"Shake Some Action" by the Flamin' Groovies
Several years ago, someone asked me if, typically, I'm more attracted to a song for its lyrics or for its music. My knee-jerk answer was lyrics, but after a microsecond of reflection, I realized that I was completely self-deluded. Just taking a look at my list of favorite songs shatters this theory: I have no idea what half of these tunes' lyrics are about.
This entry underlines the point, not only because I never much paid attention the the lyrics of "Shake Some Action" (there's not much to pay attention to, other than the kicky title), but because a song like this is so thoroughly a creature of its instrumentation and production. The Flamin' Groovies were a greasy, blues-soaked rock & roll band, emerging in late-'60s San Francisco just when their sound became the least hip thing in the universe (read: they were nothing like the Grateful Dead). Truth be told, I don't care for much of their output from this era, but they soldiered on until 1976, when Welsh pub-rock genius Dave Edmunds produced their album Shake Some Action, an unlikely hit among the emerging elite of British power pop.
This title track is easily the Flamin' Groovies' best-known song (it's appeared on a couple million power-pop compilations, and Cracker covered it in the film Clueless), a remarkably canny synthesis of raggedly, lo-fi performance and soaring hooks. Both the chiming guitar (yes, there's the Byrds, again) and the intensely untrained vocals have a muted tone, working together perfectly to lull the listener in. And atypically for the power-pop genre, typified by punchy rock nuggets, the Groovies spread out over four and a half minutes, constructing an almost hermetic, wistful pop nirvana. It completely doesn't matter what the lyrical content is; the pure sound of this song has an almost neurological effect on me.
I am heartbroken that I cannot find the original recording on the Web to share with you here. The best I can do is this, a passable live version, but nowhere near the primary document. Or check out my man John Davis's radio show, 1-2-3-4 More More More, and scroll down to the 9/12 show (only there for a limited time); he starts the broadcast with the real thing.
Of course, you can get it from iTunes, and you really should. You need to hear my favorite moment: At 2:14, when the one of the vocalist goes, "Whoo!" He knows what I'm talking about.
More of NT's greatest hits:
"Chips Ahoy!," "Radio, Radio," "Could You Be the One?," "Summer in the City," "Teenage Kicks," "Strawberry Fields Forever, " "Tunnel of Love," "I Get Around," "Local Girls," "Don't Let's Start," "Suffragette City," "See-Saw," "My Name Is Jonas," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Reelin' in the Years," "Objects of My Affection" and "Crimson and Clover," "OK Apartment" and "Just What I Needed"