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knowledge about music than anyone I’ve met, plus super-groupie Sable Starr, who seemed to be with Chris Wilson. We relocated to infamous rock stars’ watering hole The Speakeasy, where the Groovies turned heads in their ’60s finery before starting a drinking contest. It turned my 22nd birthday at midnight – one of the best I’ve ever had!

After the Speak, I ended up back in Cyril’s room, where we talked through until my first train home about anything from dope [“We've been stoned every day for 10 years, man!”] to the Groovies’ plans for rock ‘n’ roll domination. Cyril had a basic philosophy you couldn’t really argue with: “If it wasn’t for getting stoned I don’t know how long I’d be on this planet! And all these fuckers are trying to snuff out the three things that are the only reasons people ought to be here: that’s fucking and playing rock ‘n’ roll too, man. Everything else is just dogshit!”

I crawled home happy at around six in the morning, an odd feeling of euphoria in my stomach.

Sunday July 4th was the big day as the Groovies played their first British gig since ’72. Since then there’d only been the comeback at the Paris Olympia the previous November.

Decked out in their new stage gear of black ’60s-style velvet-collared suits, white shirts, ties and Beatle boots, the Groovies took the stage and the crowd erupted as they plunged into Larry Williams’ ‘She Said Yeah’ followed by The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Let The Boy Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Greg Shaw said the most important ingredient in rock‘n’roll is intensity. The Flamin’ Groovies were intense. Add passionate, elegant and masterful, Cyril the consummate less-is- more guitarist, pouring out solo after solo from his Dan Armstrong Plexiglas guitar. As Frame said, Cyril’s one of the few guitarists who pays attention to stance: legs spread, whole arm slashing. Songs like ‘I Can’t Hide’ from the new album sounded heavenly among covers like The Pretty Things’ ‘Big City’, Paul Revere’s ‘Ups And Downs’, Beatles songs and the Stones’ ‘Miss Amanda Jones’. The encores were the latter’s ‘Under My Thumb’ and 'Married Woman'.

Monday night saw the Groovies and The Ramones playing Dingwalls in Camden Town. The classic bum gig, too hot, crap sound, poor view and the crowd more concerned with posing or chatting. The Groovies battled on bravely but were pretty down afterwards, citing it as one of the worst gigs they’d ever done. After the previous night’s triumph, it was indeed, “the other side of the spectrum”, as Cyril described it.

The Groovies were back in the UK that November, playing a magnificent gig at London’s Imperial College before hitting Friars Aylesbury, my local club, which at that time, was renowned as one of the best gigs in the country. The Groovies stormed this open-

minded crowd who gave them the sort of welcome which prodded Cyril to say it was one of the best gigs they’d ever done. Afterwards we ended up at a party in Great Missenden, and ending up hitting the nearby churchyard in the early hours.

We’d hit it off to the extent that the Groovies invited me to accompany them on their European tour the following month. I’d also started writing for Sounds, one of several music weeklies we had back then and would be covering it for them.

It was great seeing the Groovies every night for over a week. I took the ferry to Calais with Greg Shaw and some guys from Rock On and Bizarre, two London record shops who supported the Groovies. One five-hour drive

Chris Wilson cuts some rug, circa ’76.

later we were in Le Havre to hook up with the band. France was always a hotbed of Groovies maniacs and this remains one of the greatest, wildest gigs I’ve ever seen as they roared through the set, which now started with The Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’ and peaked with a rampant version of ‘Let It Rock’, which never failed to raise the roof every night. This was the most powerful rock ‘n’ roll dam busting I’d ever seen dealt from a stage in terms of sheer firepower and indefinable magic touch.

I couldn’t help noticing that they had a new guitarist instead of James Farrell, none other than their old mate Mike Wilhelm. Sporting a long brown leather great-coat and gruff rumble of a voice, The Charlatans legend could’ve been a bit scary at first but the fact that Zigzag had released his Wilhelm album broke the ice and now I was listening to his San Fran tales (you can imagine what they’re like!). What’s more, Mike’s non-flash brand of guitar mayhem, complete with duck-walk, fitted the Groovies like a glove. Cyril told me that Farrell got the boot for his “difficult attitude” and wouldn’t cut his hair! Wilhelm, who Chris had played with in Loose Gravel, was originally standing in to help out but was having such a good time by the end of the tour he became a full-time member!

I travelled with the group in their mini- bus, Dave Edmunds’ Get It and The Beach Boys’ 15 Big Ones on the cassette deck, lethal refreshments always on the go and many conversations with each band member. This was the first time I’d been abroad or properly on tour with a band. This was the life… some of the time. There were hiccoughs throughout. No record company support, a gig in Brussels cancelled at the last minute because of petty hall rules, Le Mans pulled because there wasn’t enough electricity to power the group!

Paris Pavilion was a highlight, a cavernous space but half filled with the original Groovies nutters going apeshit. The hotel was situated near Notre Dame Cathedral and one of my abiding memories is walking right round this

spectacular edifice, as dawn broke accompanied by Mike Wilhelm in full story- telling mode.

He could already see that the Groovies seemed to be continually up against it, a theme picked up by Cyril next day. “People identify with us because we have been up against it for so long. It’s got to the point where they feel if we fail they will too. We know it’s a battle we’re fighting. We have to fight just to keep playing, but we know we’re the heaviest band in the world.”

He also defended playing old Beatles and Stones songs. “The reason is simple, they’re great songs and nobody else does them… plus these songs have never sounded so good on a stage before.”

Despite the band getting struck by food 53

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