The Flamin' Groovies - Supersnazz

The Flamin' Groovies

Released 1969 on Epic
Reviewed by jaydee, 09/10/2004ce

Some remember the Flamin’ Groovies as the British based California throwbacks who issued three LPs of Beatles-Byrdsian rock and roll in the mid-to-late seventies highlighted by the fantastic single “Shake Some Action”. More still think of them as an early 70s Frisco group whose high energy retro rave-ups attempted to (and sometimes succeeded in) out Stonesing the Stones on the highly recommended Kama Sutra releases Flamingo and Teenage Head, and on the dope opus “Slow Death” EP. But before these iconoclasts hooked up with Richard Robinson to record their most famous work they managed to slip out a single album on the Epic imprint of mega-label Columbia. How this essentially self-produced record by a gang of out-of-step Bay Arian rock-and-rollers with seemingly No Commercial Potential slipped by the brass in1969 is just as much a mystery today as how history essentially repeated itself with the same company six years later in The Dictators Go Girl Crazy. The world can thank them for the oversights.

Following their self-produced Sneakers 10” EP from the previous year, the Groovies ditched the overtones of garage and psychedelia in those recordings and simply indulged themselves in their love of Chuck Berry / Little Richard style big beat stompers, but with the distinctive touches of (then) head man and Elvis worshipper Roy Loney’s manic vocalization, and sixties punk influenced instro breaks highlighted by Cyril Jordan’s and Tim Lynch’s guitar blasts. Side One kicks off with “Love Have Mercy”, which while credited as an original is basically a re-write of “Milkcow Blues”, but then who didn’t re-work this one in the sixties? It’s a wild and wonderful tone setter during which Loney issues a call to “get real gone” mid-tune, leaving now doubt as to the song’s, or his own for that matter, primary influence. Next up is a rollicking horn-accompanied take on Bobby Troup’s “The Girl Can’t Help It” which while pretty true in spirit to the original makes room for a great guitar break in a fashion not out of place on a Yardbirds track. Loney croons Everly Brothers style in “Laura Did It” accompanied by acoustic guitar, harmonica, and vocal harmonizing. Sounds rather ordinary does it? Not with Roy leading the way. “Apart From That” is one of the only things close to a skipper here, unless you enjoy the style of McCartney at his most maudlin and melodramatic. A straightforward cover of “Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” gets things back on track with some danceable fun featuring hand claps, pianner, and a wailing guitar solo.

As with the first side, the second kicks off with an uptempo rocker in “First One’s Free” featuring Chuck Berry style stuttered guitar licks similar to the early Stones. A forgettable “Pagan Rachel” is next followed by “Something Else” / “Pistol Packing Mama”. If it isn’t yet obvious, the Eddie Cochran cover should give a clear indication as to where the mojo of this record lies. The “Pistol Packing Mama” interlude is notable for the intrusion of yet another great rave-up. “Brushfire” is an enjoyable countrified blues that would fit well onto Beggar’s Banquet, or even Side Two of Teenage Head. The fun-fun-fun Loney-Jordan original “Bam Balam” exists somewhere in Little Richard meets jump blues territory. “Around the Corner” finishes the LP off with the one bit of rock and roll history not yet touched on, and that’s the Beach Boys / Jan and Dean vocalized style of surf music. “Ah-Woo-woo-Woo-woo-Woo-woo-Woo-woo-Woo…..”

A great, paradigm-shifting album? Heck no. But a slice of unpretentious FUN from a time and place where Big Hippie ruled the wasteland? You bet. From the Groovies as pyromaniac Steamboat Willie mutants on the cover to the final “bye-bye, bye-bye” fade-out chorus I’m left with one lasting impression: If I was a high schooler at the time I’d rather give the prom gig to these guys than the Quicksilver Messenger Service or their fellow travelers.

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