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 is 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.


Cover Versions, Double Nugget, Hard-to-find

Sounds like Bowie? Oh Yeah!

The Shadows Of Knight were a genre-straddling garage punk band from mid 60s Chicago. Taking their cue from The Yardbirds, The Who, The Stones, The etcs etcs blah blah blah, they are as well known on the northern soul scene for ‘Shake‘ as they are on the garage circuit for their feedback soaked version of Them’s ‘Gloria‘. Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets album included this, their version of Bo Diddley’s ‘Oh Yeah’.


A garage stomper of a track, guitars drop in and out of the mix. The rhythm section takes it down. The singer whispers. The rhythm section section takes it up again. The singer screams. The guitars scream. The girls in the audience probably screamed as well. David Bowie was clealry taking notes. The similarity between Oh Yeah and Jean Genie is bordering on the criminal. But you knew that already.

Has anybody seen Kosher Pickle Harry?” ask The Premiers at the start of Farmer John, their 1964 universally accepted garage classic. Welding the rhyhtms of Louie Louie and Wild Thing (of course) onto a standard 1950s croon-fest proved a success, given that this track reached the giddy heights of number 19 on the charts before the group disappeared from view forever.

the premiers

Farmer John is seemingly recorded live at some Animal House type frat house party. Girls whoop and cheer, everyone sings the backing vocals and a rocking good time is seemingly had by all. In fact, the track was recorded to 3 tracks in the studio before the band invited their pals in to hear the record for the first time. The engineer at the desk used the 4th track to record the sounds of the studio party and mixed it across the top.

Neil Young liked this track so much he took to covering it live in concert at the start of the 90s. He turned it into a bucketful of grunge and sucked the life out of it, but, hey hey my my, if he hadn’t covered it, I’d never have gone out of my way to dig out the original. So a backhanded ‘thanks‘ to him for that. And remember folks, as the saying goes, “If you dug it, it’s a nugget!”