By Tiina Liimu
VANCOUVER — Check out the bin of any self-respecting record hoarder, especially those with a penchant for garage, psych or punk, and the odds are high that your gonna find one or more well-worn Flamin’ Groovies albums and definitely a project or two from one of their members.
To define the sound of Flamin’ Groovies in the ‘60s and ‘70s might get a little complicated because what eventually set these eras apart and the Groovies from their contemporaries was their mingling of influences that had come to shape their sound. Roy Loney’s tenure was definitely a nod the ‘50s bringing Supersnazz, Flamingo and Teenage Head to your turntable. Yet, another influence was making its way into their musical consciousness. Chris Wilson, the guitarist-vocalist for the second era of the Flamin’ Groovies sheds some light on the evolution of the band.
By the time the ‘60s turned a corner, Flamin’ Groovies found themselves on the road with headliners Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks and a third band. At that time Wilson was still with Mike Wilhelm’s harder edged project known as Loose Gravel, which rounded out the three. It was that Midwest tour where a musical kinship with Groovies guitarist Cyril Jordon, had been sown. “The night before had I seen Son House, after that show I met the Flamin’ Groovies because we had all gone to see him and Cyril and I just got on really well,” explains Wilson.
Between tour schedules and on weekends Wilson and Jordon would meet, share and play records. “One of the biggest being Dave Edmunds’ album Rockpile which came out late ‘69-’70 but we didn’t get to hear it till ’71. Cyril and I just went bonkers over it, thinking the production was just so fabulous,” recalls Wilson,” After hearing the track “I’m Comin’ Home,” I was just transported, as was Cyril. We were just determined that we must meet this guy…”
It wasn’t long after that when Roy Loney left the band and Wilson was ready to head back to New England, since there wasn’t enough work for Loose Gravel. Apparently, Fillmore promoter Bill Graham had blackballed them (LG) due to differences with Mike Wilhelm. With the Groovies’ now looking for a new guitarist-vocalist, Wilson was asked if he wanted to join. “Hell yes,” was his response.
By that time, Chris Wilson had picked up his own copy of Edmunds’ Rockpile. “There is a picture of him at the back with a little Yorkshire Terrier in the garden of this house in Monmouth… which was made with stones from Goodrich castle. I just sat there going, ‘damn I wanna be there’ and I’ll be damned but six months later I was standing right there,” exclaims Wilson.
Shopping their material to reps around L.A., proved unfruitful for Flamin’ Groovies. However, the head of A&R for United Artists in the U.K. took notice and had them set up house overseas. “So we managed to record some stuff and we did our first gigs in France and Germany and became legends in our own lunchtime,” he chuckled. That studio was the Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales and and Dave Edmunds was producing. Incidentally, a facility with 1970s legacy of recording alumni, which includes Motorhead, Hawkwind and Black Sabbath was undoubtedly a formative experience. By 1976 they returned again to work with Edmunds producing Shake Some Action, and it was that namesake track that was to become a power-pop standard.
Fast-forward through thirty years with Wilson overseas working with the Barracudas, solo projects and raising a family, Jordon active with his art and music, notably Magic Christian and George Alexander living his life. Then around 2011- ‘12 in London, Wilson had a craving to put together material, which resulted in a release titled It’s Flamin’ Groovy bringing in former members including Mike Wilhelm and original vocalist Roy Loney. A geographical feat accomplished only by means of digital technology.
That project was the spark. “Oh hell, let’s put the band back together,” says Wilson. That meant relocating to the U.S. and soon enough; they found themselves on tour in Japan, incidentally with documentary filmmakers William Tyler Smith and Kurt Feldhun in tow. With the line up of Chris Wilson, Cyril Jordon, George Alexander and recruiting Magic Christian drummer Victor Penalosa they are recording again, with six tracks finished. One of them is “End of the World” which has already streamed at Rolling Stone.
Flamin’ Groovies, were always the cool kids, a little dangerous and you knew it. What kind of music do they play? “There is no the label,” says Wilson, “they are a rock ‘n’ roll band and remained and haven’t changed.” With upcoming dates booked across the U.S and Europe be sure to shake some action.
Flamin’ Groovies perform at Rickshaw Theatre on March 14.BC, British Columbia, Flamin' Groovies, Rickshaw Theatre