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By Alec Palao

Almost 50 years later, the seismic rumbles from America’s West Coast 60s renaissance have yet to subside. It was a revolution, a cultural tsunami that had a deep and profound effect upon the rock music of that period, and continues its presence, for better or worse, in music to this day. But for the astute listener, the real magic remains in that mythical five-year span between the arrival of the British on American shores, and the implosion of the counter-cultural dream at the dawn of the cynical 1970s. A considerable tranche of the Big Beat catalogue is devoted to late 1960s “left coast” rock, thanks to both its historical import, and the fact that the era remains an endlessly fascinating and entertaining subject. Oh, and the music is pretty spiffy too. We lean a little more towards the Haight-Ashbury than the Sunset Strip, but all the hues of California’s multi-coloured rock’n’roll rainbow are represented.

The majority of Big Beat releases devoted to chronicling vintage West Coast sunshine fall under a series we began nearly 20 years ago, Nuggets From The Golden State, and it is still going strong. Many are various artist volumes that celebrate different tributaries of the era, whether they be the grass roots rock scenes surveyed in discs such as “The Sound Of Young Sacramento” and “You Got Yours: East Bay Garage 1965-67”, or illuminating and instructive excavations of the alchemical transition from folk-rock to psychedelia heard on “A Pot Of Flowers” and “Someone To Love: Birth Of The San Francisco Sound”. The Nuggets mandate is to shine a light both upon the early movers, shakers and instigators, as much as the cult acts that continue to intrigue. We’ve prised open many a previously locked vault to gather together the historical and the entertaining, for a comprehensive and ongoing overview of this important chapter in popular music history. Whatever your psychedelic predilection, there is plenty to explore. Here are a few highlights.

Selected releases

  • The Seeds - The Seeds

    Today they have an enviable reputation as the godfathers of minimalist garage rock, but at the time of the Seeds’ mid-1960s ascent, they were promoted primarily as missionaries for flower-power. However, the Seeds are best defined by their 1966 debut, which features the enduring two-chord classics ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ and ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’. 

  • The Charlatans - The Amazing Charlatans

    The ones who started it all. George Hunter and his nattily-attired aggregation were originally intended as a band of conceptual androids, yet they morphed into the first true rock’n’roll embodiment of alternative San Francisco. The entire output of the original band, featuring Dan Hicks, is collected here: an adroit mix of folk’n’roll, Americana and marijuana in equal measure.

  • Kak - Kak-Ola

    One of the most inspired cult acts the West Coast scene threw up, this short-lived Davis, California band evolved from feedback kings the Oxford Circle (anthologised on “Live At The Avalon 1966”). Kak’s album featured guitar-laden soundscapes and a beatific, pastoral mode marked by exquisite songcraft. Our expanded edition includes a bevy of ear-opening extras.

  • Country Joe & The Fish - Electric Music For The Mind & Body

    Anyone wanting to understand psychedelic rock in its purest form need only sample the delights of the Berkeley quintet’s debut, an unsurpassed blend of acid-tinged experiment with a poetically inclined mood. This was the album on the turntables of discerning hipsters the world over that seminal spring of 1967, and is now resplendent in deluxe remastered mono and stereo sound. 

  • Frumious Bandersnatch - A Young Man's Song

    An enticingly psychedelic, if sparsely-recorded, quintet who rank high amongst the should-haves of late 1960s San Francisco, Frumious Bandersnatch had one foot in the mystical world of lysergic enlightenment, the other in a pool of gonzoid rock energy. This unlikely blend made for some of the most incandescent acid rock of the era, and plainly evident upon this anthology.

  • The Stained Glass - A Scene In-Between 1965-67

    Another entry in the great-lost-band category, the Stained Glass were a conundrum in their native San Jose: erudite beat musicians working in a scene mostly populated by bring-down-the-house rockers like the Chocolate Watchband. Their first two years of recording, including a slew of fine singles and some superb outtakes, are featured on this first-ever Stained Glass compilation. 

  • The Ace Of Cups - It's Bad For You But Buy It!

    The Ace Of Cups are acknowledged as pioneers amongst female rock bands, and they were the most visible of those in the Bay Area in the latter half of the 60s. That the group had a unique touch and a delightfully poetic sensibility all their own is borne out by the magic they spin on this collection of demos, live recordings and TV spots.

  • Sing Me A Rainbow: A Trident Anthology 1965-1967

    Frank Werber was the hip Svengali behind the Trident Productions empire. This double disc overview captures an unsung yet highly creative moment in the evolution of the West Coast scene. 

  • The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - Spreading From The Ashes

    Pros who could harmonise like the Mamas & Papas and jangle as dexterously as the Byrds, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy was a consummate playing and singing machine that seemed poised to rise above the over-populated mid-1960sHollywoodmilieu. This compendium draws from their early folk-rock experiments as the Ashes, and a plethora of demos and outtakes from 1965-8.