Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Flamin' Groovies -- "Shake Some Action" (1976) (part 2 of 3)

If you don't dig what I say
Then I will go away
And I won't come back this way again -- no!
'Cause I don't need a friend

In the very first 2 or 3 lines, I told a story about a song that I loved for over 25 years without knowing it's name or who recorded it.  

Fortunately for me, they invented the Internet . . . and search engines.  One day, I typed in a very distinctive phrase from the lyrics of my mystery song and got exactly one hit -- which was the website for a Los Angeles band called The Last.  The song I had been obsessed with for the better part of my adult life was "She Don't Know Why I'm Here."

Click here to read that post.  More importantly, listen to the song:

Several years after solving the mystery of "She Don't Know Why I'm Here," I e-mailed Joe Nolte -- the lead singer and guitarist for The Last.  Joe responded, and we've corresponded semi-regularly over the last couple of years.  

When I chose "Shake Some Action" to be the 500th song featured on 2 or 3 lines, I thought it would be only fitting to offer Joe the chance to contribute a line or two to the post.  The two songs were released only a couple of years apart, and I had a feeling that Joe would turn out to be a fan of the Flamin' Groovies, too.

Joe Nolte's response exceeded my wildest expectations.  I quickly decided to turn what had been conceived as a two-part post on "Shake Some Action" into a three-parter -- Joe's contribution deserved no less.  (Click here to read part one.)

Enough of my yakking.  Joe, take it away: 

If one was alive and paying attention in the early summer of  1976, one would have been as aware of the Flamin' Groovies as of the Ramones.  Sire Records had signed both bands, and had themselves been absorbed by Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, which meant that both bands were going to be given a larger push than one might otherwise have expected.

The Ramones' eponymous debut album
Now if one was not only alive and paying attention but was also starved for any inkling of news from New York City's nascent punk movement, one would most eagerly have been awaiting the June releases from these two bands.  

As recently as May of 1976, there was precious little to go on if one were at all curious as to what the bands involved with this new "punk rock" scene actually sounded like -- the Patti Smith album didn't give much of a clue, and Blondie, Television and the Talking Heads had yet to record.  I spent my time playing old Stooges, Dolls and Velvet Underground records -- the only recent releases of note were the brilliant first Modern Lovers album and the Dictators' "Go Girl Crazy."

[NOTE: Click here to read what 2 or 3 lines had to say about a song from that album.]

The Groovies and Ramones were being hailed as the West and East Coast's champions of the coming rock 'n' roll revolution, and I for one was counting the minutes.

I believe the impact of the Ramones album is well-known enough that I can dispense with discussing it at this time, though it is worth mentioning that not since the Stooges would so many critics heap so much abuse upon a band that they would in time come to praise, hoping that no one remembered their earlier slings and arrows.  The same thing would happen a couple of years later with Black Flag.

At any rate, the Ramones are now legends, and have statues.

But no one remembers the Flamin' Groovies, which is a shame.  "Shake Some Action" was a delightful song.  I had always harbored a special love for Beatle-esque melodies, and here was a band (from California, yet!) doing it, and doing it on purpose, and without a trace of parody.

It was the first time I had heard anyone do such a thing in a long time.

I must therefore say that the song "Shake Some Action," along with the rest of the album, confirmed a perhaps slightly off-the-wall theory on my part that a key component of the new punk rock was going to be a heavy dose of sixties influence.  

Joe Nolte of The Last
I would consequently spent the next ten months or so -- from mid-1976 to the spring of 1977 -- experimenting with various mid-sixties genres, beginning with my Beach Boys homage "Every Summer Day" and culminating in the Castaways-go-simultaneously-progressive-and-psychedelic pastiche known as "She Don't Know Why I'm Here."  As my band ended up putting these and other of my experiments on our first album, we ended up somewhat inaccurately typecast as a band a bit more obsessed with the past than was perhaps strictly accurate.

But I digress.

The Ramones and Flamin' Groovies came out west to Hollywood in August of 1976, and it was a joy and revelation, especially when one of the Groovies actually dropped a guitar pick while playing!   You must realize that what passed for "rock" by the mid-seventies had gotten so impossibly slick that such a trivial-seeming act as dropping one's guitar pick was practically revolutionary.

At any rate, I was sold -- though the many friends I had dragged with me to the show stopped talking to me.  I moved to Hermosa Beach, renamed my proto-punk band "The Last," and plunged into the maelstrom of whatever destiny awaited.

The Last's L.A. Explosion album
And then the Groovies disappeared, and the Ramones did not.

And then the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." came out and changed everything.

I can't end without mentioning that my favorite song on the Shake Some Action album was "I'll Cry Alone," which could have been a masterpiece were it not fatally marred by a misguided and endless repetition of its weakest parts at the expense of the astonishingly beautiful melody of the first two verses, which was given short shrift.  

The Ramones would repeat this mistake in the otherwise wonderful "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" single, and U2 would do something similar in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- a song that features an extraordinarily powerful melodic moment when they sing "How long -- how long must we sing this song?" -- an overwhelmingly Celtic anthemic moment that they never ever sing again!

And now that I have clearly misread "2 or 3 Lines" as "2 or 3 Pages," I will say goodnight.

Joe, I wouldn't have minded two or three hundred pages of this stuff!  

I'm not a man who is given to false modesty . . . or true modesty, as far as that goes.  But I freely admit that the world will little note nor long remember  what I say here.  My words seem insignificant compared to the words of a musician like Joe Nolte who was right there in the middle of it all -- writing and recording wonderful original songs, sharing the stage with other great bands,  and generally living la vida rock-and-rolla.

Don't worry, faithful readers.  I'm going to pester Joe for some more contributions to 2 or 3 lines.  (It was very nice of Joe to respond to my request for a contribution to my "Shake Some Action" tribute -- and as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.)

In the meantime, here's a link to The Last's website, which has everything you ever wanted to know about the group.

Don't forget to check out 2 or 3 lines on Friday, when the third part of our three-part poost on "Shake Some Action" will appear.  That post will feature an interview with Chris Wilson, the Flamin' Groovies lead singer who co-wrote "Shake Some Action."

Once again, here's "Shake Some Action":

Click here if you'd like to buy the Shake Some Album from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these posts. The Flamin Groovies may have left the Larger music scene in 76 or77, but they were a big part of San Francisco's underground punk scene for several years longer.