Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"(We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet" / The Blues Magoos

Apparently I'm stuck in a 1967 groove, but I can't say I mind. That was one hell of a year for music. What a tasty morsel of psychedelia this single was, for instance -- not too far out for AM radio, mind you, but loaded up with dizzying organ riffs and sibilant percussion and double-tracked vocals. It seemed exotic, and that was enough in 1967.

The Blues Magoos were just a bunch of teenagers playing the Greenwich Village folk clubs when they scored with this hit record; they even got to tour with the Who and Herman's Hermits, and to party with the Doors. Youthful enthusiasm percolates through this whole song, through the hustling skip of its syncopation and the slightly ragged chiming-in harmonies (reminds me of the Tremeloes). The sound may have been psychedelic, but there's no wink-wink drug message -- those lyrics are totally high on life: "Nothin' can hold us and nothin' can keep us down / And someday our names will be spread all over town / We can get in while the getting is good / So make it on your own, yeah, you know that you could." Sure, it's in a minor key, but despite that it's giddy and upbeat all the way.

It's not a love song -- that was still pretty unusual for 1967. Instead it's passing around a life philosophy, of sorts: "One day you're up and the next day you're down / You can't face the world with your head to the ground / The grass is always greener on the other side, they say / So don't worry, boys, life will be sweet some day." And it's friends that will get you through -- that chorus is downright raucous, perfect for boozy singalongs: "Oh, we ain't got nothin' yet / No, we aint' got nothing ye-et..." followed by a climbing guitar riff that takes off like a booster rocket. It's that "yet" that's important -- they're absolutely positive they will have something someday.

It's fitting that these guys toured with The Who, purveyors of youth anthems like "My Generation" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," but this song's cheerier and less apocalyptic -- it's only one step from this to "Hey, Hey, we're the Monkees" (not a criticism in my book -- I loved the Monkees). These kids aren't preaching anything -- not mind-expanding drugs, not the rise of youth culture, not overturning the establishment. They're just charged up with being young and having their whole lives ahead of them.

It's wonderfully innocent, even dolled up in all those paisley psychedelic swirls. I was even younger and more naive than the Blues Magoos in 1967; they seemed like pied pipers, leading us into some brave new world that still seemed fresh and exciting. On a fine spring day like today, it's tempting to believe it all over again.

(We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet sample


Carabella said...

Great tune. Cheesy scale guitar solo to boot. Heck I was like 14/15, and had just began trying to play my Sears Silvertone crap guitar, using chord diagrams. Luv the raw energy and the quickie analogue recording compared to the blender recordings of today. Take the same ingredients, throw into a blender, or chop 'em up, saute a bit add some sax, a pinch harmony here and let the band go there. Despite my recording ruminations, it was just youthful glee and optimism.

Holly A Hughes said...

I agree, it's the production technique -- or lack of it -- that keeps this thing so juicy. Funny how that works...