L to R: Cyril, George Alexander, Victor Penalosa, Chris Wilson; Photo by Anne Laurent
Cyril A. Jordan interview
by Jason Gross
Strange as it is to imagine, in the middle of where the hippies movement was about to explode and where acid rock would soon quickly move from birth to top 40 radio, a seemingly retro quintet would also emerge in the middle of the scene and make their own history. After putting out their own self-released album debut EP in late ’67, even before the Beatles put out their records on their own label, the Flamin’ Groovies managed to make their presence known on the hollowed stage of the Filmore West and attract the interest of a major label to put out their debut album about two years later. The band would go on to record five classic albums in the ‘70’s, including Teenage Head and Flamingo. Throughout it all, their mainstay would be guitarist/singer Cyril A. Jordan. Even during a five year hiatus in the mid-70’s, Jordan held the group together finally finding a home for their Dave Edmunds-produced album Shake Some Action. Though a brief revival happened in the ‘80’s, that decade also saw the collapse of the band. Luckily, co-founder Roy Loney reunited with Jordan for a Groovies tour a few years ago, leading to Jordan reforming other long-time members (bassist George Alexander, guitarist/singer Chris Wilson) for the latest incarnation of the band and a triumphant tour.
On the heels of an NYC date, and after many years of trying, I was finally able to get Jordan to do a phone interview to speak about the past/present/future of the Groovies as well as his noted career as a cartoonist/illustrator, his side-eyed view of punk and his escapades as an youthful enabler of two of the greatest guitarists of the ‘60’s.
PSF: What kind of music did you grow up with?
CJ: When I was a kid in the 50's in San Francisco, before rock and roll, radio was really bad and I remember how bad it was when I was at my baby sitter's house. I would switch to stations on the radio when she walked out of the kitchen because I was digging Dixieland and jazz- Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller. My mom was teaching me about that stuff. But when rock and roll started, it made a big impression. I was kind of alone in that and my dad being a classical music nut, I didn't get to hear top 40 rock radio at home. But all my friends, that kind of radio was on in all of their houses and some of them had older sisters who had bought 45's so I got turned on to Duane Eddy and I would trade for 45's and stuff and that's how I started my record collection. The first albums I bought were Chuck Berry's On Top and the Beach Boys' Surfin' USA.
PSF: What were some of the early shows that you saw?
CJ: The first show that I ever really saw was the Beach Boys in 1962. I crashed the show so I was back stage with them hanging out. And I got to see Brian (Wilson) rehearse with his brothers. He was plugged into a little Fender Champ amp, playing electric bass, and his brothers were standing around him without a microphone singing acapella on "Surfer Girl." It just blew my mind- I couldn't believe it, seeing it sound like that. It was just really professional.
PSF: Could you talk about how you started playing yourself?
CJ: Well, I had been learning how to play guitar since about '62. Years before that, somewhere around '58, I had really fallen in love with electric guitar. Even if like Lawrence Welk had an electric guitar on one of his record, I would dig it- just the sound of it blew me away. I had a Mickey Mouse 4-string plastic guitar when I was a kid in like '55 and then I got a ukulele in '59 and messed around with that for a while. Then I got this REAL cheap acoustic guitar for fifteen bucks that was made by a company called Marco Polo- the strings were a half inch away from the finger board- it was a real piece of crap. But I learned on that up until about... Christmas '63. What I liked was hearing a new group and getting their record and then learning it. That was one of my hobbies.
So the music was getting really crappy in '63. By Christmas, this song by the Singing Nun hit number one and then "Hey Little Cobra" came in and I was kind of losing interest and I probably would given guitar up had it not been for the British Invasion. It hit like a month later and BOOM. I had a box marked 'L,' my learning box, and that started filing up with records like crazy. By March (1964), the whole thing had filled up and I was learning all that stuff.
PSF: So you learned how to play from those British Invasion records?
CJ: Yeah. With my teacher, I took lessons for four weeks, with this Spanish guy. On the last, fourth lesson, I asked him if he could teach me the intro to "Johnny B. Goode." And he said 'what?' I said 'Chuck Berry' and he goes 'who?' So I realized that there was no other way to learn this but by myself. So what I did was I took a 33 (RPM) album on my record player and slowed it down to 16 (RPM). We had four speeds back then- 78, 45, 33 and 16, for spoken word. Now, if you slowed the record to 16, you're in the same key even though you're down an octave. So I could hear Chuck Berry (imitating the guitar sound) 'dere-dere-dere-dere' really slow, I could hear every note and that's how I taught myself.
PSF: So were you more of a Stones fan or Beatles fan?
CJ: I was an everybody's fan. The thing is, because of Chuck Berry, I already had an edge on three chord blues type stuff. But the Beatles were harder to figure out. I'd get sheet music and it was always in the wrong key 'cause it's in piano key. So "Please Please Me" would be in C when it's really in E. So the Beatles were really difficult to learn. Stones were a lot easier for me to learn as far as being able to play their stuff on guitar fast. Beatles was another story.
PSF: How did the Groovies come together?
CJ: I was in this band when I was a sophomore in high school with a couple of friends of mine. That was right around the time that I met (Groovies bassist) George Alexander, who also had a band. They didn't have a drummer. He was hanging with (Groovies singer) Roy Loney and (Groovies guitarist) Tim Lynch. They had a couple of years on me. And they really knew how to play guitar. I didn't know chords. I just learned intros and lead breaks and stuff like that. But I had a drummer, a friend of mine named Ron Greco (also a founding member of the Groovies). So George invited me and the drummer over to Tim's place one weekend and we just proceeded to play one song after another. No matter what song was suggested, I would go into it. And then we played all the way through and by the end of the night, we had 20 already figured out and we realized we were a band.
PSF: That's pretty cool.
CJ: Yeah, it was kinda cool! (laughs) And at the time, I was the baby of the group. I was 15. Roy came up with the name 'The Chosen Few,' which I thought was kind of pretentious. But luckily, they found out that there were about 180 'Chosen Few's in California so it was changed to 'The Lost and Found' for about six months. We became the Flamin' Groovies the day after the Beatles' last live concert ever (August 29, 1966) and that was at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
PSF: So during that early time, were you gigging and starting to work on recordings?
CJ: We did a battle of the bands at the Cow Palace in '65 and then we played a bunch of church dances in Sausalito. And then we got a manager who worked for Bill Graham and then he quit Bill Graham. I had this great idea- we found out that Tim's girlfriend Barbara, her brother was this guy named Alfred Kramer that worked for Bill, and when I found that out, I said 'hey man, we gotta ask Alfred to managed us and then we'll be able to play the Filmore.' Wrong again. Alfred says yes and then he tells Bill he's quitting. And then him and Bill have this feud going on for years.
And Bill Graham didn't like the name 'Flamin' Groovies' but every once in a while, he'd do us a big favor like on this one Sunday... He called my house for some reason. I guess he couldn't get a hold of anybody else. But Cream was headlining that weekend, it was '67 and Gary Burton and Larry Coryell were second on the bill and the Electric Flag with (Michael) Bloomfield were opening and it was their debut show. Barry Goldberg in the Electric Flag got ill on Sunday and couldn't make the show so Bill had to scramble to get an opening act. So he calls my house, my mom wakes me up and says 'it's Bill Graham and wants to know if we can play.' I said 'I don't know- I gotta call everybody. I don't know if I can get a hold of everybody!' Luckily, within an hour we did and we did the show. I met Eric Clapton and he asked me if I could get him some Owsley (Stanley) acid for him and Jack and Ginger. So I got him some Owsley acid, they dropped acid, went on stage and killed, you know what I mean?
PSF: What a story.
CJ: Bill Graham saw me giving him the acid. Ahhh... he wasn't pleased. About two years later, he saw me giving Jimi Hendrix a bundle of heroin at Winterland and he also looked displeased. (laughs) I was just a kid back then and it didn't occur to me that I might be fuckin' up the headliner. But what are gonna say? Eric Clapton says to you 'hey, can you get me some acid?' What are going to say? 'No'? (laughs)
PSF: Why did it take a few years for the Groovies to put out an album after you started? When exactly did the first record come out?
CJ: We cut Sneakers in '67 and it came out at the end of the year. I have to tell you... the way that the kids were in bands, when you were in a high school band, you knew if you weren't good to make a record yet. And you knew you weren't good enough to get signed to a major label. So, everybody knew their place, but it got to the point where Roy and I started writing songs and one day, our manager says to us, 'hey man, why don't we cut our own record?' The reason that there's only seven songs is because we only had so much money and any kind of place can cut 10-inch vinyl, the size of a 78. (laughs) So that's why we did Sneakers that way.
PSF: It was pretty unique then, wasn't it? Not many bands were putting out their own records.
CJ: Actually, I've never really checked on this but we could be one of the first bands to do that on the scale that we did. We pressed up fifteen hundred, we sold those at Tower Records real fast, within like two months. Then we pressed up another fifteen hundred and by the time those were gone, we were in our third pressing and we got approached by Epic Records. Basically, in those days, if you sold fifteen hundred records in a major city, and a major record label out of New York or L.A. heard about it, they would be very interested because their logic was that 'we could sell 1500 in every city, we could get into the charts and make some money.'
PSF: Going back a bit, how did you and Roy start out with writing songs?
CJ: It's funny 'cause when I first joined the band, I was hanging out with George quite a bit and then all of a sudden, I was hanging out with Timmy, who was the other guitar player. And Timmy had a Triumph TR4A (car), a new one, convertable, English racing green. He used to pick me up in high school, I felt like a king, having this guy pick me up. (laughs)
And then I started hanging out with Roy. The cool thing about Roy was that he had an incredible record collection. He had thousand of 45's. His mom used to buy him the top 10 every week since about '57 on. So Roy taught me about Jimmy Burton, I learned all that rockabilly stuff when I was hanging out with him. We would hang out every weekend- I would go over his house and eat dinner with him and his folks and we'd play records all day and play guitar. Just that environment of me and him being in a room, listening to my records and his records and then learning them on the gutiar together... It was a great environment for us to start creating. And then it eventually just happened. He would show me an idea for a song and then I then I would set up an arrangement and make an intro part and all of that and we'd have it going. Then we'd show it to the rest of the guys.
PSF: In the early days of the band, you were doing hand bills for the group, weren't you?
CJ: Oh yeah. We got to the point to where because of the Filmore and their poster trip, which was really starting to take off, same with Avalon Ballroom, we decided that when we were playing little bars and little clubs in the Bay area, that we'd do our own posters, you know?
PSF: How did you get into doing drawing originally?
CJ: I was drawing since the '50's. I had polio in 1954. I got Bulbar polio, which is a spinal polio- it begins at the top of your spine. I couldn't move my neck. I was supposed to die within 6 months and I didn't. I was brought back home and I was with a nurse for about two years. I didn't go to school. So I really got to check out radio all day long and also television. I was really into animation, cartoons that were on like 'Cursader Rabbit' and 'Rough and Ready.' So I was drawing with crayons and colored pencils. The day I got out of the hospital, my folks drove by one of these big theaters in San Francisco and Disney's Sleeping Beauty had just opened and I asked my dad to pull over so that I could look at the art work. And I just fell in love with color and paint and that was it. I'm also self taught.
I ended up being a comic book artist for Disney in the '80's doing Mickey Mouse comic book covers for about a year. That was a nice feather in my cap.
PSF: When you put out the first Groovies album, did you think the band with out of synch with the San Francisco scene at the time otherwise? Did you like other San Francisco bands of that time?
CJ: Well, we loved them. The Jefferson Airplane were just an amazing band to watch live and that became my favorite hobby that year. But we had been taught, influenced and brought up by the British Invasion guys so we didn't give a damn about what anybody thought because we knew that the Beatles ego, the Beatles attitude was that... 'we're right about this.' You know, people were putting them down before they came to America because they were playing rock and roll music, so that's why they couldn't get signed right away. These guys would say 'Aw, these guys sound like the Everleys and Little Richard and we already had that.' And the Beatles proved to everybody that... 'hey man, this stuff that you call rock and roll, this stuff is incredible and wait 'til you hear our version of it.' So, we had already developed an ego as a band about attitudes about what we thought was right and when we did think that something was right, we didn't give a damn what anybody else thought.
PSF: For the early shows, what was the band like live? Was it much different than the record? Also, what were the audiences like for your shows?
CJ: Depending on where you were playing... the Filmore was cool, the Winterland was cool but the Avalon was cooler. It was easier to get laid when you went to the Avalon. As a matter of fact, every time you went there, you'd get laid. Filmore, the chicks were kind of uppity, you know what I mean?
As far as playing, we sounded exactly like we did on the Sneakers record at that period. We were really into the Lovin' Spoonfuls so we had a real jugband side to our stuff, even though our main loves were the Beatles and the Stones. And that influence didn't start to surface until about the Teenage Head period.
PSF: For the first record for Epic, Supersnazz, how was that different from working on the previous record?
CJ: It was a lot different. Number one, we got paid as studio musicians so we made about 350 bucks every three hours and we also had session men on that album. We had a record contract that said 'unlimited recording studio time.' I don't know how Brian, our lawyer, did that but Epic was real pleased when we left! (laughs) But it was great, man. Every Saturday, I had like 2000 bucks in my pocket. It was fuckin' amazing. I'd go down Hollywood Boulevard at nine in the morning and buy a pair of boots, put 'em on, walk another block, get a pair of trousers and shirt, put that on. By the time I got to the bookstores, I was completely dressed with new gear.
PSF: Were you happy with how Supersnazz turned out?
CJ: Ah, we were definitely really, really happy about it. We weren't pleased about the way Epic treated the record- they really didn't do any promo. We started to get into the charts with "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu." We put a single out and we hit number 27 up in San Francisco and KYA (radio station) and I think number 18 on KFRC (radio)- we were pick of the week with Aretha and Elvis. (laughs) And then Johnny Rivers swiped our version and he got the hit with it. (laughs)
PSF: When I interviewed Roy a while ago, he said that he wasn't happy with the production and the mix of the next album, Flamingo. What did you think about it?
CJ: Well, we really didn't have that much time to work on it and I'll tell you, one thing that's far out about the Groovies is that Sneakers is on 4-track, OK? And Supersnazz is on 8-track. But Flamingo was on 12-track but that's just one inch (tape), just like 8-track so the tracks were squelched. So, you know, 12-track didn't stick around that long. If there's any vibe on 'we don't like the sound on Flamingo,' it's basically because it was a 12-track tape recorder. You know, our next album Teenage (Head) was 16-track and then when we cut Shake Some Action, we went to 24-track. So as we were progressing from album to album, the techology of recording was also progressing along with us.
PSF: For me, Teenage Head sounded more bluesy than the earlier records. Did you think so too?
CJ: Well, Teenage Head is a unique thing because by the time we cut that, Timmy our gutiar player had been busted for dealing and so he didn't make the session until the last three days. Now, Roy had stopped playing guitar so... I got to play all the gutiars! And because of that, I got to do the arranging. Timmy plays harmonica on "Teenage Head" and I think he plays rhythm guitar on "Doctor Boogie" and that's it. And I play all the gutiars on everything else. So that's the reason that album sounds a little more bluesy and it's different.
PSF: Roy left the group after that. Why did that happen and how did it change things with the band?
CJ: Well, really... it's funny because I did a tour with Roy about two years ago and told him one night 'Roy, you have no idea how gun-ho me, George and Danny were when we cut Teenage. And Roy had just lost interest. Well, Timmy and Roy had lost interest in it because hadn't got a number one and we didn't make the big time right away or something. Ah, we had to ask Roy to leave because he didn't have interest in it anymore. And that's when I pulled Chris Wilson in. And Chrisy and I could sing like the Everley Brothers. So that's why we started doing Beatles-styled stuff. You know, we never did that stuff with Roy because we didn't have the vocal ability. Roy was more like an R&B type singer.
PSF: So your interest was changing in what you wanted the Groovies to sound like then?
CJ: No, we were just evolving. We were going from Teenage Head to "Slow Death" and when we met Dave Edmunds. We were so excited this one evening in April of 1972 in South Wales in England that we wrote "You Tore Me Down" in 10 minutes and cut that. We cut "Slow Death," we cut "Shake Some Action," "Married Woman," "Little Queenie," "Get A Shot of Rhythm and Blues" and "Tallahassee Lassie," all in eight hours. It's really funny because our major hits are from that night.
PSF: Those recordings were done were a few years before the record came out then.
CJ: Yeah, "You Tore Me Down" and "Shake Some Action" was cut in '72.
PSF: Why did it take so long for the stuff to come out?
CJ: Because I ended up with the copy master and we really didn't sign the contract with UA (United Artists). So I ended up with the master and I started shopping it. And nobody wanted it. Everybody turned their back on rock and roll back then. Nobody wanted to hear love songs like "You Tore Me Down." I even went to Motown to try to get a record deal. It was crazy. And then I talked somebody at Capitol into letting us cut a demo of "Shake Some Action," so we did another version of that. That's a better version- it's designed more for a 45 because the one we cut at Rockfield (studio in South Wales) is almost five minutes long. So we down sized it to about three minutes and changed the arrangement. But I play all the guitars on that one too.
PSF: So you spend those couple of years in between just shopping the record around?
CJ: Oh yeah! It was a terrible time. I went to New York to shop it, I went to Europe to shop it. I went to L.A. three times to shop it and I finally met Greg Shaw at the end of '74, maybe the beginning of '75- I can't really remember, it was so long ago. But Greg was very interested in "You Tore Me Down" and he wanted us to cut a B-side so we went back to the studio that we used for Flamingo, which was the Grateful Dead studio in San Francisco, it was called the Alembic. And that was the place with the 12-track recorded. I didn't really like the sound on 24-track. It still had a shitty sound. There was something wrong with the room- I don't know what it was. But we put a single out on Bomp! (Shaw's label) and Greg was becoming very friendly with Seymour Stein and was going to be the vice president of Sire Records. Well, the next thing that we know is Seymour comes out to hear us for an audition and asks us if we could play him some originals. I told Seymour, 'you know, I don't write originals unless I know they're gonna go on wax. So he said 'well, what can you play me?' And I said, 'well, we can do "Please Please Me" and that happened to be his favorite song. So we did "Please Please Me" by the Beatles and he signed us right on the spot. Seymour was great man, he was just incredible. If he heard that there was a band in Antarctica that was incredible, hed' fly out there to check it out.
PSF: So the band was still together between '72 and '76 when you were trying to find a home for the album otherwise, right?
CJ: Yeah, we weren't really gigging and we weren't really recording. We had laid down the ground work and we were very, very satisfied with the material that we were shopping. And we just figured one day, we'll get a major deal. And we weren't going to do anything until that day happened.
PSF: Going back to when you recorded that album, what was it like to record with Edmunds?
CJ: It was a gas. There's a great story about that. You wanna hear it?
CJ: Dave came down... it was a rainy night in April '72 and we got there about 6 in the evening and (it was) just pouring. We came down on a train and Kingsley Ward the owner picked us up in this little Hillman station wagon. We had all these Marshalls (amps), you know. So we had to make like ten trips to bring all the gear. So Edmunds shows up about nine in the evening and the first thing I ask Dave is 'well, what's the new material that you're working on?' So we spend the next two hours listening to the stuff that he had cut and we got real excited, me and Chris, and we wrote "You Tore Me Down" and then we just started recording. Now, when we came back there later to cut the album with Dave, me and Dave got real friendly, and one night we were drinking and talking and he tells me that he didn't know that he was supposed to produce us in '72. See, when I came to England and I had to deal with Andrew Lauder at UA, United Artists. And Andrew said to me 'where do you want to record?' And I said 'can you get us into Rockville?' And he said 'yeah, yeah...' Then he said 'well, what about a producer?' And I said 'I'd like to work with Dave Edmunds.' So he said 'yeah, we could do that.' So Melody Maker and all these interviews come up and they're asking us what we're going to do. And I said 'we're going to Rockville to work with Dave Edmunds.' So David told me that the day that we were there and we were going to show up, he got a call from Kingsley and he said 'hey, you're producing this big American band, it says here in Melody Maker.' (laughs) See, they didn't contact him, right? They forget to tell him. (laughs) So he found out in reading Melody Maker.
PSF: At least he was a good sport about it.
CJ: Oh, he was great to work with. Well, the funny thing is too is that 'cause we were from America and we were on United Artists, everyone had the impression that we were this big America band. So he couldn't fuck around- he had to show up. (laughs)
PSF: What did you think of other power pop bands in the early/mid 70's like Big Star and Raspberries?
CJ: Oh yeah, I love the Raspberries and those early records of theirs. "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" and the other ones are just fantastic pop records. And it was a shame that style of music was ignored, not only in America but also in England at the time. Peter Asher from Peter and Gordon, when Shake Some Action came out in '76, he wrote a letter to Phonogram raving about the album and telling Phonogram that they'd be crazy not to promote it. That style of music had died out by then.
PSF: What did you think of punk when it started coming up after that?
CJ: Well, you know... the whole first Sex Pistols album is in the key of G and that's because they couldn't play in any other key. A lot of these guys, they had gotten to the showcase a little too early in their careers. I think if they had developed a little more... You know, the funny thing is, by that time, the hoopla of being in a rock band became such a big deal that you know, a lot of bands, they were just about the loudness and the volume and the attitude and the clothes more than they were about music. And it kind of goes hand in hand with the genre of people playing too loud, people playing a little out of tune and people not really knowing how to play too well. You know what I mean? But it isn't easy to do a song like "You Tore Me Down." I mean, you've got your singing harmonies and you've got a chorus and you've got a verse and you've got a intro and ride out and stuff. I mean, there's heavy arrangements on this stuff. So the younger kids, because they didn't have the chops yet, of course they were going to make it simple, you know?
PSF: That's interesting because the records the Groovies were putting out at that time like Now and Jumpin' In the Night seemed out of synch other stuff that was going on at the time in the music world. Is that how you saw it, and you just didn't care?
CJ: Yeah, we didn't give a damn. We're not here man to get laid! You know what I mean? I got laid plenty before I was even in rock and roll, when I was a kid. So that attitude didn't mean nothing. Money- I probably love it more than anybody else. I collect antique magical apparatus, it's one of the most expensive hobbies on the planet. But, you know, if I've gotta play punk music to make a million dollars, I'm not doing it. If I gotta do disco to make a million dollars, I'm not going to do it. (laughs)
PSF: Did you think those two records, Now and Jumpin' In the Night, came out well? Were you happy with the end result?
CJ: Oh yeah, they came out great. We were always pleased with what were doing at the time. The good thing about touring now is that we're doing the catalog. Back then in '76, you know, we had stopped playing "Slow Death," we'd stopped playing "You Tore Me Down" and all that stuff. You know, we're always doing our current stuff. Now we're playing our whole catalog. I'm sure the fans will get a big kick out of that.
PSF: In the '80's, the band had a recording hiatus until 1987. What happened then?
CJ: Well, we lost our lead singer Chris, which was a real blow to the band and also to myself because I'd lost a good friend. Basically, we'd gotten to a point at the end of the '70's, around 1980, where everything was falling apart.
The attitude of the company (Sire) was bad towards us and we lost our record deal. And when that happened, I mean, we were so stoned, we didn't even give a fuck. (laughs) You know, who cares? We had to revamp.
So we revamped. Around '84, George and I put together another band, another version of the band with a new drummer and another guitar player and then we started recording another album, Rock Juice, and we spent about six years on and off working on that.
PSF: And you didn't record anything after that.
CJ: No. George and I were finished by about '91.
PSF: What happened at that time?
CJ: We got totally screwed over by a guy named Peter Noble, an Australian promoter who had put up a tour together in Europe where we were supposed to make $60,000 and the guy just ripped us off. If it wasn't for me taking over the reigns half-way through the tour and picking up the rest of the cash, nobody would have gotten paid! Not only that but we probably would have also owed about 7,000 pounds. It was an 80 day tour. 80 one-nighters in a row, all the way through Europe. You know? And we just wore out and just totally crushed by that tour. And that was pretty much the end by that point.
PSF: Is that when you went back into illustration?
CJ: Yeah, yeah. I got heavy into illustration. Around 1995, I got a letter from Paramount Studios, asking if it would be OK if they used "Shake Some Action" for this movie (Clueless). And I didn't recognize any of the people making it or the people that were going to be in it but I said 'yeah, let's do the deal.' And they gave me about 15,000 bucks, they gave me a signature fee to do that. And then the next thing I know, the fucking movie's a hit. And I got sucked right back into the business. It's like gum on my shoe- I couldn't get it out of my life. (laughs)
PSF: What led you to reunite with Roy a few years ago?
CJ: We've got fans in a band called the A Bones. There's a couple in the East Coast that run a company called Norton Records, Billy and Miriam, and they have a band called the A Bones, with a bunch of cats. And they love the Groovies and Roy was doing some shows with them. And then all of a sudden, the idea came about to where, ‘why don't they back us, me and Roy, and we'll do a Groovies set of the Teenage Head period,’ you know? So we went to New Orleans and opened up the House of Blues and just KICKED ass. We got a rave review in The New York Times, we got on the front page of The Chronicle. It was really great. So, that kind of kick started it, you know?
Cyril and Chris live, 2013; Photo by P Squared Photography
PSF: Could you talk about how you recently reformed the band with some of the other members?
CJ: Chris and I hadn't spoken in thirty years. I went to England with the A Bones and Roy to do a show in London and Chris came by. And as soon as we saw each other, it was hugs and kisses and tears. And you know, the Flamin' Grooves Shake Some Action version makes way more money and did make way more money in the '70's than the Roy Loney version ever did. So it was a no-brainer to put that second version back together again and see if we could make some good money. We started getting calls last year (2012), around Christmas to come to Australia and Japan. (It was) $75,000 for, you know, about seven shows. That was a damn good kick start to get us going.
PSF: So how is it now to play with this line-up?
CJ: Better than ever.
PSF: Why’s that?
CJ: I don't know. It doesn't make any sense, you know. I mean, we're old geezers now. And it should be more difficult. It is easier. (laughs) Yeah, it's easier paying this set of rock and roll. I mean, it's a real work out, you know. Doing a whole set of rock and roll, man. That's why I'm down to about a 30-inch waste. (laughs)
PSF: Are you still in touch with Roy?
CJ: Oh yeah, yeah. Unforutnately, our old drummer Danny Mihm, he just had a bad stroke so we all wish him well on that. And Timmy I haven't seen, god... in maybe 15 years. He's up in Sebastopol (California) with his family. George I hadn't seen in about twenty-five years and Chris I hadn't seen in 33. So, it's just great. The weird thing is the second day we started rehearsing this year, at the beginning for this Australian thing, we turned back into our old selves.
PSF: What do you mean by that?
CJ: It was like the day after we broke up in 1980. Time and space didn't mean fucking anything anymore. It was really weird. It just didn't mean anything. We beat time and space somehow, you know.
PSF: Not too many people can do that.
CJ: No, they can’t. We beat it to the point to where when I was in Australia, we were out in Melbourne doing a sound check and I'm walking around outside and there's a couple of old guys that are Groovies fans, they got a huge stack of records. This one guy keeps walking by me, ignoring me and I'm kind of puzzled why he's not asking for an autograph yet. Chris comes up to me and says 'hey, that guy wants an autograph.' And the guy says to Chris, 'where's Cyril?' And Chrisy says 'he's right here!' (laughs) The guy turned out and freaked. He didn't recognize me because I don't look old. It's like I haven't aged at all.
PSF: If a young musician asked for advice when they were starting in the music business, what would you say to them?
CJ: First thing I would say is 'get a real good drummer!' Because once you have a good drummer, you've got the core of band. Good drummers are real important. If you don't have a good drummer, it's gonna be a real bitch to put together a kick ass group, you know.
PSF: What are your desert island albums?
CJ: Definitely first choice would have to be Yardbirds, early Yardbirds. Beatles... I have played the Beatles so much that I don't really need the records to hear the music because I heard it in my head all the time. (laughs) The Stones, I'd probably pick the later period right before Brian died, like "We Love You" and "JUmping Jack Flash" and "Street Fighting Man." Probably take Exile On Main Str. Maybe some Bob Dylan. That's probably it. The other stuff I probably got in my memory and I could hear it over and over without a record player.
PSF: Looking forward to your New York show.
CJ: Yeah, we're looking forward to it too and coming back there. We used to call New York 'the Big Monkey,' you know, because of King Kong. (laughs)
But we're having a lot of fun and everything's just rolling the way it's supposed to so, we're just going to get tighter and tigher and by the time we're in new York, we're gonna be rippin' it up.
Also see our Roy Loney interview and our article about the Groovies' early years
Illustration by Cyril Jordan
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