Nuggets: I Think I’m Down by the Harbinger Complex

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 98: I Think I’m Down by the Harbinger Complex
Release Date: 1966
From: Fremont, California
Aphoristical Rating: 8/10

Guitarists Bob Hoyle and Ron Rotarius formed the Norsemen in high school, after playing together since 8th grade. Hoyle was called up to service in Vietnam, and when he returned the band was named the Harbinger Complex. Rotarius had recruited new members, including lead singer Jim Hockstaff. According to the AllMusic Guide:

The quintet centered on lead vocalist Jim Hockstaff and his songwriting partner B. Hoyle III. Hockstaff’s Dionysian exploits — the siring of several love children — got him banned from Fremont’s Washington High.

The Harbinger Complex recorded two singles in 1966, and opened for Paul Revere and The Raiders. The AllMusic Guide reports that:

The Complex’s publicity shot for this pair of performances shows Hockstaff sitting astride a barnyard mule, microphone in hand, looking like a half-crocked itinerant preacher, surrounded by his four bandmates. The accompanying blurb — a load of pretentious, pseudo-psychedelic codswollop — reads thus: “Five muddy bodies lie upon a desolate street. Sudden inspiration doth lendse [sic] them well. A Harbinger beckons them. Ominous groans — the anguished sounds of dying animals. Courageous lads, they set forth on a one-way trip. Neglect not your surging blood, pounding pulse, throbbing limbs! Five naked souls untamed, uninhibited, crawl into your head. Walk inside your mind, filling your body with an unknown substance…You have experienced the Harbinger Complex.” 

The Harbinger Complex’s first single was ‘I Think I’m Down’, and it’s featured on Nuggets. It’s a lovely mid-1960s time-capsule, a midway point between the fuzz and snarl of the Rolling Stones and the sweet folk-rock harmonies of The Byrds and The Beatles.

Hockstaff left the band in early 1967, and they never added to their two 1966 singles. Hoyle passed away in 2003, but there’s little info on the members’ lives after the band.

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    • The whole point of Nuggets is that no-one has ever heard of them, unless they’re hardcore 1960s fans. Except there’s a very famous song coming in a couple of tracks – I’m sure you’ll know that one!

  1. That’s a great description of them – between the Stones and Beatles/Byrds. Really like the fuzzed out guitar

  2. I love 60s records where you can only hear the drums in one ear. Like extreme stereo separation. I love that. I also think in the singing this sounds a little bit like British invasion bands like Dave Clark 5 or The Hollies. But I like the drums the best. This is a good Nugget I think.

      • And I hate when they remaster old albums and they try to get rid of the extreme separation, like on the remastered Beatles albums or Moody Blues albums etc. Sometimes it’s such a disaster like for instance on Paperback Writer. It used to have that real extreme separation, and the new version was just horrible. But I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m used to the old one. Could be. I guess there’s also times when it sounds better. But I still would rather they didn’t do it.

  3. I wonder if you’re taking about Louie Louie. Must be, cuz you’re still pretty far away from the big concentration of famous ones higher up toward the top.

    • Louie Louie is the most famous song on the set, right? It almost feels like cheating having it on Nuggets, but it is very much garage rock.

  4. Yeah it’s got to be the most famous. There’s a few others that are well known over here, but probably not famous everywhere. Journey to the Center of the Mind was a Classic Rock radio staple. And Time Won’t let Me, Nobody But Me, Little Bit of Soul, Hey Little Girl and a couple others were Oldies radio classics and are always on 60s oldies compilations. Paul Revere. Knickerbockers, Strawberry alarm Clock, Sam the Sham are all famous oldies too that everybody knows.

    • I’m pretty sure Louie Louie is the only one I’ve ever heard on the radio – I’ve heard others on 1960s compilations etc.

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