Before he became Patti Smith’s lead guitarist, 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-to 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 54/118: Diddy Wah Diddy by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Aphoristic Rating: 10/10
DIDDY WAH DIDDY – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band [2:22]
(Elias McDaniel/Willie Dixon)
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART (DON VanVLIET): vocals, harmonica * DOUG MOON: lead guitar * ALEX ST. CLAIR: guitar * JERRY HANDLEY: bass * PAUL BLAKELEY: drums
Produced by DAVID A. GATES for QUINTUS PRODUCTIONS, INC.
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA
A&M single #794 (3/66)
Captain Beefheart is one of the most infamous artists to appear on Nuggets. While he was never a commercial force, he’s well-known among music geeks for his uncompromising approach, especially his 1969 double album Trout Mask Replica. Trout Mask Replica is one of the most avant-garde albums to enjoy wide acclaim – it makes it onto best albums of all time lists, despite its inscrutability. Beefheart mixed bluesy rawness, jazzy exploration, and a surreal sense of humour.
Before Trout Mask Replica, Beefheart’s first single was a 1966 cover of ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’, a cover of a 1956 blues track written by Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley. I’m often dismissive of blues tracks on Nuggets, but this one’s superlative – a great song, with a fantastic vocal from Beefheart. Curiously, it’s produced by David Gates, who’d go on to score a string of easy-listening hits with Bread in the early 1970s.
Beefheart soon moved beyond belting out blues covers, instead delivering idiosyncratic albums like Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Doc at the Radar Station. Rolling Stone tried to convince him to go back to blues covers – based on ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’, they may have had a point.
Beefheart passed away in 2010 from complications from multiple sclerosis. He left behind an assortment of admirers – artists as diverse as Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Black Francis, Kurt Cobain, and The White Stripes have stated their love of his work.
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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