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 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 92: Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl by The Barbarians
Release Date: 1965
From: Cape Cod, Massachussetts
Aphoristical Rating: 6/10
‘Are You A Boy or Are You A Girl?’ is the second song from The Barbarians on Nuggets – their more famous song in the boxset is ‘Moulty’. It’s about their drummer, Victor “Moulty” Moulton, who lost his left hand to a homemade pipe bomb at the age of 14. In comparison, their earlier single ‘Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl’ charted higher, but it’s a less interesting song.
‘Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl ‘ is essentially a blues song with novelty lyrics. My mother used to give my sister terrible haircuts, and once a tactless substitute teacher asked her if she was a boy or a girl. This song doesn’t refer to that incident. but it’s along similar lines, a commentary on the long hairstyles of the British Invasion.
The lead guitar, from Boston guitarist Geoffrey Morris, adds some folk-rock flavour to the arrangement and it’s the best part of the song. It makes sense that ‘Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl’ is followed on The Barbarians’ only album by ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’. The album wasn’t successful, mainly consisting of rock and roll chestnuts like ‘Bo Diddley’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Most of the band quit in 1967, forming Black Pearl.