Before he became Patti Smith’s bass player, Lenny Kaye compiled the 2 album set, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Released in 1972, the two-LP set covered American garage rock and psychedelia from the years from 1965-1968, and was a major influence on punk rock. Rhino Records reissued an expanded version of the set in 1998, with 118 tracks in total. I’m profiling and rating each of these 118 tracks, working backwards.
Track 106: Mr. Pharmacist by The Other Half
Release Date: 1966
From: San Francisco, California
Aphoristical Rating: 9/10
The Other Half were formed in Los Angeles in 1965; some of the members met in the MGM mailroom. They played covers of The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Animals, and The Rolling Stones, and their first gig was opening for The Doors. Amazingly none of the original members were still in the band when they recorded ‘Mr. Pharmacist’ in 1966 – early guitarist Tommy Lennon was drafted, while keyboardist John Branca was fired because he was too young to play in 18+ venues. Composed by singer Jeff Nowlen, ‘Mr. Pharmacist’ was released in November 1966 but wasn’t a big seller – perhaps its barely veiled drug references were too daring for the time.
‘Mr. Pharmacist’ is similar to Count Five’s ‘Psychotic Reaction’, released a few months earlier, in but it stands on its own as a great pop tune. Many younger listeners may have heard The Fall’s 1986 cover before the original. The Fall’s version is tougher sounding but Jeff Nowlen’s vocal is surprisingly similar to The Fall’s acerbic Mark E. Smith. Nowlen often adds an “uh” to the end of each sentence, just like Smith.
The Other Half released their only studio album in 1968 – it didn’t include ‘Mr. Pharmacist. Lead guitarist Randy Holden left the band shortly after, and they broke up after they were unable to find a suitable replacement. Rhythm guitarist Geoff Westen continued his music career but also worked as a graphic designer, creating the sleeve for Steely Dan’s Aja. Lead guitarist Randy Holden joined Blue Cheer for their 1969 album New! Improved!, while bassist Larry Brown found work in TV and film composing.