Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Flamin' Groovies at the Gijon Sound Festival 15/4/2016

I have always had a soft spot for the Flamin' Groovies.

I bought their classic Shake Some Action as soon as it came out in the spring / early summer of 1976 on the strength of the review in the NME. That album, along with the first Ramones (which I bought exactly one week later - also on the recommendation of the NME) seemed to be the fast forward button into punkish things to come.

By 1976 there was change in the air. Punk was about to happen and the Groovies album, along with the similarly retro first two Dr Feelgood albums, appeared to point to the way forward, away from all the excess of early 70s glam and prog rock and back into a new refreshingly stripped down, black and white world of skinny ties, drainpipe trousers and the three chord trick.

In fact it's arguable that the Groovies were the first band to see 60s retro as a way forward - in the USA anyway. .At the time its resolute re-affirmation of the values of 1965 - three minute songs with catchy hooks and jangly guitars - can be seen as both a forerunner of, as well as an influence on, the likes of late 70s Mod revivalists The Jam, and also the later psychedelic Cosmic Amerikana bands of the early 80s - The Rain Parade, The Long Ryders et al.

Shake Some Action is a classic album brimful of some seriously catchy self penned songs (and a few covers) that still sounds fresh some 40 years later.

But it wasn't just that it had some great songs on it - I Can't Hide, You Tore Me Down, I Saw Her, Teenage Confidential are all classics - but it  also appealed to my own teenage 60s mod nostalgia obsession and I spent the latter months of 76 I trying to track down their previous albums Teenage Head and Flamingo - not easy in those days, as neither album had sold especially well and they were, by that time, long deleted.

However, due probably to the hype around the burgeoning UK punk scene and the Groovies evident influence on it along with other similar purveyors of high energy rock like the New York Dolls, Stooges and MC5 - whose albums I was also eagerly trying to track down at the time - both Teenage Head (1971) and Flamingo (1970) did get a surprise reissue as a double album package on the UK Kama Sutra label in late 1976.  

And when eventually I found it - in, of all places, Boots the chemist who, in those days, sold vinyl albums as well as cosmetics and aspirins - and took it home, I was staggered to hear a completely different band (Cyril Jordan and bassist George Alexander being  the only two musicians Teenage Head and Shake Some Action had in common) and musical approach; one that owed far more to the raunchy R'n'B of the Stones, and even 50s Rock and Roll, than to the jangling mid 60s poppery of the Beatles and Byrds. 

Teenage Head is in fact a classic hard rock album - comparable to the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers. Flamingo is no slouch eitherOn both albums singer Roy Loney swaggers and leers in best Jagger mode and guitarist Cyril Jordan also proves a dab hand at coming up with memorable chunky block chord riffs à la Keith Richards.  Lead track Teenage Head being a prime example.

As a guitarist Cyril should not be underestimated. Groovies albums are packed with some killer riffs - Slow Death, Heading For The Texas Border, High Flyin' Baby all come to mind and Shake Some Action (co-written by him and Loney's replacement, Chris Wilson) is a glorious pop song that really should have been a massive hit.

Strange to say though that despite being one of my favourite bands of 76 I never got to see them live.

So when I heard the reformed band - Roy Loney, Chris Wilson, Cyril Jordan, original founding member and bass player George Alexander, plus drummer Victor Penalosa - were coming to the Gijon Sound Festival on their 50th Anniversary tour, I was seriously looking forward to seeing them.

They did not disappoint. It was a blasting white hot set chock that drew on "hits" from both the early Roy Loney era and the later Chris Wilson band.

Cyril is still a very tasty picker and the years have given Loney's voice a power and confidence which I think he lacked as a younger singer.

Check these clips from Youtube for proof.

So, 50 years on from when they formed and 40 years on from when I bought Shake Some Action, this is how good they were...

Better than ever?

Shake Some Action!

More from the show here

More stranger than known

The Rolling Stones' finest hour - "Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out"...

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