoy the ride.
The box kicks off with the Dukes of Stratosphear's "Vanishing Girl." The Dukes were the alter-ego of XTC, who released two deliciously retro albums under that moniker. The song is joyous, full-bodied, and sets the stage for 100 tracks of sheer post-vintage bliss. Rounding second is one of the greatest singles ever made, "Help You Ann," by the Lyres. I would say it's worth it to own this set just for that one song, especially since my own 45 of it melted in the sun in the back room of my first SF apartment on 18th Street. No one has ever timed a song to their delay pedal better than this little slice of garage crunch. Next up: "The Real World" by the Bangles, a goosebump-inducing janglethon, back when they were still just a groovy girl band from LA, before they got all Princed-up. And that's just the first three tracks!
The box includes songs from the Dream Syndicate, Posies, Soft Boys. Flamin' Groovies, Smithereens, Plimsouls, and two absolutely killer tracks from the Hoodoo Gurus. Remember them? I didn't until I heard those songs again. As the producers say in their voluminous book that accompanies the set, a slot on Nuggets is the garage band equivalent of an Oscar. If that's the case, this is the most kick-ass Academy Awards in history.