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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flamin’ Groovies: Shake Some Action Live

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 9:57 AM

click to enlarge ANNE LAURENT
  • Anne Laurent
When the Flamin’ Groovies went into Rockfield Studios in Wales to record Shake Some Action with producer Dave Edmunds in 1972, they had no idea they’d be making a classic. The San Francisco-based band was just doing what came naturally, cutting the best new songs in their catalogue, with the best producer available. “We moved the band to London when the rock scene in the U.S. began petering out,” says guitarist and songwriter Cyril Jordan, one of the band’s founding members. “Some bands change their style to sound like whatever’s on the charts. The Groovies just wanted to play rock ’n’ roll. We never changed. One time, Carl Perkins told me that rock always comes back stronger every time they say it’s dead, so we kept rocking.

“We moved to England to record at Rockfield Studios with Dave Edmunds. They had a signature sound, like Sun Studios had with Sam Phillips and Gold Star had with Phil Spector. They had a unique placement for the echo on the tracks after compression. You could instantly tell if a song had the Rockfield sound.”


The Groovies were making Shake Some Action for United Artists, but the label had neglected to inform Dave Edmunds of that fact. Someone at Rockfield called Edmunds on the day of the session and asked him to show up to record a ‘big American band.’ Jordan laughs recalling the session. “Edmunds wanted to know if we had any new songs, so we cut ‘Shake Some Action,’ ‘Slow Death,’ ‘Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues,’ and a bunch of covers in one eight hour session, all live. It went so well, we wrote and recorded a new song, ‘You Tore Me Down,’ while we were working.”
Edmunds and the band wanted to release “Shake Some Action” as the first single. Its killer guitar hook and sing along chorus might have sent the Groovies to the top of the charts, but United Artists decided on “Slow Death,” an anti-drug song. “We used the word ‘morphine’ in the lyric,” Jordan says sadly. “The BBC banned the record immediately and UA dropped us. It took three years of shopping that tape around before Sire released some of the songs on it in 1976.”

click to enlarge 11036418_10152925724383542_2433183372105442716_n.jpg
Like their previous albums, Teenage Head, Flamingo, and Supersnazz, Shake Some Action was hailed by critics, radio DJs, and Groovies fans as a masterpiece, but once again, the public failed to respond. The album sounds like a template for the sharp, new wave pop that became popular 24 months later, but it was ahead of its time in 1976. That same year, the punk explosion began and the face of music changed. The Groovies carried on for a few more years, touring Europe and releasing a few more albums, finally breaking up in 1981. 

Then, in 2013, an Australian promoter asked Jordan to get the Groovies back together for a mini tour Down Under. “I hadn’t seen [singer/guitarist] Chris Wilson or [bass player] George Alexander for 33 years. After the first couple of songs in the first rehearsal, it was like no time had passed since we last played together. It was a neat feeling. We started writing songs again and the minute we were the road, we got offers to play more shows,” Jordan says. “We’ve played Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, the gigs keep coming.”

During the early days of their now ongoing reunion tour, the band wrote “End of the World.” The song was noticed by Rolling Stone magazine and streamed it on the website for a month, in November of 2013. “It was just like the old days,” Jordan says. “I had the idea, but hadn’t showed it to the guys in the band until we were in the studio. We ran through it a few times and, 20 minutes later, we had a basic track finished. We did the vocals a few months later. The Rolling Stone exposure built up some momentum and Chris and I have written a batch of new tunes. We have eight of them recorded. We’re hoping to have a new album finished by the end of the summer.” 

“End of the World” is a timeless rock song with hints of Blue Oyster Cult, The Beatles, and 13th Floor Elevators bubbling through the mix. “I get a kick out of putting hints of old songs in the things we’re writing. The flair in a song comes from the music that came before. The Stones taught me about Muddy Waters; The Animals turned me on to John Lee Hooker, so I like to carry that tradition on. If young people hear the reference in the song, I hope they’ll go and check out music from the past that we like.”

When the Groovies play The Chapel on Friday (April 17), they’ll be giving fans a rare treat by playing Shake Some Action in its entirety. “We’ve never played a whole album on stage before,” Jordan said. “This year, it’s almost 40 years to the day that we made the record and the fans have been asking for this for a long time. We’re going to do [the tracks] in order and get as close to the original sound of the record as possible. We’ll also be playing a lot of the old classics and some of the new songs we’re working on. We’re far from finished as artists. There was still a hell of a lot in us we wanted to create when we stopped playing and it’s amazing that we’ve gotten this opportunity to continue on with what we had going.” 
ANNE LAURENT
  • Anne Laurent

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