‘HEY KIDS! DO YA LIKE THE FLAMINâ€™ GROOVIES?!’
‘WELL THEN, HOWZâ€™ABOUT A GROUP OF CRAZED GROOVIESâ€™ FREAKS FROM THE WILDS â€˜Nâ€™ WASTES OF MID-70â€™s WISCONSIN?!”
‘WELL, HERE THEY ARE â€“ THE NEW LEGION ROCK SPECTACULAR!!!’
This may well be heresy. But as much as I adore the Flaminâ€™ Grooviesâ€™ second coming in the form of Byrds-y London mods, Iâ€™ll forever hold a torch for their greasy, early 70â€™s gut-rot, rock sides. Class of â€™76/â€™77? Forget it – the Groovies were true punk rock prodigies, graduating in and out of it long before most anyone else had so much as thought of the idea. For as remarkably astounding as â€˜Shake Some Actionâ€™ and â€˜Flaminâ€™ Groovies Nowâ€˜ are, the incarnation of the band led by amphetamine-howling Roy Loney always seemed much more muscular, chaotic and legitimately crazed in comparison to the stately and often restrained studio-craft of Cyril Jordan and producer Dave Edmunds (as well as most of their chart-clogging heavy rock contemporaries). And though at times this ricocheting energy ultimately proved to the bandâ€™s detriment, there is not a single minute on the groupâ€˜s two early 70s albums, â€˜Flamingoâ€™ or â€˜Teenage Head,â€™ that I do not find toe-tapping fantastic and utterly compelling. And despite the fact that they are now (sometimes) acknowledged as the legendary, hard-driving, hard-luck pioneer rock band they always were, they are still owed a lot, at least in my mind.
Still, if the Grooviesâ€™ story today remains a much-referred-to-yet-seldom-read chapter in the sadly-neglected book of pre-punk 70s rock, in their own day, the bandâ€™s status must have been just about on par with that of lepers or Holocaust deniers. â€˜Bah, how can they still be playing this hackneyed, primitive 50s-derived bourgeois white rock-a-boogie? The nerve!â€™ About the only place, mid-Me-decade, you were likely to see a favourable write-up or review on the Grooviesâ€™ doings (outside of France where they were always treated as stars) was in one of Greg Shawâ€™s publications and even that was so much preaching to the choir.
â€¦heavens: can you imagine the look of some of those choir members? Forget Bowie – the Groovies were the REAL leper-messiahs!
And in case your imagination isnâ€™t up to such a task, youâ€™re in luckâ€¦â€˜cos some of them misfits got together just like the old songs said, formed a band and put out a record. Actually, a couple of â€™emâ€¦and from all places, Milwaukee! I give you the New Legion Rock Spectacular – Grooviesâ€™ fanatics with a name sillier than their semi-divine inspirers!
Thereâ€™s nothing really quite like the private-press LP. Itâ€™s like a hand-carved invitation to a bed-room birthday bash being thrown by the most unpopular kids in school. What will you see or hear? In the case of the New Legion Rock Spectacular itâ€™s even more interesting still; for despite incorporating the DIY ethos of the nascent punk explosion, the record sounds as if punk rock had never happened (which, incidentally, is just the way I like it). It sounds like a sequel or rather a hybrid stop-gap of the styles the Groovies were stomping through on both â€™Flamingoâ€™ and â€™Teenage Headâ€™ (rockabilly, country, blues, ballads), along with a dash of their later Sire polish! All this from a bunch of bearded bumpkins from Wisconsin (just be grateful I donâ€™t have a scan of the LPâ€™s flip-side), which only adds further fuel to my thesis that isolation in rock music is an asset, not a hardship (to say nothing of the farcical â€™77-as-year-zeroâ€™ platform).
New Legion Rock Spectacular predictably garnered little press; in the mid 70â€™s, an American band in the style of the Groovies must have seemed similar to a tribute band to the flu. Nevertheless, this didnâ€™t stop the band from issuing a self-pressed single – one-side of which, of course, was a Groovies cover (â€˜Second Cousin,â€™ Roy Loneyâ€™s hymn to rockâ€™s eternal incestuous bad-boy, Jerry Lee Lewis) – which was followed a year later, in the holy year of â€˜77, by a full-length LP, entitled â€˜Wild Ones!â€™ And, upon hearing this LP, I must say that the explanation point in the title is no mere decoration or umlaut garnish – it is absolutely essential warning. â€˜Wild Ones!â€˜ wallops you over the head with energy and excitement and you best be ready! I have no idea what became of the New Legion Rock Spectacular following their lone LP – the utopian, open-arms of punk certainly didnâ€™t escort them down any aisle. And perhaps itâ€™s just as well (Greg Shaw loved it though). Just like I wouldnâ€™t want a bunch of safety pin obvious-Situationist-believers turning up on my doorstep preachinâ€™ the newly Damascene Groovies blues, I wouldnâ€™t wanna turn on TRL or stare at the cover of Q and see the NLRS staring back at me. Enough gobble, letâ€™s let the songs do the talkinâ€™ now!
BROKEN OPEN – the most convincing Roy Loney impression on the record. Recalls â€˜Teenage Headâ€™ as well as the harder rocking moments of Ducks Deluxe.
DONâ€™T YA JUST KNOW IT – the roll-call lyrics on the last verse sealed it for me. Fucking great. Inspiring even.
LIGHTS OUT â€“ This is another one of those lyrically ambiguous rock/sex songs that I love so well; in which the perpetually insatiable male plaintiff equates his level of amorous voracity with thief-in-the-night-style violent frenzy. What the medieval French might call a chevauchee. Neanderthal rock from a simpler age.
WILD ONE – Another nod to Jerry Lee â€“ this time the Killerâ€™s unofficial theme. I know some people have a real problem with a preponderance of covers on a record, but thatâ€™s one of the things that always made the Groovies interesting. Instead of schlock recitations from the old honky-cat blues kit-bag, the Groovies dug deep, breathing life and madness into a range of truly obscure and eclectic material. Oh, and any lyrical resemblances between this and Iggyâ€™s â€˜Real Wild Childâ€™ are purely coincidental Iâ€™m sure.
HEADING FOR THE TEXAS BORDER – because Groovies covers (that arenâ€™t â€˜Shake Some Actionâ€™) are so rare I felt almost duty-bound to post this one. Not near as cackling maniacal or furious as the original (how could it be), but still a pretty solid reading.