Sunday, March 31, 2013

Flamin' Groovies -- "Shake Some Action" (1976) (part 1 of 3)


It's taken me so long
To get where I belong
Please don't send me back that way
For I will make you pay

Today is a very special day for 2 or 3 lines.  "Shake Some Action" is the 500th song that has been featured on my wildly popular little blog.

You best believe I think "Shake Some Action" is a very special song.  In fact, I thought about saving it to be the 1000th song featured on 2 or 3 lines, but I don't want to presume too much -- after all, I'm not gettin' any younger.  (And neither are you, I might add.)

"Shake Some Action" is too big a deal for just one 2 or 3 lines -- it deserves a two-parter.  Actually, it deserves a THREE-parter -- which is unprecedented in the history of 2 or 3 lines.

And we've pulled out all the stops for parts two and three.  Part two will feature an appreciation of "Shake Some Action" by Joe Nolte of the Last, whose "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" was the very first song featured on 2 or 3 lines way back in 2009.  Click here to read that post and listen to that remarkable song.


As good as part two is, I've saved the best for last.

Part three will feature a conversation with Chris Wilson, who became the lead singer of the Flamin' Groovies in 1972 and co-wrote the original songs on the group's greatest album, Shake Some Action (1976), including the title track.  (With all due respect to the many other fine musicians I've interviewed for 2 or 3 lines, Chris Wilson is a REALLY BIG F*CKIN' DEAL -- I'm thrilled he agreed to talk to me about the Groovies.)

How special is "Shake Some Action"?  Here's a 2001 customer review from Amazon:

I have heard the song "Shake Some Action" some 5,000 times since 1977, and from the opening notes, and from the moment those first, dark, pulsing notes ring out, the same thing happens: the world stands still, reality drops away, and I am enveloped in a total shivering, dark, throbbing universe of thrill, memory and obsession.  Not only is this song one of the greatest pop recordings ever, it is one of the most striking works of art ever created.  Absolute perfection.  Nothing else on the album is quite as good as the song "Shake Some Action" (whose first five seconds alone are towering, monumental), but very little in all of human creative endeavor quite matches it.

I couldn't have said it better myself.   (I probably wouldn't have written that "very little in all of human creative endeavor" matches this song for fear of sounding a little over-the-top, but that's pretty much exactly how I feel about this song.)

The Flamin' Groovies
You may have never heard of the Flamin' Groovies.  They put out several major-label albums between 1969 and 1979, but none of those albums were big sellers, and they never had a big hit single. 

And you may have never heard "Shake Some Action."  If you haven't, we need to cure that toot sweet.

Here's "Shake Some Action."  Take a listen to it (or two or three) and then we'll talk some more.



I don't know what makes "Shake Some Action" such a great song.  It's got a great little opening hook, and a great chorus.  But I think the key to the song's greatness is that it immediately gets into a perfect rhythmic groove that it never loses.  It's one-third Stones, one-third Creedence Clearwater Revival, and one-third something that's even better than either of them.

Pitchfork's Joe Tangari wrote that "Shake Some Action" is "a minor masterpiece of jangling, harmony-soaked guitar pop . . . that piles wave upon wave of hooks on a solid backbeat, all wrapped up in big, wet reverb.  It's a classic in every way except one: Almost nobody's heard it." 

Comparing "Shake Some Action" to another song on the Shake Some Action album, Rollingstone reviewer Gaylord Fields had this to say: "[T]he title song is a different, nastier animal with a riff so tough, propulsive and universal it's a wonder that it's not currently being used to hawk bluejeans or vacation cruises."  (One of the songs the Flamin' Groovies covered on that album was the Stones' "She Said Yeah," which recently was used to hawk Bleu de Chanel men's fragrance.) 

The Flamin' Groovies were always either ahead of their time, or behind it, or both.  That may explain why they were not a big commercial success.  Here's more from Pitchfork's Tangari:

The Flamin' Groovies were a band out of time.  Formed in 1965, they played lean, hard-driving boogie and had a sharp-cut, stylish image in a San Francisco scene that was more about free love, secondhand clothes, and 28-minute modal jams.  [NOTE: In other words, they weren't the Grateful Dead -- thank goodness.]  


The Groovies top a Halloween
bill at the Fillmore
That raucous, explosive version of the band lasted until 1972, when original vocalist Roy Loney left and guitarist Cyril Jordan took the reins, moving them to Britain.  There, they hooked up with roots rocker Dave Edmunds, who produced a session for them that pointed toward a distinctly different path, one deeply indebted to the British Invasion sounds that everyone else had moved on from.

Amongst their Stones-influenced cuts lay two of the most exquisite power-pop tracks of the 70s, "You Tore Me Down" and "Shake Some Action", which gave its title to the album the band made in 1976 after a lengthy recording hiatus.  Shake Some Action was in every sense both a comeback and a re-invention, and it's been rightly championed by collectors and critics extolling its effortless pop perfection.  If it had been released in 1966, it could have been a smash and a popular landmark, but a decade later, [it] sank like a stone in the marketplace. 
     
Since you didn't buy the LP when it was originally released in 1976, and you didn't buy the CD release in 2005, you have 2 or 3 lines to thank for the fact that you didn't go to your grave having never heard "Shake Some Action."

If all goes well, 2 or 3 lines will get to song #1000 in a little more than 34 months.  That means I have until early February, 2016, to come up with a song at least as special as "Shake Some Action."  

I'd better get busy.

Once again, here's "Shake Some Action."  Don't forget to come back in two days for Joe Nolte's appreciation of the song, followed by our exclusive interview with Chris Wilson, the lead singer and co-writer of "Shake Some Action":



Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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