Cover Versions, Live!

Two Johns

It’s required listening, at least once a year, to submerge yourself in all things Nuggets. The Lenny Kaye-curated double album that became a box set and a franchise (and ended up an ever-decreasing dilution of the original) should be mandatory in every record collection. Kaye’s crate digging (to coin a now-cliched phrase) ensured the low hits and no hits of the day were immortalised alongside their rattlin’, rollin’, fuzz-friendly peers forever.

Without Nuggets, most of us would never have heard the giddy rush of The Knickerbockers‘ totally Beatles Lies or Mouse & The Traps thin wild Dylanisms, or fallen off their chairs at the sheer cheek of David Bowie nicking the Shadows Of Knight‘s Oh Yeah for the glam slam of ‘his own’ Jean Genie. Nuggets is jam packed full of, eh, nuggets; enough riffs and beats and organ motifs to keep most garage-influenced bands in material for the entirety of their career.

The PremiersFarmer John

Farmer John by The Premiers┬áis classic Nuggets. It’s built around a simple lyric and three stomping chords that fall somewhere between Louie Louie and Wayne Fontana’s Game Of Love; a ramalama of clanging guitars, tub thumping drums and double-time handclaps. The live-in-the-studio feel, with its ad-libbed count-in and hoots ‘n hollers ‘n screams ‘n shouts between the lines has the whole thing sounding like some sorority house frat boy party.

Has anybody seen Kosher Pickle Harry?” asks the host. “Tell him that Herbert is looking for him.” And the band fall in and hit their stride. You can imagine them in matching cardigans and side sheds, Mighty White mile-wide smiles, instruments all held up at the same 30 degree angle, a crowd of bobbysoxers in front of them jerking and jiving to the head-bobbing teenbeat being played out.

Farmer John,’ they sing. ‘I’m in love with your daughter.’

Woah-woh,’ goes the backing, as innocent and wholesome and American as apple pie.

When Neil Young got a hold of the song, he ground its gears until it was slow and slothlike, a sludgefest played by old men with heavy guitars and heavier worldly problems. The antithesis of The Premiers’ version, Neil Young’s plays up somewhat to his alliteratively descriptive Godfather Of Grunge moniker and sucks all the joy from it in the process. In fact, Neil’s version is mildly threatening.

Neil Young & Crazy HorseFarmer John

Chug-thump-chang-clump, wham-djam-flam-flump, jack-hammer-smack-bammer, thwack-crack-flack-nyack, whine-grind-whine-grind, woah-woh.

I love the way she wiggles when she walks,” smirks old Shakey, done up in his best clean dungarees, his crosseyed gang of knuckle-trailing village idiots lurking goofily behind him. Uh-hur-hur-hur.

If I was Farmer John and Neil and his plaid-bedecked backing band showed up telling me that they were in love with my daughter, I’d be reaching for the ol’ double barrel and my best ‘You best git goin’ mister, we don’t want no trouble ’round here‘ line. At least The Premiers, for all their inferred frat boy up-to-no-goodness had the good grace to look Mr Farmer in the eye and give him the impression that she’d be in safe hands.

It’s no concidence that you could chop an axe in time to that slow ‘n steady Crazy Horse rhythm. You might be chopping logs. Or firewood. Or Farmer John’s daughter’s head, her champagne eyes finally giving up their sparkle just as the turned up to ten Les Pauls give up their howling feedback to the night.