Pebbles (series)

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Pebbles (series)
Compilation album by Various Artists
Released 1978–2007
Recorded 1965–1968
Genre Psychedelic rock, garage rock, Freakbeat
Label AIP
Mastercharge
BFD
ESD
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic (series) 4.5/5 stars[1]

Pebbles is an extensive series of compilation albums in both LP and CD formats that have been issued on several record labels, though mostly by AIP. Together with the companion Highs in the Mid-Sixties series, the Pebbles series made available over 800 obscure, mostly American "Original Punk Rock" songs recorded in the mid-1960s — primarily known today as the garage rock and psychedelic rock genres — that were previously known only to a handful of collectors. In 2007, the release of the Pebbles, Volume 11 CD marked the final album in the Pebbles series (Curiously, Vol 12 had been issued in 1999). The following year, Bomp! marked the 30th anniversary of the original Pebbles album with a spartan, limited-edition, clear-vinyl reissue complete with the original pink cover insert.

The Pebbles series played a significant role in the emergence of a "canon" of garage-rock music and artists in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In his review of the Pebbles series for Allmusic, Richie Unterberger comments: "Though 1972's Nuggets compilation reawakened listeners to the sounds of mid-'60s garage rock, it only focused on the tip of the iceberg. Behind those forgotten hits and semi-hits lurked hundreds, if not thousands, of regional hits and flops from the same era, most even rawer and cruder. . . . More than any other factor, these compilations [in the Pebbles series] were responsible for the resurgence of interest in garage rock, which remains high among collectors to this day."[2]

Including the Highs in the Mid-Sixties series, Best of Pebbles series, Essential Pebbles series, Planetary Pebbles series, and two box sets, more than 60 compilation albums have been released using the Pebbles name.[3] Following on the heels of the success of the Pebbles series, dozens of other series of garage rock compilation albums have been started, with numerous albums being released each year for several decades.

"Pebbles" compared with "Nuggets"[edit]

The name "Pebbles" is a diminutive of the name of the seminal Nuggets album of similar music; since in almost all cases, the recordings compiled on these albums were lesser known regional hits or releases with little or no national exposure.[2] By contrast, several of the bands presented on the original Nuggets compilation had one or more national hit songs, such as the Seeds, Blues Magoos, Electric Prunes, the Standells, Count Five and others. As additional albums were released under both of these names over the years, Nuggets albums tended to feature more familiar bands, while Pebbles albums usually unearthed virtually unknown recording artists or previously unreleased tracks by better known bands. As the Pebbles albums were compiled from record collections, dubbed from discs (not from the master tapes like the Nuggets series), often without the knowledge of the musicians or producers involved, BFD and AIP had a much larger range of music to choose from.

In addition, while the original Nuggets album from 1972 bore the subtitle "Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1969," the Pebbles series made a different claim through its subtitle: "Original Artyfacts from the First Punk Era." In this way Pebbles explicitly sought to connect the garage style of the 1960s to the then-current (1979) punk movement typified by artists like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and others.

Nature of the music[edit]

The Pebbles series describes the recordings on their albums as "Original punk rock from the psychedelic 60s!"[4] These recordings were primarily made by the numerous American bands that were formed in the wake of the British Invasion. Essentially referring to the young age and lack of sophistication of the musicians, the term "punk rock" was coined (or at least popularized) by Lenny Kaye, who was involved in compiling the original Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. Some of the recordings of this type were credited to individual musicians, but most were made by young combos and rock bands that were typically composed of teenagers; and they almost invariably come from 45 singles. In many cases, the band would release a routine cover song of a well-known hit as the "A" side of a single and include a more interesting original song as the "B" side that would be more appropriate for inclusion on a compilation album. However, the wild covers by some of the garage rock bands are as renowned as any of the original songs, and numerous cover songs have also been compiled on the Pebbles series.

"Punk rock" is now mainly applied to several waves of bands that formed in the 1970s and later, and many of these bands cite the music on Nuggets and Pebbles albums as major influences. This type of music is now generally identified as the genres of garage rock, named after the practice venue that most young bands utilize, and psychedelic rock, since many songs were designed to be enjoyed while under the influence of psychoactive drugs such as marijuana and LSD.

Mastercharge Records[edit]

The original release of the first Pebbles album was on the Mastercharge label in 1978 and was circulated primarily among a small group of collectors in Australia, where interest in this obscure music seems to have first germinated. Only 500 albums were pressed, sporting a pink pasted-on cover sheet. "Mastercharge Records" was apparently not a real record company and might have been a reference to the financing of the release by a credit card. ("Master Charge" was the name of the credit card company in the 1970s that is now known as Master Card). One radio playlist posted on the Internet mentioned a "Pebbles, Volume 2" on Mastercharge Records, but this was probably an incorrect reference to the BFD release.

BFD Records[edit]

The first 10 LPs in the Pebbles series, including a reissue of the original volume were credited in the name of BFD Records of Kookaburra, Australia. These albums were released in a span of just two years (1979 and 1980) and are regarded by some as the best volumes in the series.[2]

The legitimacy of BFD Records (and the apparently associated company BFD Productions) has long been in question, not least because Kookaburra is actually the name of a bird of Australia, not a city or town. As an example, the back cover of the BFD pressing of Pebbles, Volume 3 includes the following: "Licensed by special arrangement with Mastercharge Records, Dacron Ohio, USA" (Mastercharge being the label under which the first Pebbles volume was originally issued), followed by "® & © 1979 by BFD Records, Kookaburra, Australia 2157. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. All rights reserved."[5] The first licensing notation is clearly fictitious (possibly inspired by the location of the National Lampoon's High School Yearbook parody) – Dacron is an artificial fiber, while the city in Ohio is Akron – and the same might easily be true of the second. Also, the Bomp! website says of its AIP label: "Since 1978, this Bomp-affiliated label has been assembling compilations of punk, psych, beat, garage, and related obscurities."[6] Actually, the first AIP album was the Pebbles, Volume 11 LP, which was released in 1983. Thus, Bomp! seems to be taking tacit responsibility for the entire series.

In any case, whether or not it is a charade, the BFD label has been perpetuated throughout the releases on the Pebbles series. The reissues of the first 10 volumes have no reference to Bomp! or AIP, and the first 10 CDs in the Pebbles series include the same "BFD" catalogue numbers—which are not all consecutively numbered—as the corresponding LPs. Copyright notices referring to BFD continued to be exhibited on almost all of the albums in the Pebbles series well into the 2000s, including both the ESD CD's and the AIP CDs. Also, there are subtle differences in the packaging and programming of the BFD releases as compared to the later releases on AIP. Although the albums in the Pebbles series were produced in such small numbers that tracking down anyone regarding royalties might have been next to impossible, neither Bomp! nor anyone else has evidently been sued for copyright infringement with regard to these releases. Finally, these same charges have been made about other reissue record companies over the years as well, such as Collectables.

AIP Records[edit]

Beginning in 1983, Bomp! created the AIP record label in part to issue further volumes in the Pebbles series. In addition to the 10 volumes on the BFD label that were reissued several times over the years, another 18 LPs and 12 CDs have been issued in the Pebbles series under their auspices. Many of the LPs and CDs have basically the same catalogue numbers, and there is significant overlap in the tracks on the first 6 volumes on LP and CD—with the CD release of Volume 6 being shifted to the English Freakbeat series—adding to the confusion. However, the overlap is far from complete; Pebbles, Volume 5 is the sole CD that has all of the songs from the corresponding LP, and only about half of the surf rock tracks from the Pebbles, Volume 4 LP were released on that CD.

When AIP renewed the Pebbles series in 1983, the company was apparently more interested in documenting local music scenes than in scattershot groupings of American garage rock records, so the Highs in the Mid-Sixties series was begun concurrently, with a total of 23 volumes devoted to recordings from specific American cities, states and regions, as compared to the 18 volumes of AIP Pebbles LPs. What's more, 10 of the 18 LPs that AIP issued in the Pebbles series were compilations of recordings from continental Europe in the sub-series the Continent Lashes Back.

According to the Bomp! website, the release of the Pebbles, Volume 11 CD in 2007—actually several years after the release of the Pebbles, Volume 12 CD—represents the last album that will ever be issued in the Pebbles series. More recently, AIP has begun the Essential Pebbles series and Planetary Pebbles series; whether there will be future volumes in these series is uncertain.

To their credit, when AIP began issuing Pebbles albums on CD, the albums included numerous recordings that were not as yet on the LPs. Also, after the release of the first six volumes on CD, all of the tracks on the Pebbles CDs had been previously un-reissued on CD. Even the first two releases in the Essential Pebbles series include a second CD of previously un-reissued music in addition to the distillation from the previous Pebbles albums.

ESD Records[edit]

According to the AIP website, ESD Records (also known as East Side Digital) issued 4 volumes of CDs in the Pebbles series in 1989–1990. Though compiled by AIP, the tracks are almost completely different from those in the corresponding volumes of the LPs and CDs described previously (although a sizable number of the tracks on ESD's Pebbles, Volume 2 appear on both the earlier Pebbles, Volume 3 LP and the later CD reissue). Particularly on ESD's Pebbles, Volume 1, many of the tracks are either new to Pebbles or are buried on the higher-numbered volumes in the Pebbles series or Highs in the Mid-Sixties series. The albums had a limited run of only 1,000 each and are now difficult to locate; but, not surprisingly, the ESD and AIP CDs are often confused. One added bonus in the ESD CDs is that the excellent liner notes are written by Nigel Strange (who wrote liner notes for several of the BFD Records albums also).

Other Record Labels[edit]

Besides these albums in the Pebbles series, the Pebbles name has been used in other Bomp! releases outside of AIP, and other LPs and CDs have been issued under this name, or similar names. The Best of Pebbles series was targeted at the United Kingdom, although some of the LP's were available in the US also. A series was started in 1993 for release in Japan (complete with liner notes in Japanese), called the Great Pebbles (although to date, only one CD has been released under this name).

Box Sets[edit]

A 5-LP Pebbles Box of the first five volumes in the Pebbles series—always the most popular according to the AIP website—was made available in the United Kingdom several years ago; while a similar CD box set came out more recently, called the Trash Box. However, in each case, the tracks on the box sets differ significantly from those on the individual Pebbles LPs and CDs. While the box sets are out of print, Bomp! is now offering the first 5 LPs and also Volumes 6 through 10 among the LPs for sale at a group rate.

Liner Notes[edit]

One outstanding feature of the Pebbles series are the detailed liner notes that are included on nearly all of the albums, dating back even to the original release on Mastercharge Records. On the AIP releases and most of the others, they provide what little information is available on the artists on the album (and/or the general music scene that led to the recordings), though the printing on the original 45 disc is often the extent of it.

On the other hand, the tongue-in-cheek liner notes on the Pebbles, Volume 2 LP that were credited to "A. Seltzer" are a nearly incoherent rant on garage rock that still provides some info on the bands, along with observations ranging from blunt – "These guys were the losers in a scene where Question Mark & the Mysterians were the winners; they were such bad news that even the likes of the Trashmen looked down on 'em" – to simply over-the-top: "My pick for the Grammy this year is 'Green Fuz' by Randy Alvey & Green Fuz, which has to be the rottenest recording ever made but has more honest-to-Howard Cosell energy than anything the wimpy Sex Pistols ever dreamed of puking up."[7] The two-part pseudo-scholarly exposition on the Pebbles, Volume 7 and Pebbles, Volume 8 LPs took British Invasion musicians to task, accusing them all of being throwback, "dance hall" bands and coming to the bizarre conclusion that Tiny Tim represented the peak of popular music.."[8] Volume Two also features a humorous series of fictional LPs available on the BFD label, such as Sid Vicious Live at Folsom Prison.[7]

While the liner notes on the BFD releases were more conversational and commented as often on the music as on the musicians, AIP brought a touch more scholarship to theirs—though not without the same often playful spirit—and usually provided more information on band members and future bands. There was also a stock liner notes section on many of the AIP albums that closed with: "Truly, this was the pinnacle of rock & roll, and until something comes along that can match it, these obscure artifacts of a vanished golden age stand as a reminder of just how great innocence can be!"[4]

Annotations[edit]

As with the liner notes, the BFD LPs only occasionally provided information on songwriters and release dates of the recordings that were being compiled. AIP was more attentive to these details and also provided the record label and catalogue number in many cases, particularly on the CDs. On the other hand, the word "the" was dropped from almost all of the band names on the track listings for the AIP CDs.

Cover Art[edit]

In keeping with the lo-fi nature of the recordings, many of the early Pebbles LPs had black-and-white covers, and none were issued with full-color covers. The BFD album covers were noted for the crazed drawings and strange photographs, which were carried forward into the first few releases by AIP, although most of their releases had more conventional covers (such as a colorized photograph of one of the bands represented on the album).

Discography[edit]

LPs[edit]

CDs — AIP Records[edit]

CDs — ESD Records[edit]

Box Sets[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic (series) review
  2. ^ a b c Richie Unterberger, Pebbles series at Allmusic.
  3. ^ "Searchin' for Shakes" on-line compilation album database at Ugly Things website. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  4. ^ a b Included as a stock section on the liner notes of several of the Pebbles LPs.
  5. ^ Liner notes, Pebbles, Volume 3 LP.
  6. ^ Temporary entry on the Bomp! website on AIP Records.
  7. ^ a b Liner notes, Pebbles, Volume 2 LP.
  8. ^ Liner notes, Pebbles, Volume 7 and Pebbles, Volume 8 LPs.

External links[edit]