Tuesday 15 April 2014

Shaking Some Action On The English/Welsh Border

Montgomery has various definitions.
  • it can be used as an alternative name for a Martini cocktail
  • it can refer to Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC (more commonly recognised as simply "Monty")
  • it may be expressed as an arithmetic computation, called the Montgomery reduction which is an algorithm that allows modular arithmetic to be performed efficiently when the modulus is large
    (nope, me neither? - and this doesn't help much either: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_reduction)
  • it is the forename of Scotty in Star Trek
  • a small village on the Shropshire / Powys border
It is to the last of these definitions that I have just been for a week.  A week spent in the depths of the countryside in an area which seems to swap borders of county and country with virtually every step.
Initial impressions - it was like going back in time.  The streets were cobbled, no Channel 5 (a good thing, surely?), and limited mobile phone/internet connection (again, possibly a good thing).
Basically, a week of dossing about, visiting places, eating rich food and washing it down with copious amounts of Wye Valley Butty Bach.

On a more positive note, previous holidays to such remote parts have often brought disappointment/despair on the shopping for essentials front.  It is usually a case of either travel 15 or 20 miles to find a badly stocked Tesco or Asda, or visit the local Spar where a tin of beans will cost about £12.
Within this area of England/Wales (it was never really clear), it seems someone has hit upon the eminently sensible idea of setting up a number of large convenience stores, often in business units/warehouse premises with a cafe and petrol station attached.  These shops are well stocked, and although marginally higher priced than a mega-hyper-enormo-market, at least don't require the security of a small mortgage to buy some loo roll.

The town of Montgomery itself consists of a Post Office, a Library, a Pub, a Hotel, a Museum, a Hardware Shop, the obligatory Spar Convenience Store and an Indian Restaurant (potentially out of place in such a rural setting, but useful fallback when you can't be bothered to cook).
It is also within easy reach of one small town (Welshpool) and two larger towns (Ludlow and Shrewsbury).
One noticeable "shopping" observation of the above towns is that the shopping experience is not confined to the usual suspects which seem to be taking over towns and providing identi-kit shopping experiences from Newcastle to Nuneaton, but there are a large number of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

Armed with the usual holiday literature of a copy of Never Mind The Bollards: A Road Trip Around Englands Rock & Roll Landmarks and the Record Shop Directory printed in Mojo Magazine, it was in Ludlow and Shrewsbury that I alighted on two fantastic record shops, which I could've spent hours in but I was receiving the 'folded albums arms and narrow smile' look from Mrs D.

As is most unusual, and to paraphrase Withnail & I: "I'd come on holiday with no music by mistake"

A visit to Mod Lang in Ludlow soon rectified this oversight.  The shop can be found down a small side street, and up a flight of steps to a loft-type shop unit.
The first thing I noticed on entering, was the large Rockpile poster on the wall.  A sure sign that I was entering a place of sanity and comfort.
Mod Lang deals primarily in Vinyl, with particular emphasis on 70s Rock, Soul and Jazz.  From the selection of CDs on offer, my eyes were drawn to a Flamin' Groovies compilation, which then became the soundtrack for the week.
The second discovery was Cave Records in Shrewsbury.  This shop is located in a small arcade at the top of the town and deals specifically in Vinyl (both new and second-hand).  It has plenty of stock, and a variety of styles (I briefly remember seeing Frank Zappa, Teenage Fanclub, Nick Drake, Husker Du and Tom Waits).  The timing of the visit was unfortunate for me, but I remain in little doubt that a good thorough browse could easily fill an afternoon.

If you are ever in the wilds of Shropshire, there are worse things you could do than pay a visit to either of these two emporiums.

The Flamin' Groovies formed in San Francisco in 1965, with a sound that drew in elements of Rock n Roll, Blues, Sixties British Invasion, surf music, psychedelia and garage rock (in fact they wouldn't sound out of place on the unimpeachable Nuggets compilation).
In short, the band can be best summarised as one the prime progenitors and exponents of that nebulous genre "Power Pop".
Their first album 'Supersnazz' was released on Epic in 1969, and due to the fact that it sold next to nothing they were pretty soon dropped, and found a new home at Kama Sutra.  1970s 'Flamingo' offered more of the same and garnered about the same level of interest and sales as their debut.
'Teenage Head' was released in 1971, and despite relatively low sales (again) the album was talked up by an (possibly) unexpected supporter.  The Rolling Stones released 'Sticky Fingers' in the same year, and Mick Jagger stated that he felt The Groovies did a better job a capturing the brand of bluesy, dirty, Rock n Roll than The Stones album.
The lack of success and the fractious relationship between original members Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney, led to the departure of the latter guitarist (replaced by Chris Wilson), and the re-location of the band to Britain.
Dave Edmunds expressed an interest in producing the band, and some initial recordings were made in 1972.
It wasn't until 1976 that this relationship bore fruit with the release of 'Shake Some Action', and album full of chiming guitars, heavy bass, reverb, and Dave Edmunds production stamped all over it.
More of the same came with 1978s 'Flamin Groovies Now'.  The album is primarily made up of cover versions, and whilst performed with the same enthusiasm and verve apparent on 'Shake Same Action', there is a feeling that the band may be running out of steam.  Sadly, 1979s 'Jumping In The Night' confirmed this prognosis, with a repeat of covers mixing with a few originals.  The two cover highlights from this album are 'Please Please Me' and 'Werewolves Of London'.
But it was at this point that the Groovies flame went out.

They did re-appear in 1987 with 'One Night Stand', which was ostensibly a Flamin Groovies Mark 2 re-recording of past triumphs, and then again with the lacklustre 'Rock Juice' in 1993.

Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action

1 comment:

  1. Lovely stuff. Glad to hear you had a good week of 'dossing about'. Also, I love the fact that when describing the 'folded arms and narrowed smile look' from Mrs D, you actually typed 'folded albums' which is a splendid Freudian slip ;-)