Nuggets: Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl by The Barbarians

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.

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  1. I bought this single in the early eighties at a second hand record shop. It was backed with a song called Take It Or Leave It that had a slight “Hang On Sloopy” melody behind it.
    I read about them in some rock book and had to have this one and Moulty before ever hearing them. I got into the Troggs around the same time. I love this garage sound.

    Once my mom cut my ear slightly…I ended the homemade haircuts in 2nd grade. I feel for your sister!

    • It’s hardcore finding a secondhand copy in the 1980s. I like Moulty a lot more.

      I had home haircuts for ages – I felt bad asking for money for haircuts.

      • I found out about a bunch of songs through reading either Beatle books or books about the 60s and I would hunt them down. That is how I found Dylan.

        I loved my mom dearly…but cutting hair she could not do…she would take me to a friend who was a hair stylist.

        • My mother-in-law has cut my hair a few times and she’s legally blind! My hair’s pretty bald so the options are shave it off or just keep it short.

          • Oh mine is that way now…I have my wife to use a trimmer kit. It’s not much to mess up now.

      • Crosby wrote (writes) some great songs, but that one was too superficial and didactic for me. There was a humorous vein running through the Barbarians song, and if you were old enough in the mid-60s (like me), that boy-girl shit from our elders was everywhere.

        But…differences of opinion make life interesting!

        • The lyrics are kind of stupid but I like the arrangement with Crosby on rhythm and Stills and Young both on lead. There’s an uncut version of the box set – it’s a bit more satisfying than the edit.

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