Saturday, January 21, 2006

What would happen if... listened to Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" while sitting at this grave?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Favorite Song of the Moment: Shake Some Action!

The Flamin Groovies are a group that I discovered a few years back. They got their start in the mid-sixties and hailed from San Francisco. They really didn't fit in with the times then, eschewing the hippy movement for a real rock'n'roll revolution. Roy Loney, their original lead singer, was a maniac. If you check out their Fillmore performance on the live album "The Flamin Groovies in Person!!!!", especially the song "Slow Death", then you'll know what I mean.

Roy Loney left the group in 1970 and lead guitarist Cyril Jordan was left with the task of getting the band on their feet again. The first thing they did was add an apostrophe to "Flamin", then the group moved to England. The group teamed up with rocker/producer Dave Edmunds in the early seventies and started to record. This material didn't get released. It took years before they got out a record. This first record of the new Flamin' Groovies was the Dave Edmund produced "Shake Some Action". This was in 1976 during the Brit punk heyday. As usual, they were out of place with the times.

Back in the Roy Loney era, they played around with traditional 50's rock'n'roll and even country, adding what could only be called an "alternative" twist to it. Of course, I started out with their classic "Teenage Head" album, and this is where this "Loney" era sound is best represented. The new Groovies record "Shake Some Action" features some of that kind of sound, too. But without Loney there as resident psychopath, those tracks don't have that same energy. The parts of "Shake Some Action" that really stand out are their sixties "Anglo" revival attempts. This stood in direct contrast to the Punk movement, because Punk was basically throwing down against all the dinosaurs and establishing the new rule. I love Punk, but I love my Beatles, Stones, The Who, and especially the Kinks, even better. The Groovies did their own take on these groups (and even late sixties BeeGees) and came out with songs that don't come across as either pastiche nor mere tribute, but are still fresh, original statements on the genre. This new material didn't take off right away, but the Groovies eventually got back some respect in Europe.

My favorite song, period, right now is the title track from this album "Shake some action". This is the only track that I'll elaborate on. This song starts off with a lonely guitar riff sequence from Cyril Jordan. Then the drums crash in along with a two-note bass thud, then the song takes off galloping into a fast-paced emotional ride of lust, longing, and rowdy passion. From the chorus: "Shake some action is what I need to let me bust out at full speed. This is surely what you need to make it alright." Simple lyrics, but their phrasing and execution of them makes you feel something more complex is going on, and sung with a tone best described as earnest desparation. The harmonies are excellent on this song, and only get better throughout the whole album. Sometimes on this album, you swear that you're hearing a lost Beatle song, but like I said, they go beyond that sort of thing.

One caveat for those who might like "Beatlish" tunes is the more American rock'n'roll, Chuck Berry type numbers. Sometimes I'm in the mood for that kind of thing, but most times I just select the next track. One thing of note: I, unfortunately, bought the old edition CD of this album. If you think that Shake Some Action is up your alley, then do yourself a favor and get the newly remastered version of this album. It's the one (pictured above) without the yellow text and black border. Also, the Flamin' Groovies have since had many different incarnations and have released a lot of sub-par material and look out for bootlegs as well. So, find out what's good before you buy their stuff. As for Shake Some action, the song alone has been playing over and over in my players for the past two months. The rest of the album is a bonus.