MINING FOR MUSICAL GOLD:
GREG SHAW ON "NUGGETS 2"
By ROBERTO CALABRO
(Originally published in the Italian mag Fun House, issue n. 3)
Greg Shaw is a living legend for all who love the Sixties and garage-punk music. When he was a teenager, during the Sixties, he was a fan and a record collector, then he became a prime mover of the underground scene writing for several mags, editing his Bomp! zine, starting one of the worlds best independent labels (Bomp!/Voxx) for which he signed artists such as The Flaming Groovies, Iggy Pop, Stiv Bators, Zeros, just to mention a few. During the 80's he contributed to the Sixties-revival sponsoring (and signing for his labels) bands like DMZ, Plan 9, Morlocks, Pandoras, Miracle Workers, Gravedigger V and compiling two important series such as Pebbles and Highs In The Mid-Eighties. Now he keeps on releasing albums, writing articles, collecting records. He was asked to write the liner-notes of both Nuggets boxed-sets. The last one (the "European Nuggets") is one of the best reissues of the year 2001. We had the chance to meet him via e-mail to talk about Nuggets and the Sixties.
Greg, you wrote the liner notes of both Nuggets boxed-sets, but above all youre one of the most important record collectors and rock critics of the Sixties. From your privileged point of view, what are the biggest differences between the American and the European bands of the Nuggets-era (I mean music and attitude)?
I believe that in America there was more of a sense of freedom to do anything you liked, no matter how crude or ridiculous, without the pressure of considering the possibility of commercial success. Bands in England especially all thought they had a chance for a hit, so they tended to be more polished. In America they could hope for a local hit, and maybe it could spread, but there's a big difference between being out in the middle of the desert in Texas, recording a song like "Green Fuz" and being in London with the music industry all around and everyone eager to discover the next sensation, and your buddies Pink Floyd entering the charts that week... For this reason, I find the bands on Nuggets 2 box sound much more alike than on the American box, where each track is distinctly different.
Who influenced who? Were the American bands influenced by the British Invasion or were the British influenced by the 50s rocknroll which was redefined into beat/garage-sound then ? Or was it just an endless circle of feedback?
Impossible to generalize. One of my favorite phases of 60s garage was 1963, when nobody had ever heard of England, and songs like "Louie Louie" and "Surfin' Bird" were drawing on 50s R&B to create something really new. That influence was joined by the British one, but always in America there were many streams of influence, from rockabilly, rock and roll, surf, r&b, soul, British, folk, blues, and regional styles too. In England, the American rock & roll influence (and also the Brill Building pop influence, which was just as big I think) was foremost until about 1964-5, but then they began to develop an original pop style. But because England didn't have any regional or local music tradition that could be adapted to rock, they always looked more towards the States.
The Sixties were important not only for music and arts, but also for social, cultural and political aspects. What were the deepest differences between the USA and Europe from this point of view?
I don't feel qualified to speak about culture and politics, sorry. I believe each country has its own unique history of these things, and probably many heavy books about it
The original "Nuggets" was released in 1972 when the beat/garage-punk era was already gone and the rock-scene was in the hands of progsters/hard-rock bands. Then it was almost ignored, but ten years later it was considered as "holy bible" and it became the milestone for all the new bands who started the Sixties revival during the 80s. Why did it take so long for "Nuggets" to be discovered and its value fully understood?
At the time of its release "Nuggets" was given the lead review in Rolling Stone and it was praised in every rock magazine. Sales were low because it was the wrong time for that music. Only a few of us maniacs cared. But you seem to forget that it was reissued in 1976 on Sire and became the direct inspiration for a lot of the people who started punk rock. It was rediscovered in the '80s when Rhino put it out again and began their series, and by that time there were new garage fans who were hearing this music for the first time, and forming their own bands. I think it's one of those things each generation must discover in turn.
Now weve got in our hands a second volume of Nuggets which covers Europe and other countries. Which is the value of this release (compared to the original one), apart from giving collectors and Sixties-fans the chance of saving lots of money in buying the original seven inches?
Nuggets reaches a lot of people who would never even know this music existed. Collectors still pay the high prices for the originals, but "Nuggets" will be heard by many thousands more who are discovering for the first time that the garage/psych scene didn't just happen in America. It completes the story. But you should probably also know that nearly everything on the Nuggets boxes has been readily available at low prices on underground compilations since the '80s.
In the liner-notes of the vol. 2 you say that beat/garage-punk bands were discovered all over the world in countries you could never believed like Turkey, Israel, Cambodia, South Africa or Latin American ones. How and why could this kinda music spread all over the world?
I believe much of it was brought by U.S. Army guys who were stationed in these countries. But I still don't understand how it got spread so widely.
Do you really believe there will be a third volume of Nuggets (rest of the world)?
What rest of the world? I don't believe there will be a third, but I think there is room for Rhino to release some of the second choices that were left off the first albums. They would probably use a different title for that. If they do it at all.
Just a curiosity to satisfy at the end: why onto this European release there isnt any Italian band?
I had nothing to do with the selection. I was given a list of the songs, and wrote my article. Personally, I don't see why Canada is on Vol II when it is such a close neighbor of the US, with bands going back and forth across the border for touring and recording, etc. Everyone has favorite groups who were left off, and questions about why some things were included. I think there were about 8 compilers who each had their favorites to suggest, and it was narrowed down from there. Ultimately it was the taste of those who made the final decision that prevailed. I agree there were many fine Italian bands who were worthy to be included. "The rest of the world" is a pretty big place, and perhaps they should have made it a two-part series. Write to Gary Stewart and suggest it!