Nuggets re-issue cover
Down Under Nuggets cover
Aussie Nuggets compilation cover

DOWN UNDER NUGGETS: ORIGINAL AUSTRALIAN ARTIFACTS 1965-67 - Various Artists (Festival/Warner Music)

Writing a review of the first “Nuggets” album would be like writing a review of the bible.  It is more than a record.  It is an article of faith arguably more important to the rise of punk than the Stooges and the Five.  It was the alternative history of rock and roll.  Compiled at a time when popular music plunged into the determinedly ponderous, it recalled a time of innocence and harkened both back and forward to a time when three chords and an idea were all you needed to set the world on its ear.

Collected from American regional hits of the mid 1960s (there was a time you could be a God in St Louis whilst remaining unknown beyond the signal of the local AM station), "Nuggets" was astonishing in that it represented a treasure trove of remarkable material you had never heard before.  Imagine the Stones, the Beatles and the Kinks were totally unknown bands and you discovered them all on the same day.   Imagine the arrival of Rock and Roll from Mars.

More importantly, "Nuggets" drew from a rich tapestry that hadn’t decided to market via the ever diminishing constraints of genre and sub-genre.   The Beatlesque pop of the Knickerbockers’ “Lies” sat happily beside the garage grunge of the Chocolate Watchband and the Count Five.  The Amboy Dukes’ proto metal working of “Baby Please Don’t go” rubbed shoulders with the demented Tin Pan Alley of The Third Rail’s “Run, Run, Run”.   It was an exciting swirl of possibility and it was absolutely impossible to love everything on it unless you were Lenny Kaye who compiled the damn thing.  I still cannot find the charm of “Open My Eyes” by Nazz.

Anything as monumental as "Nuggets" creates a demand for more of the same.  The first horse out of the stall was “Pebbles”.  However, Pebbles had an agenda all of its own.  It concentrated on what we now call the garage rock sound.  For the first time, we heard the Litter’s “Action Woman” and the Woolies’ insane version of “Who Do You Love?”.  A million cover versions would quickly follow.  The first volume of “Pebbles” is every bit as important as “Nuggets” but it oddly changed what people came to expect of this kind of music.  “Sugar and Spice” by the Cryan Shames  and “Romeo and Juliet” by Michael and the Messengers were shuffled off to the side lines as not being “Nuggety” enough.

Rhino’s first use of the “Nuggets” brand came in the release of a variety of genre themed albums and cassettes.  Whilst this drew The Monkees and Captain Beefheart into the holy pantheon,  pop was increasingly separated from Garage.  The San Francisco sound and the Pacific North West had records of their own.  Instead of a broad spectrum of taste, the brand was succumbing to the kind of branding the rejection of had made the original so intriguing.

Eventually, Rhino restored the balance by gathering the whole kit and caboodle up into a four disc box set which would represent the be all and end all.  Then it released the "Nuggets II" box set (a collection of songs in the “Nuggets” style largely from the British Empire), a four disc San Francisco box/book and a four disc Los Angeles box set book.

Which begs the question, do we need more?

Apparently, Australia has finally got its own Nuggets; “Down Under Nuggets”.   Launched in tandem with a forty year re-release of the original “Nuggets” album, this is clearly an anticipated collection.  Before I begin, let’s clear the air.  This is a perfectly adequate compilation of Australian Sixties Garage Rock.  There isn’t a bad track amongst the 29 to be found here.   You are going to want to buy it.  You will be happy that you did.  But...

A fair chunk of this material appeared on Nuggets II along with alternate songs by artists featured here.  Big Beats’ “Hot Generation” compilation has also already covered similar territory, artists and tracks.  This should have been the compilation to blow away all previous efforts.   Whilst this is a great compilation of songs, the central problem here is that it has forgotten the broad spectrum of its American cousin.  This album seems desperate to prove Australia’s garage rock credibility.  This leads to a certain flatness as you work your way through its seventy five minutes run time.   Perhaps it would have been better if it had been named “Down Under Pebbles”.

Why dig up the Bee Gees’ demo track “Like Nobody Else” in a hopeless bid to re-write punk history when “The Spicks and the Specks” has far more Nuggets’ style credibilit?.  After all, "Nuggets" reclaimed a regional pop history and if that song doesn’t qualify, what does?  In its hunt for obscurity, “Down Under” seems to go out of its way to avoid the hit single.   

We get the soundtrack version of the Sunset’s “Hot Generation” which, whilst well worth hearing, suffers from overly loud vocals.  It rattles on into chaotic territory but the single had that magic quality of getting to the end and wanting to play it again.  We get the Master’s Apprentices “Buried and Dead” as an opener but surely “Undecided” would have been a better choice given “War or Hands of Time” made an appearance on "Nuggets II".

On the bright side, The Missing Links give us “Wild about You” and the Loved Ones give us “The Loved One”.  The Easybeats slam through “Sorry”.  There are more than a few other songs for your next garage band to pilfer.   The appropriation of the Festival label is a nice touch too.  So, Okay.  It’s pretty good but it doesn’t stack up against the might of its precursor.  I bought it.  I’ve enjoyed it on heavy rotation.  Could it have been done better?  Well, shit yes. 

Additionally, Warner issued the less than delightful “Nuggets – Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era”.  Imagine a collection of skinny jean fey ironic hipster interpretations of songs you love.  Imagine battering your own head with a sledge hammer to make it stop.  Even the record company is charging less than ten bucks for it.  (They can spot a winner when they see it.)  Instead of prodding it with a ten foot barge pole, I would recommend the long out of print “Children of Nuggets” box set chock full of originals in the style of.  A great representation by Australian bands too; far more likely to stir latent feelings of national pride than the codswallop of “Interpolations”. - Bob Short

- Nuggets

1/2 - Down Under Nuggets


Nuggets – Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era - Not rated

If it's possible for an album to hover high above criticism "Nuggets" would be occupying that fly-zone, way up in the stratosphere among the contrails and space junk. To say it's been influential is like saying Muhammad Ali could scrap a bit or Adolph Hitler was a dodgy house-painter who was also a bit of a prick. So I can only echo Bob Short's comments and then some that there's not much point painstakingly re-assessing it.

On the other hand, not running the rule over the accompanying compilation "Nuggets - Antipodean Extrapolations Of The First Psychedelic Era" is a bit of a cop-out. The odd hipster band might have snuck in with the genuine ones - and some of the treatments of original era "Nuggets" classics are too fucking polite - but this is a representation of Australian bands you're never likely to hear on mainstream radio. There are injustices and good reasons for that, taken on a case-by-case basis.

How many of these bandsare risk takers? Glad you asked. Probably half. The Gooch Palms push the bounds with their edgy take on Michael and The Messengers' "Rome And Juliet" and The Pearls throw out a great re-working of "Dirty Water" that would have The Standells scratching their heads. The Laurels ("You're Gonna Miss Me") and the frankly wonderful Frowning Clouds ("Let's Talk About Girls") do well with overly-familiar material. Actually, add Pond ("Hey Joe") to that list.

Straight Arrows don't diverge with their mugging of "Lies" by The Knickerbockers but the result is strangely satisfying. Davey Lane shot for the stars when he tackled "Moulty" and runs rampant with the studio effects. It's a grower. Bloods' "Farmer John" sounds more bent out of shape than the original and Living Eyes show a keen sense of dynamics in their gutting of the Shadows of Knight's "Oh Yeah". File Baptism of Uzi and their "Baby Please Don't Go" under weird. It sure beats AC/DC.

You might expect some ups and downs and wouldn't be wrong but, at 10 bucks this is a bargain. I might send Bob Short a copy for Xmas. The glaring shortcoming is a detailed listing of the bands therein. Liners from the rightly lionised Lenny Kaye and David Fricke are cool but you might be curious. You might want to know more. If so, let Google be your guide. Just stay away from MySpace. There's too much weirdness in that ghost town for all of us.

It's easy to say it's high-time for a '60s Antipodean version of "Nuggets" but the "Ugly Things" series filled that gap years ago. It's long out-of-print but numerous follow-ups, mostly on CD, have kept the theme going. Most are still around but try as you might, you probably can't do any better than "Down Under Nuggets".

There aren't many surprises - I'd rate "By My Side" (The Elois), "Come On" (The Atlantics), "Bd Times" (The McCoys) and "I Want< Need, Love You" (The Black Diamonds) as '60s Oz garage standards. A few tracks from obvious acts (The Master's Apprentices, Easybeats and the Bee Gees) that lean towards lesser known songs are scattered throughout.

I might be wrong but I don't see anything that hasn't been compiled somewhere before, be it on official or bootleg collections, but that doesn't mean "Down Under Nuggets" won't fill a hole on many shelves. If you don't own most of these songs, you need your head read, Fred.

But back to "Nuggets: Original Artiacts From The First Psychedelic Era" in its re-mastered glory. How many times can you own a classic (double) LP in various formats? Especially if you have the 4CD box set? Only you can answer that question and in this instance, the sonic polishing doesn't detract. - The Barman

- Nuggets


3/4 - Down Under Nuggets



1/2 - Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era



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