Flamin’ Groovies - Live In San Francisco 1971 album review

Power-pop-instigating nearly men in ‘historical quality’

Cover art for Flamin’ Groovies - Live In San Francisco 1971 album

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Presented for your frustrated delectation in an audio-vérité more readily associated with third-generation bootleg cassettes, Live In San Fran (recorded at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West shortly before closure) demonstrates one of the principal reasons why the Groovies never enjoyed more than cult success.

Despite having just released Teenage Head (one of the era’s finest albums), the Groovies only play three of its tracks at this prestigious show: the title cut; their (unequivocally definitive) take on Randy Newman’s Have You Seen My Baby? and Doctor Boogie, a song so close to Little Junior Parker’s Feelin’ Good as to make no difference. There’s one from Flamingo (an extensive Road House) and a peek at future single Slow Death, but for the rest of the night’s duration, they’re basically a covers band.

This sort of crowd-pleasing shtick was an anachronism by ’71 and hints at a crippling lack of self-belief. Teenage Head is an album that can give Sticky Fingers a run for its money, but contemporaneous Stones’ sets didn’t frame Brown Sugar with I Can’t Explain, Shakin’ All Over, Louie Louie and Walkin’ The Dog.

One for the fans, then, who will find much to love here, but a bittersweet insight into why the Groovies’ flame never burns quite as brightly as it should across rock retrospectives.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.