You don’t know psych-rock if you don’t know the Flamin’ Groovies.
I discovered Flamin’ Groovies after falling into a deep YouTube hole in high school and have been obsessed ever since. They’re among the founding fathers of psych garage rock. Formed in the ‘60s while the members were in high school, Flamin’ Groovies shared the stage with huge rock ‘n’ roll names like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and The Animals. With tracks like “Shake Some Action,” they created some of rock’s most perfect and urgent music.
So why do these legends have such a low profile?
Flamin’ Groovies, “Slow Death” live 1972
“The world has never been ready for the Flamin’ Groovies,” Flamin’ Groovies’ Cyril Jordan says.They were a band built to be underground. “We’re not the kind of band that had billboards—mostly what we were concerned with was art,” Jordan tells BTRtoday. “We always had the attitude that if you care about us or you like us, that’s great and if you don’t, who cares?”
For the past five years, Jordan, the sole founding member still playing under the Flamin’ Groovies name, has been back on the road with a new band and his energy hasn’t faded a bit.
Jordan is happy they never made it big, saying “big shots get stocked.” For Jordan, a dysfunctional society of underground music is the Flamin’ Groovies’ natural habitat.
A year after the band’s 1965 formation, they opened for Cream at San Francisco’s famed ‘60s rock venue Fillmore Auditorium. Jordan hadn’t yet graduated high school but was still able to bond with Eric Clapton over guitars. The friendship blossomed quickly. During that show, Jordan introduced Cream to psychedelics, bringing the power trio on their first acid trip.
“I got some LSD from Owsley [Stanley] and we all dropped acid,” he says. “Ginger [Baker] got so high—he has these beautiful blue eyes and the pupil, the black center-point, it just vanished. He said, ‘Cyril, Where’s the stage? You have to lead me to this stage.’ So I grabbed his hand and I walked him downstairs to the stage and they went on and played an incredible set on their first LSD trip.”
Jordan has so many wild stories, it’s hard for him to keep track. Like the time he went to an orgy with Animals bassist Chas Chandler in a church that later became the birthplace for Jim Jones’ cult or the many wild times he shared with his buddy Jimi Hendrix.
Flamin’ Groovies,” Shake Some Action” live 1986
Today, on the road for the Flamin’ Groovies East Coast tour, Jordan’s enjoying the experience in a different way than he did when young, savoring the long drives and the calmer nights.
“When you’re a young kid [and] you’re driving for eight hours every day, you get irritated, but when you’re an old geezer like me you’re going, ‘Oh, man. I get to drive all through Europe’—so I’m grooving on it,” he says.
They haven’t released new music since Fantastic Plastic in 2017 (their first release since 1993), but Jordan’s looking forward to recording a new album next year. And though he says the band’s motto has changed from the “Shake Some Action” lyric, “I will find a way” to “I hope I stay alive,” Jordan’s drive is just as strong as when he started Flamin’ Groovies.
Catch them on tour this fall throughout the east coast and tune in to this week’s episode of The Music Meetup to hear tunes by the Flamin’ Groovies and more stories from frontman Cyril Jordan.