Aug 182011

Can any band with a caped lead singer be unseated?

Well, maybe a band including an electric jug player…


  35 Responses to “Once and for All: Round 1, Rock Town Hall Determines the Best Song on Side 2 of the Original Nuggets Compilation”

  1. tonyola

    There is one single song that encompasses everything that’s great about Nuggets. Let’s examine it, shall we?

    1. “Spooky” combo organ underpinning the song.
    2. A stupidly-simple two-note high guitar lick repeated throughout.
    3. Animal scream before the world’s shortest (and maybe simplest?) guitar solo.
    4. Dumb lyrics in clipped verses.
    5. Two-measure bass solo.
    6. Relentless fast beat perfect for mad frugging in a go-go bar.
    7. It’s all over in less than two minutes.
    8. The band blasted out of nowhere for a brief moment of brilliance, only to immediately return to rock oblivion.
    9. “Liar, liar, pants on fire” sung in an unearthly falsetto.

    Yep, it’s the Castaways’ “Liar, Liar”. Not only is it the best song on Side Two, but as I hinted at yesterday, for me it hits the bullseye as being the quintessential garage-rock song. Every detail is essential with no waste and nothing extra. It also came out in the late summer of 1965, which puts it pretty early in the punk/garage game. A masterpiece.

  2. A well-stated rationale. I’m both fascinated and repelled by that song. This is a tough side for me to pick a clear winner. There’s an easy fallback for me if all else fails.

  3. pudman13

    OK, let’s sort this side out, shall we?

    Magicians: easy first one out. Not a particularly bad song, but just OK, and not really stylistically interesting enough to be on this comp.

    Now it gets hard already–side two is great.

    Barbarians. I love “Moulty,” even the cheesy spoken stuff…but it’s clearly not my favorite here.

    Shadows of Knight. Like the Standells, this is a band who had a number of songs better than this one, but this is still pretty great–I love the way it gets louder and louder and louder in an anti-Joe Meek production style. Graet tune, but falls a bit short in this competition.

    Seeds: Let me commit heresey here and say that listening to an entire Seeds album is an exercise in boredom. But they do have a few great songs, including a few from FUTURE, the great hook of “Evil Hoodoo,” the sly “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine,” and, of course, the one represented here, which encapsulates all the good that is in them (and, as many of you know, is the basis for about half of the other songs on their first album.) Pretty great song, but I like the remaining ones better.

    Remains: As with (the far more disappointing) Willie Alexander in the 70s, only Boston could produce a band whose output is so ho-hum and claim that if you only were there for the scene they were the greatest band in the world that decade. Admittedly, they do have enough really good recordings to imply they could have been a really excellent band if they were around enough to do more than one album, and this is as good as anything they recorded (I love the bass during the break.) It’s almost enough to make me think the legends are true, but only almost…

    Castaways. This song is wonderful on a zillion levels. I just love the seriousness with which they put forth these absurd lyrics, love the two-note guitar riff, love the mix of vocals. One of the all time greatest songs ever, only topped by…

    13th Floor Elevators. This is another band I find somwewhat overrated. EASTER EVERYWHERE is a great album, no question, but I’m not much of a fan of the first, except for this song, which is really the only rock and roll song on it (other than maybe “Fire Engine.”) But, my goodness, with that riff and the screaming it’s the epitome of acid punk, a complete classic, and my narrow winner for this side.

  4. alexmagic

    This is a side where I know my #1 and my #7, but everything in between is so close and could be a contender if they were on a different side, so I’ll have to give everything another listen. This is a very strong argument for “Liar Liar”, I have to say.

  5. BigSteve

    I’ve always felt that the opening “Oh yeah … everything gonna be all right this mawnin” is one of the most embarrassing white-boys-please-don’t-sing-the-blues moments in rock history. Btw the clip here is actually a much later live version, so don’t vote based on the way it sounds. You’ve gotta give ’em bonus points for the classic band name. If they had come around a little later they might have been the Shadows of Knyght, which would have been even cooler.

    I guess Kaye and Elektra couldn’t get their label to license Gloria, which would have been a much better choice for this collection. I mean, is there a more classic garage song than Gloria?

  6. Yes, but only one, Them’s version blows it away. Thanks for pointing out the fact that I posted the wrong clip. Will correct later.

  7. The Shadows of Knight, “Oh Yeah” – I’ve never been able to get past the opening “Oh Yeah” which really sounds like a suburban middleclass white kid who thinks he’s got something in common with Muddy Waters and is doing right by him. Is this unfair of me and tainted with self loathing? Possibly, but there it is. The rest of the song is decent enough but not particularly interesting.

    The Remains, “Don’t Look Back” – A cool effort. Solid B material, maybe even B plus on the right day. I like the changes and the breakdown. This must have been fun to play live. Ultimately though, the competition is too tough.

    The Seeds, “Pushin’ Too Hard” – I love this one. The keyboard and guitar leads are perfect for the song. The whole thing feels a bit tentative but that’s part of its charm for me because I assume that they threw this together in the bass player’s parent’s garage between 8th period and when they all had to be home for dinner. Great song.

    The Barbarians, “Moulty” – Just absurd, and yet I find it completely entertaining. I genuinely like the music (Is this really the Band/the Hawks playing on this?), and the lyrics are unintentionally funny enough to make this one of those songs that I don’t play often, but when I do, I enjoy the shit out of it (see also, Don Covey “Where Are You Now”)

    The Magicians, “An Invitation to Cry” – I’m a sucker for ¾ time (or 6/8 if that’s what’s going on, I can never tell the difference between the two), especially if they’re in a minor key. So I’m predisposed to like this song. But I don’t think there’s much going on here. A better 3/4 time, minor key effort was Codeine by the Charlatans, which is buried somewhere on the four disc set.

    The Castaways, “Liar, Liar” – Tony, if we ever go on a road trip together, we’re really going to spend a significant amount of time hashing out a playlist before we get in the car. This has always been up there with Talk Talk as one of my least favorite Nuggets tracks. I like the guitar lead in this one, but that’s about it. And that falsetto is a total deal breaker for me. Hopefully we’ll be able to work through this. Maybe we’ll just listen to talk radio?

    13th Floor Elevators, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” – There might be other songs on other sides that would give this a run for its money but You’re Gonna Miss Me towers above the competition on this side. Great drums/guitar/jug playing, unhinged vocals. Probably more than any other side, I think the winner here is self evident.

  8. OK, I went with my fallback, the Seeds’ classic. It’s only a hint of a song, but possibly the greatest “implied” song ever. Mad props to the Castaways, the Remains (who could have used a few edits), and the Elevators.

  9. mockcarr

    I’d never heard Invitation To Cry before – it’s really entertaining me upon the first few listens. The brrronggg of the guitar coming in a few seconds after it’s two opening phrases, the low melodramatic Tom Jones-ish lead vocal tone and phrasing, that wee bit of sing-songyness in the middle and the distortion threatening throughout, the way the high hairy end of the lead is buried. Damned cool.

  10. mockcarr

    This is going to be tough call for me, since I’ve been classified as a “song guy” by HVB. I’m going to listen to all the arguments. If it weren’t for part of the break in the middle, I would probably be leaning toward with Don’t Look Back. There’s a lot of gimmicky things on this side. Elecric jug, a drum part crafted by a three-year old, the ballad of how I overcame my lost hand, return of the castrato to popular music, etc.

  11. I guess now is a good a time as any to admit that a lot of this stuff has not aged well for me at all. Bear in mind, I’m of the generation that got to first hear Nuggets via the late-’90s box. So I also lived through indie rock’s collective Nuggets fascination, so maybe that’s what’s soured it for me.

    So for side 1, I had no trouble voting for the poppy “Lies.” (And I too might have voted for “Dirty Water” if not for the damn Red Sox).

    Side 2, I was strongly tempted to vote for “Moulty,” which just goes to show how unseriously I treat this stuff. But, truth is, “Don’t Look Back” is my favorite here. Has just the right combo of rockin’ out and goofy posturing.

    Fun fact: I first heard “Liar Liar” courtesy of Debbie Harry’s cover from the s/t to Married to the Mob.

  12. Yes, that song aged well for me, too.

  13. First it’s the “ham-fisted” stop-starts. Now it’s falsetto. You must hate early Beach Boys, the Four Seasons, and 80% of doo-wop. Yet you like the third-lesson-under-the-belt guitar lead on “Liar Liar”. Strange priorities.

  14. That’s funny. I never realized that I have an anti-falsetto bias but you might be right because the Four Seasons are indeed one of my least favorite groups of all time (although I think it’s more due to the shrillness of the voice than the falsetto itself).

    The Beach Boys have always been a decent enough group but I’ve never understood their elevation to sainthood, although I suspect this is a failing of mine, not theirs, since they are beloved by so many people who’s taste in music I respect. Their falsetto stuff is fine but I don’t get worked up about it.

    I like doo-wop, and the falsetto contained therein, but I prefer the black vocal groups to the later generation white guys. (Compare the versions “Sha Boom” by the Chords and the Crew Cuts to see what I mean.)

    Although to be fair, I only said I don’t like THAT falsetto, not all falsetto. I like Curtis Mayfield falsetto. Maybe the common thread is that, although I’m not the biggest fan of it, I’m okay with falsetto as long as it isn’t shrill.

  15. tonyola

    “Sh-Boom” is a poor basis for comparing doo-wop. First of all, it’s pretty tame and barely fits into the rock and roll category. The song is good but its style is closer to the Ink Spots than Little Richard. Second, the Crew-Cuts weren’t any more rocking than Pat Boone and are hardly representative of white doo-wop. There were a lot of great white doo-wop groups who could hold their own against anybody. It seemed to be a 1950s tradition that Italian street kids in eastern cities gravitated to doo-wop. A fair number of the groups contained both white and blacks. Why make a distinction?

  16. tonyola

    As of 1:30 PM, this side is turning into an interesting contest. Yesterday’s poll has made the Electric Prunes a clear winner so far. Side 2 is much closer – four contenders with “You’re Gonna Miss Me” leading by two votes and a three-way tie for second place (go Team Castaways!). I expect harsh words and things to be thrown soon.

  17. BigSteve

    I agree that Liar Liar is a terrific record, for many of the reasons tonyola has stated (love the guitar lick, love the scream). But I agree that the falsetto is in issue in this contest. The interesting thing for me is how little it’s used considering how memorable it is. Only two lines are sung in the falsetto on three separate occasions. By far the majority of the vocals are sung as a manly duet.

    I had to look up the second line. “Your nose is longer than a telephone wire.” Seriously? Did any of you know what they were singing without looking it up? The rest of the lyrics are really bad too.

    Still the falsetto seems like the identifying feature of the song. Is it falsetto because he’s trying to invoke the sound of a child’s taunt? Wouldn’t it be just as cool a record if those two lines were sung in the same vocal range as the rest of the lyrics?

  18. tonyola

    The falsetto ups the weirdness factor of “Liar, Liar”, and I remember that it really made the song stand out on 1965 AM radio. I give it bonus points for that.

  19. “pushin too hard” is so cool without even trying. that got my vote.

  20. I guess it was off topic but I’m suppose I made the distinction because we briefly touched on the lameness of the opening in “Oh Yeah”, and the parallel here is that the original doo-wop, which was largely black vocal groups, sounds better to my ears than the next wave of acts.

    Also, I don’t understand the Little Richard reference. Did you bring that up because of Tutti Frutti? I guess a lot of this comes down to how you define doo wop but again, this is off topic.

  21. tonyola

    The Little Richard reference was that “Sh-Boom” was more pre-rock than rock and roll. “Tutti-Frutti” wasn’t doo-wop, but it’s rock.

  22. 2000 Man

    It’s easily The Seeds for me. Again, I like the whole side, but Pushin’ Too Hard is pure teenage angst and vitriol, and that’s what this is all about to me. I might be able to get behind 13th Floor Elevators but that fucking jug makes me think Don Ho’s bubble machine has been plugged into 220 instead of 110. It really bothers me. Barry and the Remains are okay, but at least Radio Heart made me go out and buy a Willie Alexander album, I’ve never felt the need for any more of Barry and The Remains.

    I don’t think Invitation to Cry has aged well. I think the people listening to it are getting old. The real Tom Jones is bad enough, I don’t need a copy of it.

  23. Wow, current three-way tie.

  24. Rock on, 2K and nanker! The Seeds are pushin’ too hard to lose this album side.

  25. cliff sovinsanity

    Oh Yeah – I can’t vote for the blatant theft of I’m A Man
    Moulty – Funny, weird and I like it, but just doesn’t cut it.
    Invitation To Cry – Sounds like a B-side

    Liar Liar – A like the song a lot, but I can’t take multiple listens for some reason. I always associate this song with Hallowe’en, so unfortunately it gets lumped in with the Monster Mash. For good and/or ill.

    Don’t Look Back – Hands down my favourite song on Side 2, BUT, it is not the best Nugget. Going by my personal definition of best song in the spirit of this series it comes down to…

    Pushin’ Too Hard and You’re Gonna Miss Me – The Seed’s song seems like the obvious choice since most of the classic garage/psychedelic hallmarks are all there (fuzzy guitars, frustrations, call backs and organs). However, the song lacks a great punchline like the opening wail on You’re Gonna Miss Me.
    I worry that the 13th Floor Elevators song is riding too much on the legend of Roky Erickson. Regardless, it nudges out the Seeds song only slightly and that’s based on it’s energy and enthusiasm. That’s the key for me.
    Vote – You’re Gonna Miss Me

  26. Tough competition on this side. I absolutely love “Don’t Look Back,” “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” But because I’m originally from Minnesota I have to give the Castaways the slight edge. I can’t really say anything else that could top Tonyola’s praise of that one.

  27. BigSteve

    This turned up on Facebook today. I don’t think he’s voting here, but I thought some people might find it interesting and/or relevant to our proceedings:

    Little Steven’s Top 30 Garage Rock Songs

    1. I Can Only Give You Everything – Them
    2. Talk Talk – Music Machine
    3. Gloria – Shadows Of Knight
    4. We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet – Blues Magoos
    5. I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night – Electric Prunes
    6. Friday On My Mind – Easybeats
    7. Journey To The Center Of The Mind – Amboy Dukes
    8. Dirty Water – Standells
    9. Lies – Knickerbockers
    10. Just Like Me – Paul Revere & The Raiders
    11. No Time Like The Right Time – Blues Project
    12. Rosalyn – Pretty Things
    13. Psycho – Sonics
    14. Liar Liar – Castaways
    15. Don’t Look Back – The Remains
    16. Psychotic Reaction – Count Five
    17. Open My Eyes – Nazz
    18. Making Time – The Creation
    19. Out Of Our Tree – Wailers
    20. Outside Chance – Turtles
    21. I Can’t Control Myself – Troggs
    22. Night Time – Strangeloves
    23. Hey Joe – Leaves
    24. You’re Gonna Miss Me – 13th Floor Elevators
    25. Louie Louie – Kingsmen
    26. Pushin’ Too Hard – Seeds
    27. Itchycoo Park – Small Faces
    28. I Can Hear The Grass Grow – The Move
    29. Shakin’ Street – MC5
    30. Blues Theme – Davie Allen & The Arrows

  28. Little Steven hasn’t registered to vote!

    “Oh Yeah”, “Invitation to Cry” and “Moulty” (funny, though) are out. I’m surprised at the enthusiasm for “Liar, Liar”. I never thought much of it and ran back to hear it today. Doesn’t do it for with the falsetto and 2-note guitar.

    “Your Gonna Miss Me” is as tough and crazed as anything out there. Side 2 is a great side so it finished 3rd behind “Pushin’ Too Hard”. I think the Seeds are the best overall Garage Punk band. Their other great tune, “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine”, could win this competition. And “Pushin'” has great lyrics and a nice guitar sound on the solo.

    “Don’t Look Back” jumped off the 4-disc set the day I bought it and I just love the damn thing. I dig the backing vocals and all the instruments getting their spotlight turn. Total showbizzy fun. I still play this song for people and say, “…listen to this thing…”. “Don’t Look Back” gets my vote, not as the most Nuggets song, but as my favorite song in the running.

  29. I’m going with the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Roky Erickson’s voice has the perfect authentic snarl and the screams are positively unhinged. What makes the song for me is the little two part bridge, first a breakdown,then a build up into the “I’m Not Coming Home” lines and back to the chorus. An elegant release like that in a song that still sits firmly in the garage category is an accomplishment.

  30. cliff sovinsanity

    Psychotic Reaction #16 !!?? We’ll have to sit down with Mr. Van Zandt and discuss this next round on Side 3.

  31. To remind everyone, the polls for sides 1 and 2 will remain open through midnight tomorrow (Friday).

  32. bostonhistorian

    I’m with Geo on this.

  33. BigSteve

    Yeah me too, I just voted for You’re Gonna Miss Me. The Remains were pros (and I remember in the punk era scoring a red vinyl version of their album and not being able to google whether they were a current or an oldies band), and the Seeds prove you can make a great record out of almost nothing with people who can barely play. But the Elevators were visionaries, and their track is a cut above anything else on this side. Many of the Nuggets songs are variations on the subject of rejection. Erickson takes that idea and makes something cosmic and apocalyptic out of it. He’s got the voice and the band to back it up too. And come on, electric jug!

  34. hrrundivbakshi

    Sorry to pull an EPG on this process, but I have work to do. All of these leave me cold except for two tunes:

    “Moulty” — I like music that makes me smile, and makes me want to listen over and over. “Moulty” is just stupid enough to accomplish that. Any tune that starts off explaining why the loss of a hand would make you sad is a winner in my book. A big thumbs up — just one, mind you — to the Barbarians for that one.

    Having said that — holy shit, that song by the Remains “Don’t Look Back” is AWESOME! A clear winner for me. Wish I could cast a vote, but I see the window of opportunity has passed.

  35. hrrundivbakshi

    Oh, wait. I just voted.

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