Before he became Patti Smith’s lead guitarist, Lenny Kaye compiled 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 89: Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In) by The Chocolate Watchband
Release Date: 1966
From: Los Altos, California
From Los Altos, California, The Chocolate Watchband have three songs on the Nuggets set. ‘Are You Gonna Be There’ opens the fourth disc of the set. The band was originally led by lead guitarist Mark Loomis, a constant in an ever-changing early lineup. They recruited David Aguilar, a biology student, as lead singer.
Their career has a sense of missed opportunity – they were offered a contract with Bill Graham to become a house band at Fillmore alongside The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Unfortunately, a week earlier, they had already signed with a small scale producer, and their distribution was limited as a result.
The Chocolate Watchband’s albums were often reliant on covers, although ‘Are You Gonna Be There?’ was co-written by Aguilar. The song feels a little slight, but there’s enough happening with a strong vocalist and creative lead guitar. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the peace and love lyrics, and the aggressive sound. The Chocolate Watchband’s raw, Stones-inspired garage rock is close to punk and it’s a worthy opener to disc 4 of the set.
The Chocolate Watchband’s initial tenure ended messily in the late 1960s. Producer Ed Cobb considered the group’s musicianship too raw and often overdubbed them with other musicians, while Aguilar left before their final 1960s album. The Chocolate Watchband reunited in 1999; 1960s members David Aguilar, drummer Gary Andrijasevich and guitarist Tim Abbott are still in the band. They released This Is My Voice in 2019.
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