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Pioneering '60s SF rockers the Flamin' Groovies play Thee Stork Club

One of the most legendary garage-rock bands to emerge from San Francisco during the '60s, the Flamin' Groovies released a series of albums that made minimal impact on the charts, but exerted a major influence on many punk and power-pop acts that followed in subsequent decades.

The Flamin' Groovies
The Flamin' Groovies Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney The Flamin' Groovies

Anchored by the songwriting partnership of wildman lead singer Roy Loney and guitarist Cyril Jordan, the band embraced a mix of  '50s rock and roll (frequently covering songs by the likes of Little Richard and Eddie Cochran), feral garage-rock originals and an ear for punchy pop melodies that nodded to the British Invasion bands of the era. While they may have been out-of-step with the psychedelic sounds that dominated the era, the Groovies would endure to have just as much impact on rock as contemporaries the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.

Flamin' Groovies - Love Have Mercy by SingingVegetable on YouTube

The band first came together in 1965, but it wasn't until they self-released their Sneakers EP in 1968 that they score a record deal with Epic. The resulting debut Supersnazz had so little commercial impact that the label dropped the group within a year of its release, but the album has become a cult classic. Embodying the same kind of joyful celebration of primitive rock and R&B that would be echoed in both the New York Dolls and the Ramones, the Groovies delivered ferocious originals like "Love Have Mercy" that stood up alongside renditions of already classic tunes "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Something Else/Pistol Packin' Mama."

The Flamin' Groovies "Teenage Head" by 3 Chord Philosophy on YouTube

The band bounced back by signing to Kama Sutra Records and producing the equally spectacular Flamingo and Teenage Head (featuring the monstrous proto-punk title track), but growing tensions between Loney and Jordan would lead to the singer's departure. Taking complete control of the band, Jordan brought guitarist/singer Chris Wilson on board and relocated the Groovies to England to capitalize on their greater popularity in Europe.

Shake Some Action (the proper 1976 version) by thefirecircus on YouTube

Working with future Rockpile guitarist and solo star Dave Edmunds in the studio, the band eventually put together what many consider its finest post-Loney effort. Shake Some Action came out in 1976 on Sire Records and revealed a sound that ditched some of the '50s rock flavor for ringing Rickenbacker guitars and mod British Invasion pop. The follow-up album Flamin' Groovies Now furthered the band's embrace of a more power-pop sound.

Jordan would continued to lead the Groovies into the '80s and early '90s, but eventually disbanded the group and founded his new band, Magic Christian. However, in 2013, he reunited with Wilson and longtime bass player George Alexander after the Groovies were invited to play Australian festival dates. A series of sold-out shows both in San Francisco and abroad would follow.

In 2015, the Groovies drew packed houses performing their seminal Shake Some Action album in its entirety at a number of local shows including one at the Chapel in San Francisco. The band would return to the venue the following year to kick off a tour marking the band's 50th anniversary. The Groovies also surprised fans when they released a new 7-inch single for Burger Records featuring the song "Crazy Macy" that came out on Record Store Day.

Flamin' Groovies - "Yes I Am" [Madrid 2016] by jorjunkel on YouTube

In the summer of 2017, it was announced that the Groovies line-up featuring Jordan and Wilson had completed the band's first new album in almost four decades. Entitled Fantastic Plastic, the effort featuring new original songs and covers of tunes by the Beau Brummels and NRBQ was released glowing reviews in the fall.

While the band was regularly joined onstage by Loney to play their classic early songs in recent years, in 2019 the Groovies embarked on a tour dedicated to performing the watershed Teenage Head album in its entirety plus an assortment of vintage hits. The band played several Bay Area shows and was headed to Europe for a full tour when Loney was sadly sidelined by a fall at the San Francisco International Airport just as the band was preparing to depart for the string of summer dates. Sadly, Loney passed away from organ failure at the CPMC Davies Campus in San Francisco in December of 2019. 

Overcoming that tragedy, the band has remained active, touring regularly and reissuing archival recordings including the Cleopatra Records CD Rockin' the Roundhouse featuring London performances from 1976 and 1978. Last year, the band released a new studio recording of "Fissure of Rolando," a cover of a latter-era tune by garage-rock greats the Cramps.

Fissure Of Rolando by Flamin' Groovies - Topic on YouTube

The group also made a new recording of "She Said Yeah" for a Rolling Stones tribute album on Cleopatra that features drummer Tony Sales singing lead. Jordan's current five-piece line-up of the Groovies with veteran bassist Atom Ellis (a member of Psychefunkapus and Dieselhed in addition to touring with the late Link Wray, Todd Rundgren, the New Cars and the Tubes) and Sales -- whose father played bass for Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop and David Bowie in the band Tin Machine -- plays Thee Stork in Oakland Saturday night. Opening the show is the Minks, the Bay Area's only all-female, all-Kinks tribute act playing the classic hits of Ray and Dave Davies. DJ Fever B plays records before and between bands. 

The Flamin' Groovies with The Minks
Saturday, March 23, 7 p.m. $25-$30
Thee Stork Club

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