Share SHAKE SOME ACTION - Flamin' Groovies (Warner)
On the back of this reissue of the Flamin' Groovies 1976 barnstormer, you get a picture of the band under three billboards. One's for Piccadilly cigarettes, another's for White Swan Brandy, the third's for a washing machine, bearing the tagline, "We believe a lot of women are attracted to the solid, reliable type." By this stage of their career, that's exactly what the Groovies were – solid and reliable. Please don't think that means uninspired, because that would be a mistake. But the blues-rock frenzy of the preceding two LPs, "Flamingo" and " Teenage Head" had been replaced by this time by a sound (and a sharp new look – realised by late Stones' guitarist Brian Jones' tailor, with the band leaning nonchalantly against a Jaguar on the front cover) that was more reminiscent of the British invasion bands that had actually inspired the Groovies in the first place.
For mine, this is the Groovies' last great LP. By the time they'd recorded "Shake Some Action", they hadn't recorded anything much (aside from a few singles for the French Skydog label, later collected on the lo-fi "Grease" compilation – well worth your checking out, if you can find it) for the last four years. The last single, "Slow Death", with its overt anti-drug message had been a commercial flop, with radio stations refusing to play it (see if you can find a copy – it's a belter!). On top of that, wild-man vocalist Roy Loney had left the band, to be replaced by Chris Wilson, and guitarist Cyril Jordan had become the band's leading light, bringing his own taste in Byrds-style power-pop to the fore. Now, this doesn't mean that "Shake Some Action" works against the Groovies' previous output, it's an evolution, albeit a rather tangential one.
Ensconced at Rockfield studios in Monmouth, Wales (where many a fine act had cut a fine LP – Black Sabbath, Budgie, Hawkwind, Motorhead, Rush, The Damned, Christian Death, Iggy Pop, and Radio Birdman amongst others), the Groovies laid down the tracks that would make up this LP with veteran rocker Dave (Rockpile) Edmunds at the helm, trying to provide a Spector-esque Wall-O'_Sound production to the proceedings. And most of the time, it kind of works. Although I must say, putting chorus effects on the odd Chuck Berry-style riff seems kind of redundant to these ears.
Re-branding themselves as rock classicists at a time when most rock bands, in the advent of punk, were stripping themselves back to the bare minimum (the UK tour the Groovies went on at the time of the album's release featured the Ramones – rock'n'roll's ultimate atavistic act – as the support band) was kind of like kicking an own goal, the Groovies basically tried to reinvent rock as it was in the sixties. The results do speak for themselves, but with a bit of a stutter. During the punk revolution, "Shake Some Action" only kind of fits into the cultural zeitgeist of the day. Just as the Groovies didn't fit in back in San Francisco in the late 60s, they didn't really fit into to London in the late 70s. Which is sad, really, as yet again, this superlative band missed out on finding a target audience.
The Jordan/Wilson writing axis provided many fine songs on this LP – the incredible title track to begin with, the chiming riff and three-part harmonies are truly breath-taking – hearing it for the first time is like hearing Big Star's "September Gurls" or Badfinger's "No Matter What" for the first time – a magical pop-tastic moment. If you're not singing along by the end of this song – there's something wrong with you.
I'm not going to go through the LP track by track, but there are some definite highlights, the gorgeously Byrdsian 12-string lament "You Tore Me Down" is first and foremost in the pack, followed by the beautiful minor key serenades "Teenage Confidential" and "I Saw Her". Their homage to The Beatles "Please, Please Girl" is nostalgically authentic British Invasion pop, while their covers of The Beatles' "Misery" and The Rolling Stones' "She Said Yeah" ably display the bands' affinity for the music of the time they were trying to emulate. These are labours of love and no mistake.
That said, there are a few dud moments on the record – high ideas sometimes come to nothing – and the lack-luster boogie-woogie single "Don't You Lie To Me" and the equally ill-advised "Let The Boy Rock 'n' Roll" really show how sometimes the Groovies really couldn't pick their material well, and how the production simply wasn't up to the job. And believe me, at times, it wasn't.
"Solid but reliable" – like I said, it really sums up the Groovies in '76. "Shake Some Action" is a great album, and one that you really should have a listen to – power-pop of the highest order, with a couple of slips, admittedly, but a rock-solid bit of rock history. A fine bit of 60s rock meets a 70s sensibility – I think you'll dig it. Go on, you know you want to.- Mr Intolerance
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FLAMINGO/TEENAGE HEAD - Flamin' Groovies: (Rev-Ola)
A band out of step with the musical milieu around them, the Flamin' Groovies should have been huge. And these two outstanding albums, here compiled on the one disc, are my Exhibits A and B as to why. Sure, there might be a track or two that might not be five star material, but the sheer adrenaline rush provided by hearing a truly rockin' band at the height of their powers helps carry "Flamingo" and especially "Teenage Head" over the finish line in glorious style. And style was something the Groovies always had in spadeloads.
Recording hadn't really worked out for the Groovies' first LP proper, "Supersnazz" (mainly a collection of rockabilly standards with a few originals). The hi-octane rush of the band at their best had been diluted by lukewarm over-production, with the end result being an inadequate representation of what they were really about. Nice cover, though.
For the sophomore effort, "Flamingo", the decision was consciously made to present a leaner, more raw sound, much more like the lovable racket they made on stage. But moreso than that, despite their native San Francisco not "getting" the Groovies' rock'n'roll stance (they could belt out an entire raucous, raunchy set while contemporaries the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were turgidly limping through yet another bloated jam), they had found that some other US bands shared a common love for real rock that no doubt had an influence on them. in an interview with Roy Loney, the vocalist at the time, he admitted as much. I can only imagine what the 1969 gig in Detroit must have been like that featured The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper AND the Flamin' Groovies. With more original songs in the mix and a punchier production more sympathetic to their needs, "Flamingo" presents these punk dandies in a much more favourable light.
Starting off with "Gonna Rock Tonight" (a statement of intent they more than live up to), the album fairly spits and snarls its way through its rockers (which is most of it) but shows variety when they take their foot off the gas for a second or two, as in the good-time country stomp of "Sweet Roll Me On Down", or the beautifully trippy Beatle-esque "She's Falling Apart".
But the rockers are the reason we're here, and they don't disappoint. A frenetic "Keep A Knockin'" certainly gets your attention, but it's the original songs that really show the Groovies' development. The hillbilly hijinks of "Second Cousin" ("I'm gonna make my second cousin my first bride!"), the leering cautionary tale "Jailbait", the amphetamine rush of the barnstorming closer "Roadhouse", the jet-propelled mayhem of the album's undisputed masterpiece "Headin' For The Texas Border" – if "Supersnazz" had seemed a little timid and a bit tentative due to its production, Flamingo certainly makes up for it. In fact, the production here was so raw that initially nobody in the band liked it all that much.
A bonus track is included – a more than passable cover of Link Wray's "Rumble". One thing to look out for, though – the track listing on the back is incorrect. The songs are in the order as per the original release, but the cover puts a few of them in the wrong sequence.
If "Flamingo" upped the ante on "Supersnazz", then "Teenage Head" went even more all-out to impress. If the more retro, polished sound of "Shake Some Action" is all you know of the Flamin' Groovies, you need to hear this album to hear exactly how goddamned rock'n'roll they actually were. If you are not up and dancing around the room like a maniac from start to finish, there's something deeply wrong with you.
The Groovies always possessed confidence, charm and charisma, and here it does them sterling service. "Teenage Head" is a world-class rock album – in the liner notes to this edition, it's reported that Mick Jagger once said that it was akin to Sticky Fingers, and a better album than the Stones' own masterpiece. High praise indeed, but also fully justified.
Every track is a winner, whether original or well-chosen cover (the irrepressible Randy Newman-penned "Have You Seen My Baby?" is one of the album's many highlights, as is their lively take on Robert Johnson's "32-20") – the title track is worth the price of admission alone, as is the Stonesy rocker "Yesterday's Numbers". Album closer "Whiskey Woman" wraps up things in fine style, building from mournful mid-paced ballad to a full-throttle roar. Another bonus track follows – a scorching take on Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over".
Sadly, tensions inside the band between singer Roy Loney and guitarist Cyril Jordan came to a head not long after Teenage Head was released, and one single later ("Slow Death"), Loney left to begin a solo career. The band's sound changed, and the raw, high energy bluesy rock morphed into a more jangly pop sound that borrowed much from the British Invasion bands of the 60s. So what you have here is the Groovies' finest hour, so to speak – two albums of a band with a whole lot to prove, and prove it they do.
Should you buy this CD? Of course you should. Matter of fact, you should own it already. There are other reissued versions of these two albums out there, some with more bonus tracks, but this is some serious value for money. - Mr Intolerance
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