Saturday, October 15, 2016

FLAMIN’ GROOVIES Gabba Gabba Groovies [1977]

Text by Miriam Linna / FFanzeen, 1977
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2016
Images from the Internet, unless indicated

This article was originally published in FFanzeen, issue #3, dated Winter-Spring 1977-78, pages 22 and 23. It was written by Miriam Linna, who at the time was the President of the International Official Flamin’ Groovies Fan Club, and now, well, where do I start? She drums for the A-Bones, has her own solo vocal career, and co-owns/runs the label/record store Norton Records (595 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY). At the time of this writing though, she had recently left the Cramps and was skinning for the Nervus Rex.

The first time I ever heard of the Flamin’ Groovies was in the early ‘70s when a good pal who was a record collector bought their 10” Sneakers EP from 1968 for $15, which blew my mind back then that someone would pay that much for a record. My own record collecting had not taken off as yet. Over the years I’d get know their music, and would especially like their early stuff (“Comin’ After Me” period). That being said, their re-recording of their own “Slow Death” and “Shake Some Action” are still particular favorites (though die-hard purists prefer the originals).

The only time I’ve seen any shade of the band live was when Roy Loney played at Under Acme in New York (a picture I took from that show is below) during the early 2000s, and that same record collector’s band opened for them. It was a fun night. – RBF, 2016

A lotta people have gotta lotta fave groups. Some people say they have one real fave. Lotsa people say The Rolling Stones. Others say The Beatles. Now, some shits say The Sex Pistols. I say The Flamin’ Groovies and I’m ready to tell anybody anywhere any time exactly why because it ain’t no blind love. I don’t like them “just because.” I’ve never seen the band live; I was fifteen when they made their last Midwest pilgrimage and missed them out of lack of wheels, knowledge of when and where, as well as out of basic ignorance. Now I’m older and wiser and truly fanatic about the band. There’s this church on Eighth Street called The Church of St. Cyril and I go there a lot to look at the name. So, you see, this is no casual affair. At one point, I had eight or nine copies of the first three LPs; it’s narrowed to like three of each due to losses to begging acquaintances. I like them because they’re cool looking, sounding, and because they’ve got incredible humour attached to their music – not like outright guffaw ha-ha, but more like something that induces a smile while yer dancing. The band is fucking Good Natured and from their record on, they’ve demonstrated great taste and a desire to make cool good-time danceable rock’n’roll music. Without gimmicks, the Groovies have accomplished themselves as true rock’n’rollers.

I think maybe I am losing touch with reality, mostly because when people accuse the Groovies of being a cult band, I can’t define what then becomes non-cult. Does being a cult band mean that the group is inaccessible to the masses? Okay, I dig it infers that their following is small and fanatic – but to label a band as “cult” must suggest that they are only capable of appealing to a small audience out of esoteric reasons – out of being too outrageous or too arty or too disgusting for the status quo. The definition knocks the Flamin’ Groovies right out of the cult category into which they’ve been pigeonholed.

Their music is totally accessible. There is nothing difficult about it; it’s done very well, it’s danceable, they look cool, Jesus, what does it take? Money. Yeah, it takes a company with cash to push the group, to put them on tour and into magazines and into the hearts of millions. It takes a certain degree of mystification and a few lies. It’s my honest belief that the Groovies could be a major band; that is, in sales, in draw-potential, if they had been taken seriously by a major record label.

Some of these New Wave meatloaves who call The Groovies a “nostalgia band” have no idea about much of anything. They don’t know the definition of “nostalgia” and they haven’t the groggiest what The Flamin’ Groovies are about. These morons hear “Shake Some Action” and label it nostalgia because it’s about romance and being a teenager and all that disgusting stuff.

Roy Loney, Under Acme (pic by RBF)
To quote Alan Betrock [d. 2000 – RBF, 2016], (NY Rocker, vol. 1, No. 5, p 26), “…what Mersey-type album has this much power, punch, proficiency and understanding of the dynamics of rock and roll?” I mean, yeah. Like, you can say it sounds like The Beatles, well, no argument there on any basis, cuz The Sex Pistols sound like Iggy and Iggy sounds like Jim Morrison and… and… so everything sounds like something else, but even when The Groovies do a Beatles song, it’s a Groovies tune right away. The thing about “Shake Some Action” and the previous 45s and EPs recorded at Rockfield Studios is that production weights as heavily in the matter as the content. Dave Edmunds is the man behind the band in creating this sound, this sound that is like a cumulative Spector-effect with the passion of The Groovies themselves and the energy of their past work. It is a magnificent piece of vinyl.

I really cannot understand any attacks of “Anglo” directed at the band either. So their sound of the ‘sixties came out of Liverpool; well, those sounds evolved out of a very American set of influences, and in turn, those English rhythms got rehashed and re-Americanized with bands like The Byrds and the like. Really now, isn’t it time that rock’n’roll got internationalized? Maybe that’s going too far, cuz the major sounds came out of England and out of the U.S., but like maybe Anglo-American would be a fair definer here. What I’m saying is that influences are so cross-referable in the case or rock’n’roll that unless someone is doing Elvis songs… - no, cut that, Arthur Crudup songs, then they can’t really refuse comparisons from either side of the briny blue. I consider The Flamin’ Groovies a very American rock’n’roll band despite the Mersey labels; what all-American kid didn’t have a Beatles haircut in ’65? And if they like cool suits and boots, why force them into Malcolm McLaren duds? Sometimes, I just don’t know anymore. I can’t wait until the next album [Flamin’ Groovies Now, 1978 – RBF, 2016]. The latest scam is that they’re producing it themselves at Rockfield, OK.

There are two bootleg LPs that I know of: Flamin’ Groovies: No Candy, recorded live at The Roxy, Aug. 12, 1976 (ZAP 7893) and The Flamin’ Groovies L.A. 8-12-76 (Cat and Dog Records). Both records were made at the same gig; of the two, the latter is the most listenable. Aside from LP material, the record has a terrific version of “The House of Blue Light” that is enough in itself to make any rock’n’roll fan start dancing. Jesus, I hear this record and itch to see the band live. It must be wonderful. Bo Diddley’s “Lover Not a Fighter” is also on the vinyl, and cool as can be – who does all the talking between the songs? It must be Chris Wilson.

The intros to the songs are real neat. He says thank you a whole lot and it’s just great, unpolitical stuff. Oh yeah! “Please, Please Me” – well, if they’re gonna do a Beatles tune, they’re gonna do one great one, right? Yow, these guitars are great, oh wow. Just great. “Under My Thumb” starts like they’re gonna do a DC5 song, “Bits and Pieces” maybe – ya know those military drums, oh, it’s cool. “Hey Hey Hey” finishes the album; it’s great.

Thank God for The Flamin’ Groovies. These live albums contain a lot of non-originals, but like any one with half a brain can see that these songs are done as tributes – sure, The Groovies could do several hours of originals; the fact that they’re doing the old stuff is truly wonderful, because these guys aren’t about to forget (or let you forget) the crazed stuff that came before and that’s still alive and incredible today. It’s like proof that the cool sounds that started years ago are still capable of knocking ya dead today. The Flamin’ Groovies aren’t afraid to name their influences. They’re far too far into rock and roll to start ripping off licks and claiming that “there’s no Elvis, Beatles, or Stones in 1977.” They aren’t doing punk rock or glitter rock or psychedelic rock or country rock – they’re doing something known and rock and roll, and if you’ve forgotten the definition, go refresh yer memory with a listen to “Blues for Phyllis” or “Yesterday’s Numbers,” and thank yer lucky stars that there’s a band around that’s still shakin’ after 13 years in action.