Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Flamin Groovies

  • Supersnazz [Epic, 1969] B+
  • Flamingo [Kama Sutra, 1970] B+
  • Teenage Head [Kama Sutra, 1971] B
  • Shake Some Action [Sire, 1976] B
  • Still Shakin [Kama Sutra, 1976] C+
  • Now [Sire, 1978] B-
  • Supersnazz [CBS Special Products, 1990] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Supersnazz [Epic, 1969]
This is some kind of cross between good-bad rock and roll and "The Sheik of Araby," with just the kind of tongue-in-cheek aesthetic distance for which I have an unnatural weakness. The first three cuts on the first side give a representative taste. B+

Flamingo [Kama Sutra, 1970]
The mix and the groove are fierce enough to accommodate "Keep a Knockin'," "Comin After Me" is worthy of Chuck Berry, and "Second Cousin" could have been written for Jerry Lee Lewis, which makes a trinity. I do miss the wacked-out head of such Supersnazz classics as "Laurie Did It" and "The First One's Free," but the fifteen minutes expanded on the last three cuts are a bigger problem--even the fast one drags. Sophisticated r&r primitivists are supposed to know about that stuff. B+

Teenage Head [Kama Sutra, 1971]
Surprisingly bluesy, with a good Robert Johnson cover, a great John Lee Hooker rip, and lots of slide guitar. Plus the title track, an inspired articulation/sendup of "California born and bred" youth rebellion. But "High Flyin Baby," "Evil Hearted Ada," and "Whiskey Woman" fall into the blues-rock trap--not surprising at all. B

Shake Some Action [Sire, 1976]
So authentic that producer Dave Edmunds has reverted to the muddy mix--kinda like the Beatles or the Byrds or the Flamin Groovies. Actually, what it sounds like is mono electrically rechanneled for stereo. The Flamin Groovies were Haight-Ashbury enough to exploit aural distance in the service of a sly, spaced-out obliqueness, but these guys, deprived of singer-composer Roy A. Loney and making their way as an English pop-revival band, get their kicks by playing dumb. This compiles their best recent work and includes some good songs. But only cultists will ever hear them. B

Still Shakin [Kama Sutra, 1976]
The back cover of this compilation excerpts ten favorable reviews of Flamingo and one of Teenage Head. The first side features two songs from Flamingo and four from Teenage Head plus an oldie of the latter vintage. The second side features a live-in-the-studio set of six more oldies from the same sessions. Howcum? Ask Richard Robinson, who produced all three albums. Or your collector friends. C+

Now [Sire, 1978]
In the late '60s they harked back to the late '50s; now, to borrow their title, they hark back to the middle '60s. Pretty hookily, too, though I don't get why the vocals are so ragged. And where (or when) will they be in 2001? Now? B-

Supersnazz [CBS Special Products, 1990]
This apparently modest 1969 LP was recorded before these onetime San Francisco folk-rockers found a market niche as the thinking man's Sha Na Na, pointing garage rock back toward the '50s with songs that seldom approached the content-free ideal of the one we all remember, "Shake Some Action." Instead they spent $80,000 of Columbia's money trying to figure out either what kind of hippies they were or why they weren't hippies at all. Half the songs sound like '50s covers, but only three or four are: Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else" and Huey Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia," good calls for the time and they did love their dropped G's, plus Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It," composed by jazzbo-for-hire Bobby Troup, and the earlier "Pistol Packin' Mama," beloved of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. The primal-sounding "Love Have Mercy" and "Bam Balam" they made up themselves in an attempt to have simpler and sexier fun than was dreamed of by Blue Cheer, the Sopwith Camel, or the blues-tripping psychedelic establishment. "The First One Is Free" may not be altogether tongue-in-cheek. "A Part From That" exposes the bummer man. And while "Pagan Rachel"'s Rachel and "Brushfire"'s Dottie may strike some as all too old-fashioned sex objects, the prize is "Laurie Did It," which quietly ponders, praises, celebrates, and mourns a dead girlfriend, shaking its fist at God all the while. A

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]