Shake Some Action by The Flamin’ Groovies was one of the best rock albums of the 1970s. Produced by Dave Edmunds, I remember totally freaking out to this San Francisco band’s Brit-Rock, loving “You Tore Me Down” and Groovie covers of “Let The Boy Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Lovin’ Spoonful), “St. Louis Blues (WC Handy wrote that one in 1914), “Don’t You Lie To Me” (Chuck Berry), “She Said Yeah” (by Larry Williams but this one bests versions by the Stones, Animals and McCartney) and “Misery” (Beatles). I was 25, newly married, and we would dance around the kitchen to it almost every day.
Although the album would secure a spot in my lifetime rotation, the band quickly broke up. Some say they were too high to continue. Others say the ‘80s influx of synthesized sound presaged their garage-rock glory into extinction. They went down silently but not before influencing a generation of punk bands and having a whole lot of celebrity fans like Rock Hudson, Keith Richards, Val Kilmer and Eartha Kitt.
They are, indeed, the greatest band you never heard of.
Filmmakers Kurt Feldhun and William Tyler Smith are making a documentary about the band’s reunion 30 years after they broke up. Let us not forget that on that fateful tour when The Ramones toured England to kickstart punk in 1976, they were opening for The Flamin’ Groovies.
Back when I used to watch music on TV, the one show I never missed was Soundstage. It was a PBS series that did not have go-go girls or trippy lights, just a full set by some of the greatest ever. For 13 seasons between 1974 and 1985, I sat rapt in front of my small screen grooving to full hours from Randy Newman, Tom Waits, John Prine and Andy Kaufman for the first time, all who have become personal heroes. By the time it returned from 2003 to 2010, a new generation was turned on to dozens of great artists including Robert Plant, Sonic Youth, John Fogerty and Wilco.
The very first Soundstage has just been released by Legacy on Blu-ray and DVD: Blues Summit In Chicago is an hour of tribute to Muddy Waters, who was not only alive to receive his honors but who jumped up and jammed with younger artists who have all gone on to become legends. From Willie Dixon, Buddy Miles, Johnny Winter and Koko Taylor to Junior Wells, Big Eyes Smith, Fuzz Jones, Pinetop Perkins and Michael Bloomfield, they’re all gloriously alive and singing the blues like nobody’s business. Still, when Dr. John tickles the ivories on “Sugar Sweet,” I just melted. Mac will outlive us all.
Speaking of John Prine, University of Texas Press in Austin has published the first-ever serious biography of one of America’s greatest living songwriters (up there with Dylan, Haggard, Simon, Kristofferson, Springsteen, Newman and Nelson). Songs like as stirring as “Sam Stone,” “Hello In There,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “All The Best” and a few dozen more that would seer the inside of your brain forever if you’d only listen are testament to his genius. John Prine In Spite Of Himself by Eddie Huffman is a slim but important volume.
Besides being a beautiful and autobiographical composition, “Sally Vagabond” is a video (https://youtu.be/WzHs3X3XoMs) capturing a life in music. The life is Ramona Jan’s, one half of the acoustic duo janturan. The other half of the duo is Andre Turan, her husband. She was a sound engineer until Brian Eno encouraged her to become an artist. To that end, she performed on Eno’s Ambient Music and “Big Boy” by Sparks. In the ‘80s, she co-founded The Comateens as well as Dizzy & The Romilars and Venus Fly Trap. “Sally Vagabond” is off januran’s debut CD Whoopah.