Thursday, July 29, 2010

Song of the Week: "Golden Clouds", Flamin' Groovies

Listen - The Flamin' Groovies perform Golden Clouds.

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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Song of the Week: "Six Little Puppies and Twelve Shaggy Hounds", John Lee Hooker

Listen - John Lee Hooker performs Six Little Puppies And Twelve Shaggy Dogs.

Everybody loves John Lee Hooker. The dude had style for days.

I had the chance to see him live on three separate occasions and I can tell you the first performance of his I saw had a huge influence on this impressionable 15 year old flipper. Hooker was around '66 years of age on my virgin foray into the deep, dark growling blues in a live setting. I knew the manager of the venue, The Palms in Davis California, and was escorted back stage after the show. There I saw Hooker seated in the middle of the room on a rusty fold out chair sipping from a beer can. People filtered in with my group and one woman snapped a photo. Hooker snapped back: "You didn't ask to take my picture and I didn't say you could." The shutterbug pushed the camera back into her purse and retreated back into the the plank wood walls that gave away the venue's original purpose as a barn. The person who had escorted me and my older friends back to the room signaled to us to be quiet around the surly figure seated with legs wide apart in the middle of the room. The bassist for the band looked my friend over and said something along the line of "it's time to finish our business", and with that an envelope was passed. Most all the gawkers had left the room and Hooker looked up like a bulldog at the bassist who opened the envelope, looked in and gave Hooker an affirmative nod of the head. Hooker said something about getting a beer in this town and my friend suggested the only bar likely to still be open, The Paragon. Directions began to be given to the bassist and Hooker barked out again, "damn, we're never going to find it like that."

Suddenly I find myself and my friend climbing into the fourth row of Hooker's white Ford Econoline Van and heading off to the bar across the street from the record store at which I worked, Barney's Records. I followed the whole gang into the bar. I was way underage. Hooker and three of his bandmates took a table in the empty bar. Others in his band sat at the next table. My friends and I sat across the aisle in the narrow bar and I stared at John Lee Hooker with awe and fear as he drank from a bottle of Miller High Life.

Hooker had been on the road for about 52 years at this point. He had played many barns, music halls from Germany to California and Juke Joints along Highway 61. He had played festivals and he had played more than one house party. Today's song of the week is from one of those nights. It was recorded in 1949 in a house in Detroit, Michigan. The song is the sublimely titled Six Little Puppies and Twelve Shaggy Dogs. It takes a little bit of time to get going -- like Hooker himself -- but once he gets going it's a song with a great minor chord groove that is as hypnotic as the man himself.

I never did say a single word to Hooker. He never even acknowledged my presence. It was still damn cool.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Busker Days: Rasul, "Autumn Leaves"

Listen here to the saxophone of Rasul Grayson. He's 21 years old and hails from San Francisco. He also plays guitar in a local jazz trio, JNG. It was the first time I'd seen him when I made this recording of him playing alto saxophone at the Montgomery Station northwest entrance. Here's his take on the jazz standard Autumn Leaves. Enjoy!