GIG REVIEW – FLAMIN’ GROOVIES
Undeterred by the absence of any UK dates on the recent European Tour by the reformed Flamin’ Groovies, our LGA gig reviewer Paul Wood dusted off his passport and Beatle boots to catch the last 2 dates of the tour in Italy.
The reformed Groovies feature three members from the classic Jordan/Wilson era line up which were signed to Sire Records/United Artists in the 1970s. Original members Cyril Jordan (guitar/vocals) and George Alexander (bass/vocals) are reunited with Chris Wilson (vocals/guitar), and the rejuvenated trio are joined by long time fan and mighty new drummer, Victor Penalosa.
Your LGA reviewer caught the Groovies in La Spezia and Alessandria.
The La Spezia show was part of the Spazio Boss programme of musical events that takes place between June and August. Also on the programme over the summer are Radio Birdman and King Khan & the Shrines. The Groovies show was an open air set in the gardens on the sea front promenade.
The Alessandria show was billed as the Primavera Beat Festival. The show (again, outdoor) was set in the quadrangle of a former Military Hospital (which looked as though it dated back to the Medieval ages) and the Festival included stalls selling vintage clothing, books and vinyl. The Alessandria show was the last night of the tour with the Groovies heading back to the States early the next morning.
Although Chris Wilson was playing through the pain of a badly swollen hand (which was subsequently found to have a fracture) the band was in fine form throughout and a good number of local Groovies fans were in attendance at both shows.
It took a while at La Spezia for the onstage sound to sort itself out (drummer Victor Penalosa was complaining about the sound in his monitor for the first 4 songs of the set) but the in crowd sound was generally fine given the outdoor setting.
The sound at Alessandria was better from the off and, possibly because the walls of the hospital gave the show more of a contained sound, the vocals were clearer in the mix.
Here’s a link to fan footage of the Groovies minor classic “Between The Lines” from the Alessandria show:
When you think of the Jordan/Wilson era Groovies you sometimes tend to focus on the Beatles/Byrds style guitars and harmonies and forget how hard the band can rock. When the band kicked into what Cyril Jordan described as the “rock’n’roll” part of the set, the band showed they really can rock with the best – “Tallahassee Lassie”. “St Louis Blues”, “She Said Yeah”, “Don’t You Lie To Me” and “Married Woman” (on which George took the lead vocal) got the crowd in both venues to really rock along with the band.
Here’s a link to fan footage of “Tallahassee Lassie” from the Alessandria show:
The Groovies have cut three bona fide rock classics that should be everybody’s collection and these were put together by the band to be the closing numbers and first encores on both dates – “Slow Death”, “Shake Some Action” and then (as an encore) “Teenage Head”.
Here’s a link to fan footage of “Slow Death/Shake Some Action” from the Madrid date on the tour:
The first encores closed with a song described by Chris Wilson as being “the first song Cyril and I ever wrote together” – “Let Me Rock”. It’s another Groovies rock classic – never properly released before by the Groovies (a rehearsal version appeared on Skydog in the 70s). The song has been re-recorded by the current line up to appear on their new album which the band are hoping will be out at the end of 2015/ beginning of 2016.
Alessandria saw the band come back for a second encore – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and then they were gone – but there was on-stage talk of another US tour and more European dates. Look out for these and catch them if you can.
A brand new track (“End of the World”) has already been put out by the band on the internet as a taster for the new album. Here’s a link:
The main set list for both nights was the same with Alessandria getting the benefit of an additional encore in the shape of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.
Feel A Whole Lot Better
You Tore Me Down
I Can’t Hide
I Want You Bad
Please Please Girl
St Louis Blues
She Said Yeah
Don’t You Lie To Me
Yes I Am
Married Woman (George on lead vocals)
Between The Lines
Shake Some Action
Encore – 1
Let Me Rock
Encore – 2 (Alessandria only)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Here’s a French TV clip of the Groovies doing “Roll Over Beethoven” from 1972:
FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – CYRIL JORDAN
Learning to play guitar by listening to his favourite British Invasion singles of the
early 60s, Cyril Jordan is a founding member of San Francisco’s legendary Flamin’
A band that seemed to be permanently out of time, their early albums in the 60s
showed them doing covers of 50s rockers by Eddie Cochran and Little Richard.
Their classic 70s albums paid homage to the 60s sounds of the Byrds, Beatles and
Stones. The 80s band was the closest they ever came to straight forward 70s rock
and they clearly didn’t like the sounds of the 80s because they were almost dormant
throughout the 90s.
Cyril Jordan has been a constant presence throughout. Early albums (Sneakers/
Supersnazz) showed off his rock’n’roll chops (and a few nods towards the Lovin’
Spoonful) before the band took on a harder rockin’ sound on “Flamingo” (inspired
by playing shows with the MC5 and the Stooges). They followed this up with their
first classic album with the original band line up (“Teenage Head”) which mixed their
original 50s based sound with the late 60’s blues rock swagger of the Stones.
Check out the following tracks from “Teenage Head”
With the departure of original vocalist Roy Loney, and 2nd
took the band closer to his dream combination of a sound combining the 60s British
Invasion groups (Beatles, Stones, Who) with their US equivalents (Byrds, Paul
Revere & the Raiders).
The band had a short spell at Rockfield studios in the UK with Dave Edmunds as
producer during 1972 which produced the pre-punk classic single “Slow Death”
and led the way for their 1976 re-emergence with their second classic album (“Shake
Some Action”). Gone however were the leather jackets and rock’n’roll flash clothes
of the ‘72 incarnation of the Groovies and in their place came Beatle suits, Cuban
heel boots and a disinclination to play their previous classic tracks (such as “Slow
Death” “Teenage Head”). Adding a collection of Rickenbacker 12 strings to their
signature rock sound of the Dan Armstrong Plexiglass, the band looked and played
fantastic, but was seriously out of step with the emerging punk explosion. Although
their triumphant London show at the Roundhouse on 4 July 1976 had them topping
the bill over The Ramones (their Sire record label mates) and The Stranglers, both
bands would quickly eclipse the Groovies commercially.
“Shake Some Action” with its Jordan inspired descending guitar lines has become
the power pop classic single and the subject of many cover versions.
Jordan carried on with various incarnations of the band until their last official studio
release “Rock Juice” in 1992.
Long dormant and almost forgotten (other than by long term fans), Cyril Jordan
and the Groovies came back into life in 2013 with a line up including Jordan,
Chris Wilson (vocals) and George Alexander (bass) from the classic 1972 line up,
augmented by new member Victor Penalosa on drums.
A series of well received shows in London, Japan, Australia and the States showed
that the Groovies still have the power to rock out as hard as before, and with the
set list containing all the classic Groovies tracks (“Teenage Head”, “Slow Death”
and “Shake Some Action”) maybe the band has at last come to terms with its own
history. New tracks are being recorded in the studio right now – maybe finally this will
be the year of the Flamin Groovies. Can’t wait!
Shake Some Action (Hard Rock Calling 2013):
Guitar most associated with Cyril Jordan
Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexiglass
(as seen on the cover of “Teenage Head” and a fixture on all Cyril Jordan/Groovies
recordings subsequently. Still played to great effect in 2013)
Recommended albums (Flamin’ Groovies):
I’ll Have A Bucket Of Brains (The Original 1972 Rockfield Sessions for U.A.)
Slow Death (Amazin’ High Energy Rock’n’Roll 1971-3)
Shake Some Action
Flamin Groovies – Shake Some Action
Best known for their hit ‘Shake Some Action’, The Flamin‘ Groovies did a lot to kick off US power pop in the mid-’70s..Cyril Jordan, Chris Wilson and George Alexander, Scala London Tuesday 2nd! Can’t Wait!!