Groovies move and shake with the times
ANECDOTES? Cyril Jordan is bursting with them. Some rock ’n’ rollers of his vintage can’t remember their room number.
Jordan, guitar player and founding member of cult legends The Flamin’ Groovies seems to remember it all in photographic detail.
Like his teenage days in San Francisco in the ’60s when he formed The Flamin’ Groovies with Roy Loney, whose big sister had a massive record collection and so began his musical education on everything from Gene Vincent to newcomers like Eric Clapton – which required getting hold of a Gibson Les Paul guitar, just like Eric’s.
Pretty soon Jordan is at San Francisco’s famed Fillmore tuning up before his band opens for Cream. Clapton walks in and makes a beeline for the kid with the groovy guitar. He says, ‘‘I’ve got one like that.’’ Jordan: ‘‘I know, it’s the only way I can get your sound!’’ So begins the long, winding story of The Flamin’ Groovies. There was, for instance, the time in the ’70s when punk rock happened and a bunch of bands discovered the Groovies’ Shake Some Action album from 1976.
One of these fans was Dave Faulkner, later of The Hoodoo Gurus, which is why the Groovies – featuring Jordan, George Alexander and Chris Wilson from the band’s classic ’70s line-up – are touring Australia on the Gurus’ Dig It Up! tour.
Or in the ’90s when Jordan receives a letter from Paramount Pictures asking for the Shake Some Action song to be used in some film with a bunch of actors he has never heard of. With nothing to lose he agrees, and the movie, Clueless, turns out to be a mega hit and Jordan actually makes some money from his music for a change.
The Groovies’ story is filled with so many examples of rise, fall, starvation and rise again that you’d think it comes from a script someone made up about a rock ’n’ roll band. Like the time the Groovies made their way to the UK in ’72. Jordan tells the music press the band is there to record at Rockfield studios with producer Dave Edmunds, whose hit I Hear You Knocking, recorded at that studio, is like a touchstone for the Groovies. Word gets around and Edmunds is there that freezing, raining night when the Groovies arrive at the studio and record many of the songs that would be staples of their ’70s output in a 10-hour session. It was a good thing Jordan had blabbed to the rock papers about it because no one from the Groovies’ record company had bothered to ask Edmunds along.
Jordan knows he is sitting on some great songs yet by ’73 he spends a long, frustrating month in Los Angeles trying to tell record company executives they should know his band.
‘‘I get ‘no, no, no’, and I’m running out of companies, I even got knocked back by Motown.’’ About to return to San Francisco emptyhanded, Jordan is driving down Sunset Boulevard when he sees a massive billboard poster advertising a Capitol Records talent quest. And the photograph used to illustrate it is of Cyril Jordan, taken in the late ’60s. Of course, Jordan figures, what the heck.
‘‘The president of Capitol is Bob Buziak so I ring his office and say: ‘Is Bob there?’ like I knew him. These guys meet hundreds of people a month, he might have met me and forgotten.’’
Jordan plays it cool, saying he’s only in town for a few hours. A week later he’s in the door at Capitol and not long after that The Flamin’ Groovies are recording again. What happened out of that? ‘‘The whole sixth floor at Capitol got fired!’’
It would be another three hard years before the Groovies would get a new album out to the world, but when they did, people were listening. Like Dave Faulkner, and the fans all over Australia who are waiting to see this classic line-up of The Flamin’ Groovies shaking some action again.
Dig It Up!, with The Hoodoo Gurus playing their Mars Needs Guitars album, The Flamin’ Groovies and Blue Oyster Cult plays Twin Towns on tomorrow.
– NOEL MENGEL