The world was a simpler place when a record company would believe in a one-handed drummer named Moulty and that his story of perseverance — complete with a maudlin harmonica backup — could be a hit single. Or that an L.A. band like the Standells could say “Boston is my home” and help create a “Bosstown” sound. Or that Seattle could give birth to world-class, raucous rock acts. (Oops, guess that happened a few times).
The rock ‘n’ roll sandwiched between the British invasion and Woodstock, at least the music that lacked the name of Dylan, Motown or surf, has been treated like a scuffed and beaten item tucked away in the back of the closet.
Until Tom Hanks stepped in.
In the ’60s rock pic “That Thing That You Do!” Hanks’ fictional quintet the Wonders rode the indie garage-rock wave from Erie, Pa., to the top of the charts only to die in obscurity. It got Rhino A&R VP Gary Stewart thinking: What about all those bands that did this in the mid-’60s?
The natural starting point was “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era,” the 27-song compilation issued by Elektra in 1972 that came to define the great transitional period of rock ‘n’ roll, 1965 to 1968. “Nuggets,” which was to psychedelic rock what “The Harder They Come” was to reggae, featured spectacular regional hits such as “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” by L.A.’s Electric Prunes, “Don’t Look Back” by Boston’s Remains and the Barbarians’ out-of-left-field “Moulty.”
Rhino has scanned the era and embellished the original to come up with a 115-track, four-CD version of “Nuggets” that represents the first release ever on CD of the original album. The box set will be released Sept. 15.
All the young punks
“When Elektra did the vinyl album,” says Stewart, the compilation producer, “there were gentleman’s agreements, not licensing contracts. These songs were considered old and useless even though it was only six years removed. ‘Nuggets’ is the first punk record, an album that can be linked to Nirvana and Alice in Chains — the last era before rock ‘n’ roll became self-conscious.”
Rhino has packed the set with a number of obscure songs from “Nuggets’ ” emulators, “Pebbles” and “Back From the Grave” being the most notable, and Stewart has included a number of top 10 hits that fit the model of the fictional Wonders: Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints”; the Outsiders’ “Time Won’t Let Me”; Syndicate of Sound’s “Little Girl”; and some other better-known tunes. “Nuggets,” Stewart said, will be marketed as a major genre survey much like Rhino’s doo-wop and surf boxes.
“This is about the great recycling of rock ‘n’ roll,” Stewart said. “The blues that went to England, got reinterpreted and sent back to the U.S. and reinterpreted by bands that had no class and got no respect.”
And Moulty, wherever he might be, certainly deserves respect.