Sunday, August 12, 2018


I loved this band, their singles always enlivening my youth, with Fire Brigade being one of the first singles I bought, familiar with all the words of all their hits, identifying, o yes, with the cool, hairy dude who seemed to run the show. You will understand I was still at school and short back and sides haircuts were the order of the day, perhaps intrinsically one of the reasons I was drawn to the shaggier bands of the day. And whilst lead singer Carl Wayne was always neatly groomed, it was the freakier fellow who played guitar and did additional vocals, later learning he wrote all the songs, that drew my innocent eye. I learnt his name. Roy Wood.

The Move had a chequered career, two steps back for every, and there were many, step forward. Beset by a management that always put notoriety ahead of sustainment, finances were always struggle, after a court case that had them surrendering royalties for their biggest song, Flowers in the Rain. Their manager had thought it a great ruse to produce, in a promotional postcard for the band, a cartoon of the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, in bed with his secretary. They also had then the bad luck of losing the master tapes of the LP produced to build on the back of said single, the delayed re-recording then missing the momentum of the moment. Nonetheless, they were a staple in the UK charts between 1966 and 1969, with hits such as I Can Hear the Grass Grow and Blackberry Way. Why no american breakthrough? In hindsight it seems strange, at least to me, and this was something they hoped a change of management, signing up with the notorious Don Arden, father of Sharon (Osborne), would remedy. Sadly this didn't materialise much beyond a support tour with the Stooges, although they can be included in the roster of artists who managed to produce a Live at the Fillmore LP, perhaps the exception to prove the rule, it being otherwise a yardstick of greatness. (To be fair I haven't heard it, knowing not of its existence until the research conducted for this piece, but it took 42 years to be released.)

The original band was a roster of greats from the Birmingham, not that one, circuit. Brumbeat, as the sound of the city was called, was quite a force in the 60s, with the Moody Blues, Spencer Davis Group and Black Sabbath, themselves also managed by Arden, all emanating therefrom. The original line up of Wayne, Wood, Ace Kefford, Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton began to fracture. First Ace Kefford was fired, for his drug use, shortly before the band appeared at the inaugural Isle of Wight festival of 1968. Trevor Burton subsequently took umbrage at the more commercial direction pursued, with Wayne then moving into the cocktail and chicken in a basket cabaret circuit in 1970. Burton, surely a shoulda/coulda also ran in rock's back pages remains to this day a staple on Birmingham's pub-rock circuit,  fashioning his never changing and never fashionable blues-rock, remaining, like sometime cohort, Steve Gibbons, world famous in Birmingham. Wayne strangely reappeared, after years on the easy listening pastures, as a latter-day lead singer for the Hollies, replacing Allan Clarke, and introducing a few old Move songs to this now largely nostalgia act's repertoire, ahead of his later death.

So what could Wood and Bevan do now? Luckily for them, old mate Jeff Lynne was now available, having earlier been too engaged with the Idle Race, another forgotten band, and was enlisted alongside Rick Price, another Birmingham stalwart foot soldier, on bass. This gave an enormous shot in the arm, with a first sight of the elusive US single chart entries missed before. Brontosaurus, California Man and Do Ya' showed a much more vigorous retro rock and roll style that made a (slight) dent into america. But you are ahead of me, as you query my ownership of the last mentioned. Surely that was......

Indeed. At the same time as Wood and Lynne revived the Move template, so also they worked together on another ambition of Woods, the marriage of strings and rock music. A keen self-taught cellist, amongst virtually any other instrument you might name, he had long sought an opportunity to replicate live the sort of lavish sounds of, say, Strawberry Field Forever. With Lynne an even more fervent fan of the Fabs, in 1970, in parallel with the Move, Electric Light Orchestra were born. However, after their first eponymous recording, musical differences began to appear, and they split, consequently also fracturing the Move. ELO, of course went on to fame and fortune, which need not burden us here, their brand becoming overly saccharine for my taste, although their "version" of Do Ya' perhaps is worthy of compare.

For a while Wood seemed the man more likely. He took his brainchild into the equivalently cello laden Wizzard, but with a much more varied palette, a slew of hit singles evoking bygone eras, in turn replicating an ersatz rockabilly vibe, at others, and convincingly, the Phil Spector wall of sound. Perhaps too talented for his own good, he pursued a solo career of quirky singer-songwritery, as often as not used to demonstrate his mastery of an ever more arcane instrumental palette. Since then, and thus for the best part of 30 years he has seemed to pursue ever decreasing circles, as Wizzard became the Wizzo band, producing a sub-Zappa jazz-fusion, ahead of innumerable short lived iterations. Perhaps he just ran out of steam, perhaps he just didn't need to try so hard. An intensely shy and private individual, living quietly in the same town as a chum of mine, he is apparently content to merely potter about for much of the year, ahead of his yearly donning the warpaint for the annual outing of his pension plan, along with a yearly Christmas concert at Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Mind you, the royalties for a song that never fails to chart, year upon year upon year can do no harm.

He remains etched upon my childhood, a lost figure content, it seems, so to be. Up there with Ray Davies in my book, Kinks supremo, who, perhaps unlike Wood, has never quite given up trying to replicate his bounteous past. Here's his take on it. So, cheers, Woody, thanks for all of that.

Postscript: Do NOT fall for the more recent faux Move product, a latter-day laying claim to by drummer Bev Bevan, who has a track record of this, his E.L.O. part II originally also claiming to be the real thing. Or so, a lawyer writes, I understand.

3 used from $1.82!!!

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