It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Loney To Bring the House Down
The Flamin' Groovies - Groovies' Greatest Grooves (Sire, 1996)
The Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action
The Flamin' Groovies - Slow Death
The Flamin' Groovies - In the USA
The Flamin' Groovies - You Tore Me Down
This is the last time I'll say this hopefully but sorry for the lack of posting. My sister has come all the way from Australia (and subsequently clicked together her ruby heels and transported herself back to Oz), I've been working the Dolly Parton, old friends have resurfaced and I've caught the mindnight train to Bedford or Chavistan as I like to affectionately call it. I have big plans for next week's posts and hopefully I'll have a week's respite to put them to work.
But on to the Groovies. They started as rock n' roll troubadours cooking up their own fetid brand of boogie from affectionate Jerry Lee rip-offs to the rhythm and blues equivalent of Tobias Funke's cut-offs. However, post-Teenage Head, they turned into the vanguard of US's answer to the British Invasion, a makeshift Dad's Army that had none of the revolutionary fizz of its UK counterpart. I love the Groovies but they never fully disguised their love of their direct ancestry, from Mitch Ryder to Bob Dylan, and as such were the masters of the musical pastiche. Like a brilliant band that you find in a run down bar in Arkansas that you mistake for covers band only to find out later that they were playing their own creations. When you stumble out into the desert night with rye in your nostrils and sticky bathroom door handle fingers you find yourself uttering under your breath, "I'm sure I heard that last song before!" The Groovies have the touch of both the unique and the strangely familiar. This is proven by their greatest song, 'Slow Death'.
The intro will melt your insides. It starts with a hot n' heavy blues guitar riff before the drumsticks start dolefully clicking the beat. It's a bleating question cut down by a vicious razor slide answer. The rhythm attempts a fight back but once again is driven down by the thimble cutter creating a crackle and drag building toward a euphoric climax. You are in bliss - listening to a perfect mess. Your eyes manage to open a little and through the slits you see the clean green of the stereo's LCD display. The song's only been going on for 25 seconds and it's one of the best things you've heard in your life. It gets even better. "I called a doctor/Holy Holy" has to be my favourite couplet of all time. Why? I have absolutely no idea but it just wants you to say ten hail marys, give yourself a quick session of self-flagellation and become a rock n' roll nun. Habit and all.
Through this nomadic desert of rambling we finally reach the song's chorus. What in all nine levels of hell is a "rongey bag o' bones". Translations will be not be greatly appreciated as I prefer the wonderous nonsense of it all. I know what it means in principle but appreciate the fact that Roy Loney isn't in the mood for a lecture on the benefits of enunciation. It just sounds so godammn cool. The crescendo finally reaches its peak as the chorus ends as a whisper turns into Munch's Scream with the repeated rambling of "It's a slow..." until the answer for ten materialised as a fibrous yelp of "DEATH!" is bellowed so hard that I'm surprised that lead singer's diaphragms have gone into shutdown attemtping to recreate its sheer animalism. We now return to the handclap induicng shuffle and apologise for the temporary loss of picture. Don't mainline morphine - it'll do you wrong in the end.
Yes, I have included three other offerings by the boys from the place you should supposedly wear flowers in your hair (though no-one told them that). All are excellent, of course, ranging from directly answering pre-Ding A Ling Berry ("In the USA") to creating this unbelievable wedge between glam and Merseybeat ("Shake Some Action"- it shoulda been a serious contender).
Before I leave I must recommend that you folks buy the compilation Yesterday's Numbers from the Camden label and this album and you'll have the definitive Groovies Desert Island Discs. Accept no substitutes... unless they're these guys.
Buy - The Flamin' Groovies - Groovies' Greatest Grooves
Buy - The Flamin' Groovies - Yesterday's Numbers (it's under three quid for god's sake and 'Heading for the Texas Border' is worth at least a grand on it's own)