The Flamin’ Groovies are best remembered today for their 1976 single “Shake Some Action,” a British Invasion-influenced power pop favorite. But less well known is the first iteration of the band which recorded three albums between 1969-1971, arguably employing a larger palette of influences than on their later work, including rockabilly, blues, R&B, country, and even ragtime. Cherry Red’s Grapefruit imprint has recently released the 3-CD set Gonna Rock Tonite! The Complete Recordings 1969-71, comprising expanded versions of the group’s original Epic and Kama Sutra output.
Guitarist/vocalist/bandleader Roy Loney, guitarist/vocalist Cyril Jordan, guitarist/vocalist Tim Lynch, bassist/vocalist George Alexander, and drummer/percussionist Danny Mihm formed The Flamin’ Groovies in 1967 San Francisco out of the ashes of local band The Chosen Few. The Chosen Few had performed the usual array of covers – The Kinks, The Who, The Rolling Stones – which informed their early blues-influenced rock-and-roll sound as the Groovies. A self-pressed EP attracted the attention of Epic Records, who assigned the band to producer Stephen Goldman (soon to work with Gary Puckett at Epic parent Columbia before moving over to A&M and then ABC Records).
Big-budget Hollywood sessions yielded the band’s first album, Supersnazz, blending nostalgic covers of early rock and roll (“The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” “Somethin’ Else”) with original songs penned by Loney and Jordan. The choice of “Rockin’ Pneumonia” as leadoff single was the first sign of the splintering that would eventually split the band. Cyril Jordan reveals in the liner notes that he felt Loney and Lynch weren’t as committed to rock as he and Alexander, preferring Lovin’ Spoonful-style folk and oldies. (Loney counters: “Cyril’s music library pretty much started with The Beatles.”) Neither faction was much interested in jamming, which set them apart from their San Francisco brethren.
Despite the band touring behind it and “Rocking Pneumonia” attracting some local airplay, Supersnazz didn’t set the charts on fire, and Epic dropped the Groovies. Happily, Neil Bogart’s Kama Sutra label picked the band up, leading to 1970’s Flamingo. Richard Robinson (who had produced Hackamore Brick’s future cult favorite One Kiss Leads to Another) was producer, and Commander Cody guested on piano. With a smaller budget and a desire to better replicate their onstage sound, Flamingo was a tougher, edgier LP than its predecessor, with all original songs save a cover of Little Richard’s “Keep A-Knockin’.” The confident, Stones-esque material could have been the work of an entirely different band, but the members still weren’t entirely happy with its murkier, raunchier sound. Despite their misgivings, influential critics like Lenny Kaye found much to like in the LP. Sales weren’t strong, but Kama Sutra gave them the go-ahead for 1971’s Teenage Head, the final album on this set.
Again produced by Robinson and titled after an off-color phrase that was an unfortunate favorite of Sunset Strip scenester Kim Fowley, Teenage Head had three covers (including “Have You Seen My Baby” penned by Randy Newman) plus another clutch of Stones-esque originals, with occasional, Beatles-style detours like “Whisky Woman” and oldies pastiches like “Evil Hearted Ada.” No less a personage than Mick Jagger reportedly noticed the debt Teenage Head owed Beggars Banquet, though Jagger was fulsome in his praise for the Groovies’ accomplishment. Upon its March 1971 release, the album was once again well-received, but creative and personal tensions derailed the band. Tim Lynch was out of the group due to drug and legal difficulties, and Loney and Jordan – the two driving forces – were at odds with one another. Loney would eventually cede control of the Flamin’ Groovies to Cyril Jordan, who with Alexander and a new line-up would redefine the group’s sound five years later with Shake Some Action.
Grapefruit’s set, housed in a clamshell case with each disc in an individual sleeve, has seventeen bonus tracks spread across the albums, comprising outtakes, single versions, and alternates. All of these have been previously issued on various reissues of the albums in the past. A copiously illustrated 24-page booklet features David Wells’ detailed essay drawing on past interviews with Loney and Jordan. Oli Hemingway has remastered.
Gonna Rock Tonite! is one-stop shopping for The Flamin’ Groovies Mk. I’s major-label output. This collection of rock-and-roll in its many faces is available now at the links below!
CD 1: Supersnazz (Epic BN 26487, 1969)
- Love Have Mercy
- The Girl Can’t Help It
- Laurie Did It
- A Part from That
- Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
- The First One’s Free
- Pagan Rachel
- Somethin’ Else/Pistol Packin’ Mama
- Bam Balam
- Around the Corner
- Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu (Single Version)
- The First One’s Free (Single Version)
- Somethin’ Else (Single Version)
- Laurie Did It (Single Version)
CD 2: Flamingo (Kama Sutra KSBS 2021, 1970)
- Gonna Rock Tonite
- Comin’ After You
- Headin’ for the Texas Border
- Sweet Roll Me on Down
- Keep A-Knockin’
- Second Cousin
- Childhood’s End
- She’s Falling Apart
- Road House
Bonus Tracks: Recorded Live in Studio A, January 13, 1971
- Shakin’ All Over
- That’ll Be the Day
- Louie, Louie
- My Girl Josephine
- Around and Around
- Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
- Going Out (Version 1)
CD 3: Teenage Head (Kama Sutra KSBS 2031, 1971)
- High Flyin’ Baby
- City Lights
- Have You Seen My Baby?
- Yesterday’s Numbers
- Teenage Head
- Evil Hearted Ada
- Doctor Boogie
- Whisky Woman
- Scratch My Back
- Somethin’ Else
- Walking the Dog
- Going Out (Version 2)