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 101: Johnny Was A Good Boy by The Mystery Trend
Release Date: 1967
From: San Francisco, California
Aphoristical Rating: 6/10
The Mystery Trend have their roots in R&B – leader Ron Nagle was a big fan of Ray Charles. They were formed by students at San Francisco State College, and took their name from a misheard Bob Dylan lyric (“You say you never compromise/With the mystery tramp, but now you realize”). They were part of the Bay Area scene, alongside Grace Slick’s The Great Society. ‘Johnny Was A Good Boy’ was the only single that The Mystery Trend released during their career, although they recorded demos that were belatedly released as So Glad I Found You in 1999.
‘Johnny Was A Good Boy’ features more interesting musicianship than a lot of Nuggets acts – there’s a busy bass-line and the eastern flavour to the guitar solo is my favourite part of the song. At the same time I’m not particularly enamoured with the song itself – it’s not an interesting vocal melody, and the vocals have a moralising tone. The band split in 1968 due to lack of record company interest. Leader Ron Nagle is much better known as a sculptor and a ceramics teacher than for his tenure in The Mystery Trend.
There’s a history of Johnny as a misbehaving boy in popular music – The Slickers’ ‘Johnny Too Bad’ (from The Harder They Come), The Replacements’ ‘Johnny’s Gonna Die’, The Kinks’ ‘Johnny Thunder’, and The Beastie Boys’ ‘Johnny Ryall’ profile other badly behaved Johnnies.