The Infinite Jukebox: The Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘Shake Some Action (Demo Version)’

Have a listen. Listen to this. Is this not brilliant? Is this not full of life and fire and drive? Is it not the most perfect track with which to begin a CD? Does it not lead you into the expectancy of great, uplifting, exciting music?

I vaguely knew of the Flamin’ Groovies, by repute, a band tied to the early energy of rock’n’roll and the British Invasion. This was the first thing by them that I heard, some unknown day in 1978, when I was living in Nottingham and into punk, and I bought the single cheap down the market in the Victoria Centre.

It doesn’t say (Demo Version) on the label, but that’s the only way you’ll find it on YouTube. If you just search for ‘Shake Some Action’, you’ll get the version that’s the title track of the album, the one produced by Dave Edmunds.

That, you’d think, would be a perfect match. Edmunds, with his impeccable record of recreating the sound of the rock’n’roll that fascinates him. And there are half a dozen tracks on the album where he gets the sound absolutely perfect.

But what he does to ‘Shake Some Action’ is heart-breaking. It’s not the addition of some totally redundant guitar-chopping at the start of the song, it’s the total draining of any energy in the track, the weak, stifled, blurred production, and the slight but significant slowing of its tempo.

The Flamin’ Groovies attack the ‘Demo Version’ from the opening crash of guitars. ‘Shake! Some Action’s what I need/to let me bust up at full speed/and I’m sure that’s all you need’. It’s brand new in their hands, they know how great it is, they can’t contain themselves from the thrill of playing it.

On the ‘finished’ version, they’re a tired band going through the motions of a song they’ve played a hundred times too often. How anyone – how the band, how Dave Edmunds – could have listened to that version and thought it better than the ‘Demo’ – how they could have heard the ‘Demo’ and imagined it could ever be improved upon – is one of the Great Mysteries of our Times.

And ‘Shake Some Action’ is one of the eternally fresh, eternally burning Great Singles of our Times.

(It also has, not that this is necessarily relevant, one of the all-time great b-sides of Rock History, which showcases where Edmunds got it right).

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