Flamin’ Groovies – Slow Death

The Flamin’ Groovies are a treasure find of a band. They have songs that are power pop, grungy blues rock, and some great rock and roll. On this song we are concentrating on the rock/blues phase of the Groovies.

I first heard this band with Shake Some Action. Their music style at first was hard to pin down. They admitted they were all over the map. They are most known for the power pop song Shake Some Action but I read where a commenter said…Slow Death was the best Stones song the Stones never did.

Released the same year as the Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers, Mick Jagger reportedly noticed the similarities between the Groovies Teenage Head album … and thought the Flamin’ Groovies did the better take on the theme of classic blues and rock ‘n roll revisited in a modern context.

The band started in 1965 by  Roy Loney and Cyril Jordan. By the end of the sixties they clashed over where to go. Loney was more Stones and Jordon leaned toward the Beatles. Loney left in 1971 and they got an 18 year old lead singer named Chris Wilson.

The moved to London and started to work with Dave Edmunds. With Chris they did more power pop and that is when Shake Some Action came about with Wilson and Jordon writing it.

They would go on to be a great power pop band and also be know as an early proto punk band…they pretty much covered the gamut. This anti-drug song was written by Jordon and Loney before he left…Chris Wilson is singing it.

Wilson left in the early eighties but the band continued until around 1994. They regrouped in 2012 including Chris Wilson. The Flamin Groovies have released 9 studio albums and one as late as 2017.

Bass Player George Alexander:

We were the fastest band on the planet, like Ramones-fast. Once Chris got in, we decided to move on to what we considered the next level. We needed a lead singer that could carry that off, a young, good-looking guy who could Jagger-out.

With Chris we were moving into ‘Shake Some Action.’ Our last record from the punk phrase was ‘Teenage Head’ and [the first single with Wilson] ‘Slow Death,’ which was more Stones-y. We kept ‘Slow Death’ in the set but it was now time for ‘Shake Some Action’ and the power pop.

On this video…looks like they are at the Marquee Club where the Who started.

Slow Death

I called the doctor
In the morning
I had a fever
It was a warning
She said “There’s nothing I can prescribe
To keep your raunchy bag of bones alive”
I got some money left for one more shot
She said “God bless you” I said “Thanks a lot”

It’s a slow, slow death

I called the preacher
Holy, holy
I begged forgiveness
That’s when he told me
He said “There’s nothing I can prescribe
To keep your raunchy bag of bones alive”
I got some money left for one more shot
He said “God bless you” I said “Thanks a lot”

Slow Death

I’m set to mainline
A hit of morphine
It’s set to mainline
It’s like a bad dream
Slow death–eat my mind away
Slow death–turn my guts to clay
It’s a slow, slow, slow death

The Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action

This is a great power pop record. I like finding new old bands to explore. The Flamin’ Groovies started in San Francisco in 1965. The band had more of a cult following than to the masses. According to Marianne Faithful, the Groovies’ album, Teenage Head, was Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s favorite album at the time it came out in 1971.

The Flamin’ Groovies first recorded “Shake Some Action” in 1972, but the song was not released until their 1976 album of the same name, which was produced by Dave Edmunds, who sped up the tempo of the track and push the vocals. According to lead guitarist Cyril Jordan, the descending phrase he played on lead guitar was overdubbed about six times. Edmunds would also put remote microphones around the studio, to fatten up certain passages.

From Songfacts

This delectable piece of power pop occupied a space between disco and punk and was clearly influenced by ’60 bands like The Beatles and The Who that Flamin’ Groovies emulated. The San Francisco band Flamin’ Groovies started in 1965 but didn’t get much attention until they signed with Sire Records and released the Shake Some Action album, which met with critical adoration that may have been a little overblown – one reviewer said it would “trigger another rock & roll revolution, the inevitable backlash against disco for the dead.”

Responding to the critical reaction and addressing the Beatles influence, Groovies lead singer Cyril Jordan said: “After years of trying to achieve an instrumental sound similar to the Beatles, we finally achieved it on Shake Some Action. And whether or not it was reviewed as a great thing or not, by then it didn’t even matter. We know what we’re doing. We know that when we cut something it’s pretty damn near close in quality and originality to what we feel the Beatles achieved.”

The Shake Some Action album and its follow-up, Flamin’ Groovies Now, also produced by Edmunds, did reasonably well in England but suffered from a lack of promotion in America, as Sire Records became preoccupied with new signings Ramones and Talking Heads. For Americans who discovered the Flamin’ Groovies, they remain a cult favorite.

In our 2013 interview with the band’s vocalist and the song’s co-writer Chris Wilson, he said his favorite cover of the track was by American Alternative rock band Cracker, whose cover was featured in the 1995 teen movie Clueless. He said, “Both me and Cyril [Jordan, his co-writer] made some money from that, a rare situation for the Groovies and a welcome one, too.”

Wilson felt the songwriting process on this one was fairly easy: “Cyril had the idea for the music, I think. But the lyrics… we’d sit around Rockfield and swap lines and ideas. If we were in different parts of the house and we had an idea for a song we find each other and pick up a guitar. Back at the start, we worked in a really simple way – swapping licks and phrases. ‘Shake Some Action’ really wasn’t that difficult in that respect.”

The interplay between the introspective, reflective verses and the “call to action” choruses structure the song as a journey to confidence and self-determination. In the opening verse, the singer’s bravado is undercut by his confessions of fear of falling short in his love life and the second verse demonstrates the persona’s spiritual anxiety (even going so far as to threaten the omnipotent). In the final verse, the singer seemingly follows the advice set out in the chorus and “shakes some action”: I will go away and won’t come this way again cause I don’t need your praise.”

The “you” being addressed here is likely the lover addressed in the opening verse, however, it is made ambiguous by the continued motif of religious imagery “fall, Lord, praise.” The song can justifiably be interpreted as a breakup song, both in terms of love and religion.

There are several recorded versions of the track, as Wilson explained in our interview: “Dave added loads of effects to the guitars on the first attempt at “Shake Some Action,” which we thought might have been a bit too much. That’s why we cut a second version back in the US in 1973. In the end they’re both good, albeit a little different – we’re happy if people like the song. What more could we ask?”

Shake Some Action

I will find a way
To get to you some day.
Oh, but I, babe, I’m so afraid I’ll fall, yeah.
Now can’t you hear me call?

Shake some action’s what I need
To let me bust out at full speed.
I’m sure that’s all you need
To make it all right.

It’s taken me so long
To get where I belong
Oh, but, oh, please don’t send me back that way, yeah.
For I will make you pay.

Shake some action’s what I need
To let me bust out at full speed.
I’m sure that’s all you need
To make it all right.

If you don’t dig what I say
Then I will go away.
And I won’t come back this again. No.
‘Cause I don’t need a friend.

Shake some action’s what I need
To let me bust out at full speed.
I’m sure that’s all you need
To make it all right.