Originally formed in San Francisco in 1965, the Flamin’ Groovies have released nine studio albums, the latest of which, ‘Fantastic Plastic’, came out on 22nd September. After breaking up in 1992, they have recently reunited, joined by Chris Wilson, who’d left the band in 1980.
Founding member Cyril Jordan told Billboard that the new record’s opening track, ‘What the Hell’s Goin’ On’, is a return to the group’s classic sound. The song is built around a question that, according to Jordan, many people are asking themselves around the world these days.
In addition to guitarists and vocalists Jordan and Wilson, founding bassist George Alexander also appears on the album. They worked with drummers Victor Penalosa and Prairie Prince, as well as several members of the Texas blues rock band Fabulous Thunderbirds. Although it mostly contains original material, the record also features covers of ‘I Want You Bad’ by NRBQ and ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ by the Beau Brummels. Also a visual artist, Jordan painted the cover artwork for ‘Fantastic Plastic’ as a homage to the late cartoonist and illustrator Jack Davis.
The Groovies are currently on the road supporting their new album, and recently played three dates in the UK, the last one being at London’s Under the Bridge venue on 21st September. Jordan and Wilson are accompanied on the tour by bassist Chris von Sneidern and drummer Tony Sales, grandson of the late comedian Soupy Sales and son of Tin Machine bassist Tony Sales.
As part of the European leg, the band have also visited Denmark, Spain, France and the Netherlands. They are returning to the US soon, where they have a number of shows line up. We attended the London gig and can confirm that Jordan and Wilson still have the energy that the songs ask for, and they seem happier to be on the stage than ever. They told stories of the old times between numbers and resurrected the vibe of 60s San Francisco through the music. The set list included new songs from ‘Fantastic Plastic’ and old hits, such as ‘Shake Some Action’ from 1976, which, according to San Francisco Weekly “influenced the rise of power pop and punk in America, and remains a vital document of that era”.
“This is a big deal; we’ve been working towards this moment for, like, 50 years,” Jordan said. “Basically we’re doing what we’ve always been doing, trying to make a better record than the one we made before. When we started this thing up again we were obligated to do certain songs, but we’re now at a point where we have a whole new set of original stuff, and I’m real excited about it. We’ve got more originals in the set now than we’ve had, ever. More people have been noticing us, too. We’ve been getting a lot of young girls at our shows in places like Sweden and Hollywood and the Midwest. As soon as the young kids see it and hear it they go, ‘Oh, yeah, this is great.’ That’s very strange to us – like, what the hell IS going on?’ But we like it.”