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From award-winning filmmakers William Tyler Smith and Kurt Feldhun comes a feature length rock ‘n’ roll documentary about the Flamin’ Groovies, a colorful and highly influential rock band that had some big hits in the 70’s, but met with an untimely and difficult break up in the early 80’s.
Although the Flamin’ Groovies had all the makings for a successful career, life seemed to conspire against them and they never quite made it, although their songs, “Slow Death”, “Shake Some Action” and “Teenage Head”, have been heard on motion picture soundtracks such as Clueless and numerous compilations.
They have been called the “Godfathers of Punk Rock” and many bands such as The Dictators have done Groovies’ covers. Legend has it that the Groovies’ album, Teenage Head (1971), was Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s favorite album at the time, and Jagger is purported to have said that the Groovies “did the R&B thing” better than the Rolling Stones did. They are often referred to as “the biggest band you’ve never heard of.”
Despite being highly regarded and respected in the music industry, and having diehard fans all over the world, most people have never even heard their music
Now 30 years later, they are embarking on a comeback tour and this time they are determined to get the notoriety that seemed to have eluded them.
The Flamin’ Groovies story goes all the way back to 1965 when the band began in their hometown of San Francisco, California. Their first self-released 10-inch album called Sneakers sold well and caught the attention of Columbia Records, which signed them and released their first real album, Supersnazz, on the Epic label.
“Bill Graham hated our name. He thought we were gay or something. He said, ‘you gotta change your name.’ That’s like telling Van Gogh that color don’t work.”
The band had its first brush with success in 1971 with the song and album entitled Teenage Head, which is listed in the 2006 book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 1972, Chris Wilson joined the band as lead singer and they released the song “Slow Death”. The gritty sound of this recording was infectious and the band was invited to play television shows around the world.
The Groovies continued to tour hard and record an impressive number of albums during the 1970’s. In 1976, they released their biggest hit to date, “Shake Some Action”. The song hit 142 on Billboard’s top 200 and years later was featured in the film Clueless.
In July of 1976, the Ramones opened for the Groovies in London at the Roundhouse. This show is considered a galvanizing event for the UK punk scene. In 1981, after over a decade of hard work and dedication the band experienced a difficult and painful break up.
“We were all, you know, basically just too stoned to continue. We needed to take a break. Everybody had cocaine-itis.” Cyril Jordan “It seemed like life was thwarting us at every turn and after ten years of living out of each others suitcases we just couldn’t take it anymore and we cracked.” Chris Wilson
The band went their separate ways and rarely spoke over the next 30 years. George worked for the United States Postal Service for 25 years, Cyril often held 3 jobs at once, and Chris jumped from one construction job to the other. The clock was ticking, the years were passing when Cyril, Chris and George finally decided that it was time to let bygones be bygones and to continue exactly where they had left off that day in 1981 when they broke up.
“We were just so happy when we first saw each other. We just grabbed each other and gave each other a big hug and a kiss.” Chris Wilson. “I made a promise with Cyril…that we would see this out together to the end. Now that we’re back together again, it’s almost as if we get a second chance to fulfill that promise.” George Alexander
New drummer Victor Penalosa faithfully recreates the style heard on the classic recordings, while at the same time adding his own flavor. The foursome has gone into the studio to record brand new material as well as finish up some long lost recordings. They have begun playing shows again to enthusiastic fans both old and new. Fans have been delighted with what is being called “a dream set list,” including original songs the band has never performed before onstage.
“This time around, it happened mostly because of the fans.” Cyril Jordan “I thought one day we might get the kudos and attention that we all had craved. I hope that’s what’s happening now.” Chris Wilson I hadn’t played the bass for twenty-five years. I had no reason to play.” George Alexander
“Time and space don’t affect us for some reason when we’re together. It’s like the day after we broke up in 1980.” Cyril Jordan