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Say It's Your Birthday: Flamin' Groovies George Alexander

Cover of first Groovies' album, 'Supersnazz'.

Very few bands have enjoyed such persistent marginalized

success as the Flamin' Groovies, led by Guitarist/singer/songwriter Cyril

Jordan since 1965. Since the beginning, bassist George Alexander has been

Jordan's friend and loyal right-hand man; other than Jordan, Alexander was the

only original Groovie to appear on the group's most recent album, Rock

Juice (released on Addicted To Noise editor Michael Goldberg's National

Records label in 1992). Formed in the Bay Area (and briefly playing under such

names as The Chosen Few and Lost and Found) the Groovies have, since their

inception, stayed true to the under-three minute rock/pop song, surviving with

this formula in the eras of psychedelia, arena-rock, disco, and garage-rock. In

the U. S., the Groovies never achieved any real commercial success, but they're

been trend setters from the release in 1969 of Sneakers, a DIY indie EP

nearly a decade ahead of its time. While the mid-to-late '60s trend was acid

rock, the Groovies at first played rock 'n' roll that drew on '50s rockabilly.

By the beginning of the '70s, they had evolved into a proto-punk rock & roll

band that at times could beat the then-still-vital Rolling Stones at their own

game. Teenage Head (yes, about exactly what the title describes) was the

group's first masterpiece. By the mid-'70s the group had landed in England and

at Dave Edmund's Rockfield studio recorded the definitive album of their

career, Shake Some Action (some critics have called the song "Shake Some

Action" one of the ten best rock 'n' roll songs of all time). Despite success

in France, record company politics sabotaged the group again and again, and

they never got a real foothold in the U. S. Interestingly enough, it was at a

Groovies headlining gig in London in 1976--with the Ramones as show

openers--that future members of the Clash, Sex Pistols and other UK kids were

first exposed to live punk. You know the rest. But then the Groovies had

abandoned their garage-punk sound for a Phil Spector Wall-of-Sound meets the

Beatles pop sensibility. Their last studio album was the aforementioned Rock

Juice, but probably the best intro to the group is compilation album,

Groovies Greatest Grooves (put together by Goldberg and rock critic

Michael Snyder). Recently, while the group has laid low, they found "Shake Some

Action," as performed by Cracker, plays in the film Clueless and one of

the group's own versions of the song was used on the Don Johnson TV show

Nash Bridges. Among the many artists the group has influenced: R.E.M.,

the Smithereens, the Black Crowes, Cracker, Yo La Tengo and Supersnazz, which

takes its name from an early Groovies album. --Seth Mnookin & Michael Goldberg