Today’s Cool album of the Day (#870 in the Series) is The Flamin Groovies, Teenage Head
If the Whigs, The Black Keys, Parquet Courts, Black Angels, or any of the rest of the present day bands that are making that electric, salty, psychedelic, garage rock music today were a crime scene, the DNA would lead all the way back to the 1965 San Francisco Rock scene, and The Flamin Groovies would be found guilty as charged.
While their influence might not quite be considered beatlesque, and the pairing of guitarist Cyril Jordan and singer Roy A. Loney might not exactly be Lennon and McCartney, their impact on the flowers in your hair Grateful Dead, and the trip happy Jefferson Airplane music scene of the day should not be understated.
The Groovies, along with bands like Blue Cheer and the MC5, put a harder, more manic edge on the flower power vibe, and with their heavier chords, sometimes manic rhythms, and energetic Wildman vocal style, they brought the music back to the people, and helped to put the” rock” back in rock and roll. Mostly a cult experience, in 1968 they self-released the ep Sneakers. With mediocre at best sales, the record was at least enough to give the band enough exposure to sign a major record deal with Epic records. This modicum of success was quickly dashed when Supersnazz, their one and done effort recorded for Epic, was met with general fan apathy and an early ticket to the cut-out bin in the record stores. This epic lack of interest ultimately led to a quick hook, and left the band looking for a new label, and after quickly being picked up on the rebound by Karma Sutra records, in short order they released Flamingo, followed by their own personal Sticky Fingers, the ultra-groovy, provocatively named Teenage Head.
Teenage Head, featuring the Jim Dandy dynamic front man and the scorchingly cool three chords and a cloud of dust lead guitar player, along with the eclectic selection of cover tunes and fan friendly anthemic original tunes, could have been the third album in a Rolling Stones soul-blues trilogy right alongside England’s Newest Hitmakers, and 12X5.The vibe is that similar.
The song pacing and sequencing on the record adds to the inspiring, messy (in a good way) quality with the opening rocker the Groovies penned “High Flyin’ Baby,” sounding like somewhat of a cross pollination of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iggy Pop, and Dr. Hook, gives you your 3:31 “You Had me at Hello” introduction to the Flamin’ Groovies.
The cover tunes presented here are all first rate. “Walkin’ the Dog” is a Jagger worthy effort complete with requisite snarl, “Carol” is a slightly faster, messier version of the original “That’ll Be the Day” channels both Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, and “Louie Louie” is by far the best version ever laid down on vinyl, and should have been the original. The personal favorite cover song is “Scratch My Back,” a Slim Harpo song where the band sets aside the Glimmer Twins influence and scorches the song Flamin Groovies style. This is an epic extended romp.
Just at the point you find yourself comparing the band to fellow Garage bands of the day like The Seeds, The Electric Prunes, or even the Standells, the Jordan-Loney number “Yesterday’s Numbers” will put a sledge hammer to the thought of any valid comparison. Switching from early era stones to more of an Aftermath era vibe on this song that mixes soul, blues, and rock, with a little bit of psychedelic rock 13th Floor Elevators interlude in the middle, this song is historically significant in that it is the last song that “The Groovie Twins” wrote together, and marked the end of a genius musical collaboration, and the beginning of the “what could have been” era for the band.
The title track, “Teenage Head” is a brilliant audience participation number that makes up in energy what it lacks in profound not quite Bob Dylan worthy lyrical content.
Sometimes simple is better, and here this is definitely the case.
Teenage Head was the Swan song for the golden era of The Flamin Groovies, in the United States anyway. Months after this release, Roy Loney left the band and now under the tutelage of Cyril Jordan, an apostrophe was added to the first name and they moved to England. Emerging slightly from their cult status, the now Flamin’ Groovies became much more well-known on the more musically knowledgeable side of the pond and hooked up with Dave Edmunds who produced, Shake Some Action, their best album since Teenage Head.
At the end of the day, the Flamin’ Groovies have gone the way of many bands. They started off hot, created some fantastic music, but lost the original mojo to success and creative differences. The individual parts are never as good as the whole, and that was certainly the case with this band. If they had stayed together, would Loney and Jordan have been as big as Jagger and Richard? The ultimate answer is probably not.
But they would have been a hell of an opening act. Speaking of… The band has recently just reformed and has been playing quite often. In fact, just shortly ago they shared the stage with Bruce Springsteen, The Black Crowes, Alabama Shakes and more. You can find where they’re playing via the links below. Check ’em out!
– Bernie Sparrow San Francisco, California USA
All songs written by Cyril Jordan and Roy A. Loney except where noted.
- “Teenage Head”
- “32-20” (Robert Johnson, new lyrics by Roy A. Loney)
- “Evil Hearted Ada” (Loney)
- “Doctor Boogie”
- “Whiskey Woman”
- Cyril Jordan – guitar, vocals
- Roy Loney – guitar, vocals
- Tim Lynch – guitar
- George Alexander – bass guitar
- Danny Mihm – drums
- Jim Dickinson – piano
Here it is in its entirety