Flamin’ Groovies - Live In San Francisco 1971 album review

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

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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.