Monday, February 16, 2009
The story of the Flamin' Groovies began in San Francisco in 1965, when a bunch of high school friends from San Francisco, inspired by the British Invasion, formed a band called the Lost & Found. A few months later, they found out that there were many other bands with that name, and changed their name to the Chosen Few. Then they found out there were other bands with that name as well.
So they set out to find a name that no band would ever use, and changed their name to the Flamin' Groovies. They were all fans of the Lovin' Spoonful, and wanted a similar sounding name (right down to the dropped g), and their early music also echoed the Spoonful's good-timey jugband sound.
Unfortunately for the Groovies, they had exactly the wrong sound and image for the city, so they were ignored when the major labels all started scooping up the next big thing from San Francisco after the Summer Of Love. With no label willing to take a chance on them, the Groovies decided to pool their resources and put out a record on their own.
Back in 1968, it was a whole new thing for a band to put out its own record. The Flamin' Groovies initially just wanted to cut a two sided single, then a four song EP, but they ended up recording seven songs at a six-hour session at West Coast Recording and liking them all, so they released all seven songs on a 10" ep called Sneakers. The title was a reference to "sneaking" the record out under the radar, and had nothing to do with tennis shoes.
Most of the seven songs on Sneakers show the early Groovies as West Coast Lovin' Spoonful acolytes. "Babes In The Sky" is a straight copy of the Spoonful's "Nashville Cats". Other songs like "Lovetime" and "My Yada" (allegedly written in the studio in three minutes) also owe a debt to John Sebastian.
One standout track on Sneakers that showed the band's potential was "Golden Clouds", which rocks harder than the Lovin' Spoonful ever could and sounds like a lost Nuggets-era hit single. If the Groovies had released this as a single in early 1968, they could have been as big as the Sopwith Camel (of "Hello Hello" fame).
Having a different sound, and releasing their own record in a novel format (a 10-inch EP) gave the Flamin Groovies some much-needed attention. Sneakers sold well enough (somewhere between 4 and 10 thousand copies) to grab the attention of Epic Records, who signed the Groovies to a contract in 1968, and allowed them to record a full LP Supersnazz on a major label budget.
More on that later, but here's a snippet of Roy Loney performing "My Yada" (the Sneakers song that took him three minutes to write) in Paris in 2004.
For emusic subscribers, the entire 7-track Sneakers EP is available here (tracks 1-7). The first song "Golden Clouds" is especially worth a download, and "My Yada" (track #7) is also pretty swell. Every reissue of this ep has the songs in a different sequence!