The criminally overlooked Bay Area band gets a welcome reappraisal
thanks to an Australian label’s diligence.
BY RON HART
It would have been easy for Danny Mihm and Tim Lynch
to have transferred all that manic, scrappy energy they put out as members of
the seminal San Francisco psych-garage outfit the Flamin’ Groovies into the
context of their mid-‘70s follow-up act the Hot Knives, a group the late, great
Greg Shaw of Bomp! Magazine fame once
hailed as “the best thing happening” in their city at the time.
However, the music guitarist Lynch and drummer Mihm
helped create under the Knives name with their partners, bassist Ed Wilson and
the brother-sister singing duo of Michael and Debra Houpt, was more of a
creative nod to the acid-tinted folk-rock vibe that illuminated Frisco’s
Haight-Ashbury scene during the Summer of Love, albeit with the kind of
electrified muscle that helped to put over the Groovies on such classic
platters as Supersnazz and Teenage Head. Their vibe was as much Notorious Byrd Brothers as it was Nuggets, one that was conservative
enough to have the son of Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense Caspar
Weinberger financially support the band for a time, yet wild enough to headline
Mabuhay Gardens, the notorious Bay Area club that gave birth to the West Coast
punk movement by booking groups like Dead Kennedys, The Nuns and The Avengers.
Yet during the Knives’ brief stretch of time together, the outfit only saw
the release of two 7-inches – “Lovin’ You” b/w “Around the
World” and a great cover of Moby Grape’s “Hey Grandma” with the
original “I Hear The Wind Blow” on the flip – hit shop shelves before
they split up by the end of the Me Decade. But they did manage to record an
entire LP in 1976, a 14-song set that contained both singles, their b-sides and
ten more gems, including a buoyant tear through “Lies” by The
Knickerbockers. It is a fascinating document of pure proto-Jefferson Airplane
groove that, unfortunately, was shelved upon its intended street date and never
heard about again.
That is, of course, until the folks at the recently revived Australian
punk label Grown Up
Wrong! rescued Hot Knives from 35
years of back closet purgatory with the release of this outstanding first
generation issue featuring extensive packaging loaded with old poster art and
concert flyers and educational liner notes written by longtime BLURT
contributor Jud Cost, who also played a key role in hunting down this rock ‘n’
roll rarity. And having been digitally mastered from the original tapes, it
sounds as though it was recorded last week.
Veteran British music journalist Kris Needs has hailed Hot Knives as “a seriously exciting
discovery”. And when you yourself dig into the way by which this unheralded
extension of the Flamin’ Groovies family tree bridges the gap between the Bay
City music scenes of the ‘60s and ‘70s, there’s a strong chance you will
certainly concur with those sentiments.