Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 was a double album of 60’s underground hits compiled by Lenny Kaye (who became guitarist for Patti Smith). The title suggests historical significance, and indeed it has – the Nuggets compilation was a marvelous idea – repackaging a series of one-hit wonders and reminding us that Rock is more than just a place where you hear superstars – it is somewhere you can delve deeper and find some nourishing seeds of raw power. By the mid 80’s there were lots of garage music archaeologists putting out compilations with titles like Pebbles, Back From The Grave and Acid Dreams. We’ve come to expect these forays into rare musical territories now – you can find compilations of 60’s and 70’s garage bands from Brazil, Thailand, India and Africa – and they sound amazing.
Nuggets had guitar groups with short pop songs with The Rolling Stones’ early singles and Them’s Gloria as their starting point. The album included Count Five – Psychotic Reaction, The Barbarians – Moulty (a true story about a one-handed drummer), The Remains – Don’t Look Back, The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard, The 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me, all absolute classics and some of these groups deserve more than just passing mentions. But the idea was generic in some ways and totally original in others – I love that paradox – they seemed like groups who had more attitude than aptitude, cool dress sense and a sneer. That 1965-68 period where the best way to say Fuck Off to The Man was to have a good time, spend a few weeks learning how to play guitar, drums or sing, join a band, rehearse in a garage, play live concerts and record a single. And from that came a ‘garage’ sound – the three chords of Gloria or Louie Louie. But also the move forward in electronic sound where feedback played a part and invitations to be more open in your thinking was encouraged.
I first met Big Mick on a building site in London in 1983 – he was a Painter and Decorator and I was an Electrician. We chatted and quickly became pals – soon we were going to gigs together. He started making cassette compilations for me (from then until this day I still receive compilations from him, although they are on CD now.) He’d take great care picking out songs from albums for me, typing out the track-lists on an old typewriter and adding coloured pen and highlights onto the cassette covers. The first ones had some of the above tracks from The Nuggets and other Garage compilations – tracks deeply ingrained in me now. Then I got more and more – lots of Garage compilations, but also oldies such as Hank Williams and Nancy Sinatra, and tons of great 80’s Australian bands (a blog will follow on this topic) and many, many others over the years. He started coming along to see The Jasmine Minks and before long some of the songs we played live were because I was hearing them on his tapes. Adam had already suggested we have a go at Love’s Seven and Seven Is – mentioned in a live review in the NME by Pete Astor who said “legend has it that it it took Love 50 times to get it right and The Jasmine Minks almost got it right first time.” But after playing Big Mick’s cassettes I began taking some of those songs along to rehearsals. We introduced Greenfuz’s Greenfuz to our set and did a faithful version of We The People’s In The Past – a song we did for years.
I became totally immersed in that garage sound – I thought the songs were great and the rhythms addictive. I started writing songs with bits of these aspects in them – groovy minor chord songs such as You Take My Freedom where the back beat is prominent, hints of psychedelia in The 30 Second Set-Up. Tom was adding more 60’s influenced beats and using tambourine a lot more in our recordings and we added Dave Musker on Farfisa Organ to our live group after he had played so brilliantly on our recordings. All this added up to a heady mix in our sound – our own 80’s style of guitar pop music using the recording techniques of the time (gated drums and other new effects) but rejecting the blunter synth and drum machine sounds (I hated the generic Yamaha DX7 which was a staple keyboard in every studio) and keeping that Garage band element of Blues rhythm and valve-amplified guitars. I used a fuzz-box pedal too, adding sustain and distortion when needed.
I’m sure I’ll have lots more to write about Sky Saxon’s Seeds, Roky Erikson’s 13th Floor Elevators and other Greats from that time – but for now I’ll leave you with one of my favourite garage punk songs…