Wednesday, 11 May 2022

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club London 7th May 2022 - Report & Photographs by Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

For me going to see the The Flamin' Groovies is a kind of pilgrimage. I first heard "Teenage Head" at a party in the USA in 1972 and just six years later was taking photographs of them on their UK tour of 1978. I'd collected pretty well all their records by then and had become a huge fan so for me going on the road with them was like some kind of dream for a young photographer and Cyril Jordan and the rest of the band were really good to me. Their encouragement pretty well set me up as a rock photographer and I'm eternally grateful for that opportunity. It was now fifty years since I first heard a Groovies record and 44 years since I first met Cyril but due to various circumstances and of course Covid, I hadn't seen the reformed Groovies and Cyril in five years. Since they reformed I'd seen them in London in 2013, done a mini tour with them in France in 2015, and the last time had been in London in 2017. All these gigs can be found here in the Retro Man Blog archive, plus there's a fab Retrosonic Podcast with Chris Wilson here.

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
I walked into the dressing room at the 100 Club to see Cyril picking away at his iconic Dan Armstrong Plexiglass guitar which looks and sounds so fantastic but does weigh a ton. He's looking pretty good for a 74 year old and I'm only a couple of years behind so here's to old men in rock and roll! Cyril's been using this guitar for more than fifty years now. There we were chatting backstage when who walks in but Sid Griffin from the Long Ryders and Coalporters with a beard like a mountain man. The Long Ryders too are one of my fave bands and you can read all about them and see my photos in the blog archive here. Since the Groovies reformed in 2013 original member George Alexander had quit in 2017 and now Chris Wilson is on "hiatus" so Cyril is now the only original band member left. Chris was such an integral part of the band co-writing with Cyril nearly all of the bands greatest songs, and his guitar duels with Cyril are legendary. So I was wondering what was going to happen with the vocals as Chris was the lead voice of the Groovies for such a long time, but I shouldn't have worried. Chris Von Sneidern who is a legend in his own right has switched from bass to guitar and is a great singer. Tony Sales whose dad also Tony played bass with Iggy Pop and David Bowie has music running through his veins - he does a really spot-on job on the drums AND vocals from behind the kit.  

Chris Von Sneidern, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery 

Tony Sales, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
Atom Ellis plays right funky bass lines stalking the stage like AC/DC's Angus Young! "Way Over My Head" kicks off the night with great guitars from Cyril and Chris, then "You Tore Me Down" and "First Plane Home" really get the crowd rocking. A relatively old crowd but a lot of young faces too, young Sem and her friend who are both just in their 20's have come all the way from Zurich to see the gig. Cyril comes on with a posh red jacket which he discards after the first three songs - the place is already getting hot and you've got to be fit in the 100 Club's tropical atmosphere! After being a lifetime smoker Cyril's trying not to inhale these days on the way to packing up the ciggies completely. If he can do it I'll be impressed! I really can't tell you what it's like standing feet away from probably one of your favourite bands of all time listening to great songs like "Slow Death" and "Between The Lines". Cyril and Chris get the jangling guitars riffing away on "I Can't Hide" and I'm in Rock and Roll heaven! "Married Woman" is a belter, as is Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" and the crowd go crazy for "Teenage Head" and of course "Shake Some Action". 
Atom Ellis, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
I've always loved the Groovies' "Married Woman" which I first heard on a United Artists EP called "Flamin' Groovies" in 1976. Dave Edmunds produced it at Rockfield in 1972, going on later to produce the legendary "Shake Some Action" album in 1976 when the band were at their absolute Zenith blowing away the Ramones at The Roundhouse. There's a great review of the gig by Max Bell on the Roundhouse site here. Let's not forget the other Dave Edmunds produced album 1978's "Flamin' Groovies Now". It was on my visit to Rockfield Studios on New Year's Day in 1978 that I first met the Groovies so that album is pretty special for me. Atom gets a really funky bass riff going and the band launches into "Way Down Under", a superbly riffy number, followed by David Crosby's "Ladyfriend" and finished off with the title track of the band's '79 album "Jumpin' In The Night". With a sixteen song set-list of greatest hits, the appreciative crowd do not go home disappointed and for me it's a memorable and extremely emotional night. Rock and Roll at its best. I hope I don't have to wait another five years to see Cyril and the band again. I walk up the back stairs of the 100 Club and say my goodbyes to the band as the van is loaded for the next gig in Holland. Such is Rock and Roll!

Cyril Jordan, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

Cyril Jordan and Sid Griffin at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
For more info on The Flamin' Groovies please check out their web-site here. Finally, big thanks to Barry Simons, take care and see you soon. - Paul Slattery May 2022.

Groovies, Roundhouse June 1978. L-R Cyril Jordan, David Wright, George Alexander, Mike Wilhelm, Chris Wilson. Copyright Paul Slattery

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