by Fred Mills
The Flamin’ Groovies helped write the power-pop book in ’76 with the release of their master classic Shake Some Action. Before the timeless title track and tunes like “You Tore Me Down,” “I Can’t Hide” and “Yes It’s True” jangled their way into the history books, however, the band was a lean, edgy roadhouse-rock gang. They started out as rootsabilly-inclined misfits on the San Fran hippie scene of the late ’60s, and, as recounted in guitarist Cyril Jordan’s exhaustive, 20-page band history comprising Slow Death’s liner notes, always seemed to be on the verge of success but never quite got the break.
This 10-songer, while intermittently raw in fidelity, captures that roadhouse vibe via a selection of ’71 demos, some of which would surface over the years on obscure vinyl labels. Included is a cover of the Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and an early stab at their Stonesafied junkie-rock epic “Slow Death.” That song was inspired, incidentally, by a horrifying visit to Detroit in which their stay at a sleazy Dearborn hotel was marked by ongoing encounters with local dope fiends and pushers as well as a murder. (Jordan spins several colorful Detroit yarns in the booklet.) One of the great lost Groovies gems is present too, the venereal drip-pop (literally — it’s about getting the clap) of “Blues From Phyllis” whose jangly motif clearly presaged what was just around the corner for the band. Indeed, a ’73 demo of “Shake Some Action” surfaces here, a different version from the familiar Dave Edmunds-produced album cut. The music holds up, matters of time and fidelity notwithstanding, and the booklet, graced by Jordan’s notes and a slew of rare pics (including a repro of a 1970 ad for a contest that underground stroke/swingers mag Screw ran depicting a nekkid dancing chick and the headline, “Fuck A Flamin’ Groovie!”), ramps the package’s desirability factor way up.
True story: After falling under the Groovies spell in the mid-’70s I wrote the fan club, and prez Miriam Linna — currently one of the operators of Norton — responded with a package stuffed with cool pics, a button, a newsletter and a hissy-but-thrilling tape of some of the same rare Groovies cuts now appearing on this CD. A lifelong obsession was fueled. Happy to say I’m still shakin’ some action too.
E-mail Fred Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org.