San Francisco's Flamin' Groovies are one of those bands you have probably heard of, but never quite sure if you have heard them. Their albums were spotty, showing signs of brilliance right next to signs of "well, that was an interesting". Then their was the whole issue of being hard to peg in time. Some of their 70's albums sound very bluesy. Others sound like 60's power pop. Others sound like early punk. And then you add on that they had two different singers through the 70's and the Flamin Groovies brand becomes very hard to identify.
I first started poking around the periphery of the Groovies' record catalogue in the 80's. Flip-Side's Western Front Commander, Jack Hayden, and I used to take in many shows of groups like the Long Ryders, the Morlocks, and the Seahags in and around San Francisco. The Flamin Groovies' lead guitarist, Cyril Jordan was a regular at those shows, and, as he did with the Long Ryders one night at the long closed Keystone in Berkeley, he would occasionally jump on stage to perform a song. That night at the Keystone Jordon performed with the Long Ryders doing songs like the 1976 classic, Shake Some Action. Cyril Jordon later came up to me, Jack Hayden and a gal that was with us named Emily Owen and introduced himself. He was digging on our spot-on 60's look. He was a very unassuming man and high in energy. All that fueled me to look deeper at the Groovies.
My favorite song of theirs was immediately, and has remained, a song off of their self recorded debut 10"EP, Sneakers. It was recorded at San Francisco's Coast Records, the same place the Beau Brummels had churned out hits with Sly Stone at the board. The song is Golden Clouds and it opens with a buzz saw of fuzz guitar and then gives way to a bouncing Hofner bass and a beautiful warbly Telecaster playing a little Byrds like riff. Jordon's fuzz guitar remains but now recedes deep into the background. That is, until it gets to the multiple blistering leads. Frontman, Roy Loney sings with a cool understatement and gets some nice harmony support. It's just a damn cool song that I can listen to over and over again. I hope you dig it as much as we do here at Flip-Side's Rocky Mountain offices.
Have a groovie week.