Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Flamin' Groovies #2

Cyril Jordan with 12 string, 1976.
I never saw this clip of Little Queenie before, from French TV, 1972. Slow Death live at the Marquee, nice crotch point of view shots of James Ferrell.
Simply by being a great rock'n'roll band the Flamin' Groovies always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When the original line up was rockin' out with albums like Supernazz , Flamingo, and Teenage Head, their hometown, San Francisco preferred bad acid rock jams (insert name of your least favorite Frisco band here). When the second, equally great line-up made their masterpiece Shake Some Action, which wasn't released until 1976, it was the safety pin through the face crowd that ridiculed them, having bought the Clash's line "no Elvis, Beatles and the Rolling Stones", the Groovies were again deemed unfashionable. I'm amazed at how few good live tapes of the second line up have surfaced, but I stumbled upon a good one from L'Olympia, Paris, 1975 over at the Boogie Disease blog or use their direct link to the download (here). France was one of the few places that appreciated the Flamin' Groovies. Although it sounds like it's from an audience recorded cassette tape, the sound is better than the other two bootlegs from that era that I've heard (one from the Roxy in LA and another from the Roundhouse in London) and the performance and set list are fantastic, including tunes they didn't play very often like Teenage Head, Sometimes (which Chris introduces as a Paul Revere & the Raiders tune, I guess he never heard Gene Thomas' original), Shake Some Action (which they had to stop playing for awhile when Cyril injured his hand), as well as great renditions of the Pretty Things' Big City, the Stones' Miss Amanda Jones (one of five Stones covers here if you count Don't Lie To Me and She Said Yeah, which the Groovies seemed to have learned from the Stones versions, Chris Wilson even introduces She Said Yeah as a Stones tune, again, perhaps unaware of the Larry Williams original). Anyway, the Groovies story has been told many times, and I won't bother telling it again, but they will always be one of my favorite bands. If you can track down copies of Miriam Linna's Flamin' Groovies Monthly, a digest size fanzine she published when she took over their fan club from Greg Shaw in '77, it's one of the best fan mags of all time.
One funny story. When they played the Bottom Line in NYC after Shake Some Action came out, they stalled and stalled before going onstage, waiting for their coke dealer to show. When he didn't turn up, they finally went on and halfway through the second song they spot the guy walking into the club. The promptly excused themselves from the stage, hit the dressing room, copped, got high, and returned to restart their set from the top, noticeably more energetic. I've never even seen Johnny Thunders' do something that blatant, especially with their entire record company (all five Sire employees) in the audience. What a great band.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

love that story about The Bottom Line. And who said the Groovies didn't aspire to be rock stars?

The Hound said...

" And who said the Groovies didn't aspire to be rock stars?'

Someone actually said that? I don't think they ever pretended that they didn't want to be stars, but as there luck got worse it seems they just got more and more disheartened until their final NYC performance (post-Chris Wilson) where they refused to play any of their own tunes and did an entire set of Beatles covers.

Anonymous said...

is there a link for the Flamin' Goovies #1 post? I can't seem to find it. Or am I just an idiot? (The two options aren't mutually exclusive.)

Will

The Hound said...

"is there a link for the Flamin' Goovies #1 post? I can't seem to find it. Or am I just an idiot? (The two options aren't mutually exclusive.)"

There used to be, I have no idea how it got deleted.
Anyway, it was just two TV clips, one from Slow Death repeated above and another rehearsal clip for Jumpin
Jack Flash,, easily found on Youtube. Maybe the link will re-appear someday.....

Anonymous said...

The SUPERSNAZZ-era Flamin' Groovies made an appearance on Hy Lit's Philly-area teen dance show in 1969.

I'm praying every day that this one day shows up on Youtube (evidently all the episodes of Hy's show are still in existence).

Em said...

Hey Jim,
That Little Queenie was superb; I don't know how I missed this band?
Only recollection I have is when you played them on WFMU.

Brendan said...

Hound, know anything about the following... I have a bizarre Floundering Grotties cd on the "Grand" label ( see: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flamin-Groovies/dp/B00004SRIZ/ref=sr_1_32?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1268198446&sr=8-32 ). I could be completely wrong but it sounds like a Roy-less Chris-led outfit "recording" tracks from accross the entire career w some new covers. The best track on the disc is "Slow Down" which I believe is also a Larry Williams cover.

J.D. King said...

I got "Teenage Head" during the summer of '71. I loved it, but everyone I played it for dismissed it as a bad joke, a poor copy of The Stones.

The thing is, they were a great copy of The Stones, right down to that Ampeg guitar. "Teenage Head" was a worthy companion piece to the then-new "Sticky Fingers."

"Shake Some Action," with the new lineup, was another great album, but it'd been a long time between releases. That couldn't have helped whatever career momentum they'd had.

Great name, too.

The Hound said...

"Hound, know anything about the following... I have a bizarre Floundering Grotties cd on the "Grand" label "

I think it's actually the post-Chris Wilson band, that usually meant Cyril, George and sometimes Danny Mihm and who ever else they could find to fill out the line up, a version of which I saw in NYC at some point (the one that played not one groovies original in their set). I'd say after Jumpin' In The Night they never really made a great album again. But they did make six great ones (eight if you count the Norton live and studio outtake CD's, and why not, they're both killer).
How many groups make six great albums? Or even two?

michael said...

Platform shoes and see-through guitars !

Note the lack of any attempts to make their music into a "rock opera", no attempt at trying to be "progressive", or "jazz-rock fusion", nor any laser light show or songs with a really cool 5 minute long guitar or drum solo.


No wonder that they were overlooked here in the early 1970's.

Brendan said...

Bad memories... was all lined up to see the Shake Some Action Groovies at Roundhouse in London in '76 (?) and got talked out of it to go see man about a dog in Brixton. Very like the time I was supposed to go see Muddy Waters play a gig in a tent close to the Berlin Wall in 1981 only to arrive at 24 hours too late for the show. He passed on shortly after. Grrrr

The Hound said...

"to go see man about a dog in Brixton."

a dog, or horse.....?

Littlefield said...

Might fine houndblog, Hound.

Littlefield said...

Sorry,Mighty Fine!

Brendan said...

Am really enjoying the Paris show. Many thanks for that link Hound.

The Hound said...

"Am really enjoying the Paris show. Many thanks for that link Hound."

I assume you've picked up the Norton release California Born & Bred? I was listening to it last night, and I still can't believe how great it is. They do a killer acoustic version of Ersel Hickey's Hangin' Around, there's a monster live version of Dr. Boogie, the demos for Headin' For The Texas Border and Evil Hearted Ada, a live rendition of Bing Crosby's Brother Can You Spare A Dime that is very timely, and a tune I've never heard anywhere before called Too Late For Your Lies that's as good as anything they ever did. I can't recommend it highly enough. In fact, I'm gonna play it again right now while I rake out the garden....

Dave Laing said...

that 'Grand' cd... the rerecordings, and 'Slow Down' and 'Call Me Lightnig' etc, was recorded in Sydney in '86 by the line up that toured down under here - Cyril, George, Paul Zahl on drums and Jack Johnson on guitat & vox. PAul and Jack were ex-SVT I think. I saw em a bunch of times on that tour and it was great, but a very different proposition. They were trying to modernize ther sound - they fit in well with two bands who played shows with them here, the Hoodoo Gurus and the Screaming Tribesmen - but it worked okay and set was great mix of their own classics and new tunes, most of which ended up on that Rock Juice album they cut subsequently...
and yes Hound, those norton releases are UNBELIEVABLE.

avidmartinet said...

weird thing - just was at my accountant for tax time and he started playing a dvd from a spanish groovies show in 87 - live at the end. he listened to me rave about them at ponderosa stomp when i was setting up the appointment, and got it for me from a tape trader friend. haven't had a chance to parse it yet, but it's cyril with some hippie-ish guitar slinger who's a bit too fluid for the tunes.
also, have you ever heard the live tape of cyril playing with a bay area band, the sneetches, in 91. they were innocuous popish meh, but a fantastic ersatz groovies. it's really wall to wall incredible and loney comes out to do the last two songs.

the norton releases are some of the best stuff - slow death may be my favorite release.

Anonymous said...

Great write-up (and comments).

Of course I love the Norton releases and Teenage Head and Shake Some Action, but I also really love One Night Stand (aka Backtracks).

Bands rarely do themselves any favors by re-recording their hits years later, but One Night Stand actually has my favorite version of "Slow Death." It's even better than the awesome live cover that the Dictators did on Live At Irving Plaza 1981.

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