This is where the action was, folks…
Barney Hoskyns 2009
Lenny Kaye can't have had any idea what he was starting when he compiled his original Nuggets album of psychedelic ‘artyfacts’ back in 1972. We've had two huge Nuggets sets, a Children of Nuggets box of disciples, and a San Francisco-specific collection – all of them treasure chests of proto-punk classics and cult obscurities.
Mid-60s Los Angeles being a hotbed of such music, Rhino's Andrew Sandoval now follows up 2007's San Francisco Nuggets with a compendium of LA's various exponents of psych-pop and garage punk. From masthead names like The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield to no-hit wonders like Limey & the Yanks, Where the Action Is! is a one-stop tour of mood-altered SoCal teen rock of the period.
Sandoval divides his box into four platters. Disc one (‘On the Strip’) offers the names you'll know in a playlist that's like strolling into Gazzari's with a bell-bottomed babe on your arm. What you notice is how an almost generic style of edgy sub-British Invasion pop all but dissolves the differences between Love, Sonny & Cher, The Association and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.
More compelling for the cognoscenti are discs two and three. The first (‘Beyond the City’) focuses on roughly-recorded, primarily non-Hollywood acts from East LA's Premiers and Thee Midniters to Lancaster's Merrill & the Exiles; the second (‘The Studio Scene’) dips into the less punky pop of The Monkees, The Mamas & the Papas and the obscure Pasternak Progress. Opus 1's superb Back Seat '38 Dodge is like the Beach Boys on STP and the W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band's Hippy Elevator Operator is worth the price of entry for the title alone. Disc three treats include October Country's cult classic My Girlfriend is a Witch and the spooky waltz of the Garden Club's Little Girl Lost-and-Found.
Disc four (‘New Directions’) charts the evolution of the LA sound into canyon folk and country rock, kicking off with a Stephen Stills and Richie Furay demo of the Springfield's Sit Down, I Think I Love You and taking in Gene Clark, Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, Del Shannon's psych-tinged I Think I Love You, and an alternate take of the Beach Boys' Heroes and Villains and more – not forgetting a Warren Zevon/Bones Howe team effort as the Motorcycle Abilene.
This is where the action was, folks. Take a trip back in time and you too can ride so high.