In 1965-1966, it was still possible for a garage band to make the leap to Top 40 and back to obscurity all in the same year. These Sundazed reissues brilliantly capture that moment before the window of opportunity closed like an automatic garage door. With so little time to make one's mark, it's a wonder that two bands with no illusions of long-term careers still managed to record a pair of genuine Nuggets classics. Like most fraternity-based groups, their repertoires were mostly popular covers, back when it wasn't a crime to be unoriginal. It was as if songs belonged to everyone.
For example, everyone from Cher to Love to Jimi Hendrix took a crack at "Hey Joe" ownership in 1966, but it was the Leaves who pinched the song from the Byrds' live set and got to the recording studio first. By the time the Byrds finally waxed it, the Leaves had already released three different versions of the song (all included here), with the fuzztone pedaled version finally landing the group in the Top 40. Unlike most copy combos, the San Fernando, California, quintet added a new part to the song, a middle eight bass riff which Hendrix would exploit further on his slowed-down version. And if you're talking influential, I defy you to listen to the Leaves' hysterically caterwauled vocal and tell me David Byrne wasn't playing this record continuously in his college dorm room.
The Leaves, slavish Byrds imitators every last one, had to be musically accomplished just to sound like their harmony-driven heroes. The Barbarians, on the other hand, covered "Mr. Tambourine Man" like a bunch of Teamsters. They didn't sing so much as shout out the lyrics the way a quarterback calls signals. So what elevated them above the school assembly band level? They had gimmicks!
What other band had members who all wore sandals and could boast a drummer named "Moulty" with the longest hair in rock? And, oh yeah, did we mention -- HE HAD A HOOK FOR A HAND? Never mind that one-armed bandit in Def Leppard, they just pinned up his sleeve and hid him in the back for group photos. But Moulty, a budding Unabomber who blew off his hand at age 14, was front and center for every publicity shot. His inspirational tale was further exploited on an eponymously titled folk rock/spoken word 45 (included as a bonus cut), with backing and out-of-tune guitars provided by the Hawks, a group later to become the Band.
A cheesy harmonica ushers us into the House of Moulty while our drummer boy connects with all the guys and girls who think they're a little different: "I remember the days when things were real bad for me. It was after my accident when I lost my hand." Yikes!!! If you think that's scary, consider that the group's producer and the guy who wrote both "Moulty" and the Barbarians' lone Top 40 hit, the delightfully stupid "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl," is now the president of the Universal Music Group! Suddenly "I don't hear the hooks" has a perverse new meaning.
While neither group will ever make you forget the Animals, the Searchers or even the Beau Brummels, the Leaves and the Barbarians have each secured a modest place in rock history; the former made "Hey Joe" the psychedelic successor to "Louie Louie," and the latter showed thatbeing a true punk-rock band involved not only playing instruments crudely but using that setup to bastardize parental music like "Maria Elena" and Carmen Miranda's "Linguica." Today, Moulty's drumsticks even reside in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If they ever ship that hook to Cleveland, I'm booking a flight!
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