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 1965-1968 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 35/118: Spazz by The Elastik Band
Release Year: 1967
From: San Francisco, California
Aphoristic Rating: 8/10
SPAZZ – The Elastik Band [2:45]
Personnel/DAVID CORTOPASSI * RUSSELL KERGER * RUSTY KURIG * VINCE SILVERA * SCOTT WILLIAMS
Recording location unknown
Atco single #6537 (11/67)
‘Spazz’ is probably the most controversial song on the Nuggets set. I disagree with the song’s message, but it doesn’t affect my rating of the song.
The Elastik Band’s career never took off, largely due to their first single ‘Spazz’ enduring a backlash. It’s what we’d refer to as “being cancelled” in modern terminology. The band may have some defence – the word “spazz” is apparently less offensive in the US than it is in the UK. But at the same time, it’s a mean-spirited song – in particular, the semi-intelligible first line seems to be making fun of people with disabilities.
It’s a shame because there’s a lot to like musically. It has an endearing sloppiness, and it hits a strange point between blues and psychedelia. The singer is charismatic, and the song’s main hook – “people gonna think, people gonna think, you’re spazz!” – is memorable.
The band’s career never really recovered from the controversy around ‘Spazz’. They earmarked the song ‘I Would Still Love You’ as their second single – it’s a nice tune that sounds a bit like The Left Banke or The Beatles.
But they’d signed with Universal, who had other ideas. They forced them to record a cover of the Jimmy Webb song ‘Tunesmith’, rushing their version out to compete with another band, The Bards. It was sweetened with female backing singers. The versions were released simultaneously, confusing DJs, and neither received radio play.
‘Spazz’ was misguided – it certainly scuppered the career of a promising band.