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The Move: The drug-addled, axe-wielding rock group who got sued by the Prime Minister

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It’s one of those odd quirks of fate why sixties beat group The Move never became as big as say The Who, Kinks or the Dave Clark Five or even (crikey!) The Beatles or The Stones. There are many reasons as to why this never happened—top of the tree is the fact The Move never broke the American market which limited their success primarily to a large island off the coast of Europe. Secondly, The Move was all too often considered a singles band—and here we find another knotty problem.

The Move, under the sublime writing talents of Roy Wood, produced singles of such quality, range and diversity it was not always possible to identify their unique imprint. They evolved from “pioneers of the psychedelic sound” with their debut single “Night of Fear” in 1966—a song that sampled Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture—through “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” and “Flowers In The Rain” to faster rock songs like “Fire Brigade”—which inspired the bassline for the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”—to the chirpy pop of “Curly” and “Omnibus” to sixties miserabilism “Blackberry Way” and early heavy metal/prog with “Wild Tiger Woman,” “Brontosaurus” and “When Alice Comes Back to the Farm.” Though there is undoubtedly a seriousness and considered process going on here—it was not necessarily one that brought together a united fan base. Those who bought “Flowers in the Rain” were not necessarily going to dig the Hendrix-influenced “Wild Tiger Woman” or groove along to “Alice Comes Back to the Farm.”

That said, The Move scored nine top ten hits during the sixties, were critically praised, had a considerable following of screaming fans, and produced albums which although they were considered “difficult” at the time (Shazam, Looking On and Message from the Country) are now considered pioneering, groundbreaking and (yes!) even “classic.”

The Move was made up from oddments of musicians and singers from disparate bands and club acts who would not necessarily gravitate together. Formed in December 1965, the original lineup consisted of guitarist Roy Wood (recently departed from Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders), vocalist Carl Wayne who along with bass player Chris ‘Ace’ Kefford and drummer Bev Bevan came from The Vikings, and guitarist Trevor Burton from The Mayfair Set. Each of these artists had a small taste of success—most notably Carl Wayne who had won the prestigious Golden Orpheus Song Festival in Bulgaria—but nothing that was going to satisfy their ambitions for a long and rewarding career.

It was David Bowie—then just plain David Jones—who suggested Kefford and Burton should form their own band. They recruited Wood onto the team sheet and decided to follow another piece of Bowie’s advice to bring together the very best musicians and singers in their hometown of Birmingham. This they did. And although technically it was Kefford’s band, Carl Wayne by dint of age steered the group through their first gigs.
 
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The Move’s greatest asset was Roy Wood—a teenage wunderkind who was writing songs about fairies and comic book characters that were mistakenly believed to have been inspired by LSD. This gave the band their counterculture edge when “Night of Fear” was released in 1966. They were thought to be acidheads tuning into the world of psychedelia a year before the Summer of Love—but as drummer Bev Bevan later recalled:

Nobody believed that Roy wasn’t out of his head on drugs but he wasn’t. It was all fairy stories rooted in childhood.

Young Wood and Wayne may have been squeaky clean but the rest of the band certainly enjoyed the sherbets—with one catastrophic result.

After chart success of “Night of Fear,” The Move were expected to churn out hit after hit after hit. Though Wood delivered the goods—the financial rewards did not arrive. Ace Kefford later claimed the pressure of touring, being mobbed by fans, having clothes ripped—and once being stabbed in the eye by a fan determined to snip a lock of his hair—for the same money he made gigging with The Vikings made it all seem rather pointless.

But their success continued apace. By 1967, The Move had three top ten hits, were the first band played on the BBC’s new flagship youth channel Radio One, and were touring across the UK and Europe. They also caused considerable controversy with their live stage act which involved Carl Wayne chopping up TV sets with an axe. While the golden youth were wearing flowers in their hair and singing about peace and love, The Move were offering agitprop political theater.

Then they were sued by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
 
More of The Move, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Meet the wild child ‘Tiger Woman’ who tried to kill Aleister Crowley

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The other morning here at Dangerous Minds Towers (Scotland), while I sat sifting through the mailbag looking for presents and antique snuff boxes, m’colleague Tara McGinley popped a fascinating article in front of me about a wild “Tiger Woman.”

At first I thought this tabloid tale was perhaps about the woman who had inspired Roy Wood to write his rather wonderful and grimy little number “Wild Tiger Woman” for The Move. As I read on, I realized this story of a rebellious singer, dancer and artist’s model was unlikely to have been the woman Wood had in mind when he wrote his famous song.

No, this particular “Tiger Woman” was one Betty May Golding—a drug addict, a boozer, and a dabbler in the occult. She had a string of lovers, worked as a prostitute, had been a member of a notorious criminal gang, an alleged Satanist, and had once even tried to murder Aleister Crowley. This was the kind of impressive resumé one would expect from the original “wild child.” Not that Ms. Golding would have given two hoots for any of that:

I have not cared what the world thought of me and as a result what it thought has often not been very kind… I have often lived only for pleasure and excitement.

You go girl!

Betty May was born Elizabeth Marlow Golding into a world of poverty and deprivation in Canning Town, London in 1895. The neighborhood was situated at the heart of the city’s docks—an area described by Charles Dickens as:

...already debased below the point of enmity to filth; poorer labourers live there, because they cannot afford to go farther, and there become debased.

To get an idea how deprived and “debased” this district was—Canning Town even today “remains among the 5% [of the] most deprived areas in the UK.”  Plus ca change…
 
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A typical London slum 1909.
 
When Betty was just an infant, her father left the family home, leaving her mother to support four children on a pittance of 10/- a week—roughly the equivalent of $1.50. The family home was a hovel with no furniture and no beds. The family slept on bundles of rags, cuddling together to keep warm.

Her mother was half-French with beautiful olive complexion and almond eyes. The struggle proved too much for her and Betty was sent off to live with her father who was then residing in a brothel. Her father was an engineer by trade but he preferred to spend his time drinking, fighting and thieving. He was eventually arrested and sent to jail.

In her autobiography Tiger Woman, published in 1929, Betty described herself as a “little brown-faced marmoset ... and the only quick thing in this very slow world.” She earned pennies by dancing and singing on the street.  After her father’s arrest, she was passed from relative to relative eventually staying with an aunt who described her as “a regular little savage.”

One of her earliest memories was finding the body of a pregnant neighbor hanging from a hook. The woman had caught her husband having sex with her sister.

Her face was purple and her eyes bulged like a fish’s. It was rather awful.

Eventually Betty was sent to another aunt who stayed out in the country in Somerset. Here she attended school but soon the teenager was in trouble after having an affair with one of her teachers.

I can hardly say, in the light of what I have learnt since, that we were in love. At least perhaps he was. Certainly I was fond of him.

When their illicit relationship was discovered, Betty was given an ultimatum.

There was a great deal of fuss and it was made clear to me that unless the ­friendship came to an end it would be the schoolmaster who would be made to suffer.

After a rather tearful scene with my aunt I was packed off with a few pounds.

 
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Betty in her gypsy dress.
 
Arriving in London in 1910 Betty could only afford one outfit:

...but every item of it was a different colour. Neither red nor green nor blue nor yellow nor purple was forgotten, for I loved them all equally, and if I was not rich enough to wear them separately ... I would wear them, like Joseph in the Bible, all at once! Colours to me are like children to a loving mother.

With her exotic looks and green eyes, Betty looked every part the gypsy and was later known for her song “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy.” The novelist Anthony Powell described her as looking like a seaside fortune teller. Betty also delighted in her costermonger background:

I am a true coster in my flamboyance and my love of colour, in my violence of feeling and its immediate response in speech and action. Even now I am often caught with a sudden longing regret for the streets of Limehouse as I knew them, for the girls with their gaudy shawls and heads of ostrich feathers, like clouds in a wind, and the men in their caps, silk neckerchiefs and bright yellow pointed boots in which they took such pride. I adored the swagger and the showiness of it all.

 
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The Café Royal in 1912 as painted by artist William Orpen.
 
At first, Betty worked as a prostitute before becoming a model, dancer and entertainer at the hip Café Royal.

The lights, the mirrors, the red plush seats, the eccentrically dressed people, the coffee served in glasses, the pale cloudy absinthe ... I felt as if I had strayed by accident into some miraculous Arabian palace… No duck ever took to water, no man to drink, as I to the Café Royal.

The venue was the haunt of Bohemians and artists—Augustus John, Jacob Epstein, the “Queen of Bohemia” Nina Hamnett, heiress Nancy Cunard, William Orpen, Anna Wickham, Iris Tree and Ezra Pound.

Betty’s flamboyance and gypsy attire attracted their interest and she had affairs with many of the regulars. She modelled for Augustus John and Jacob Epstein. Being an artist’s model was a grey area that often crossed into prostitution. Many of May’s contemporaries in “modelling” died in tragic circumstances—either by their own hand or at the hands of a jealous lover.
 
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The artist Augustus John looking rather pleased with himself.
 
Betty’s life then took the first a many surprising turns when she became involved with a notorious criminal gang.

In 1914, she met a man she nicknamed “Cherub” at a bar who took her to France. Their relationship was platonic but after a night of drinking absinthe Cherub attacked her:

He clasped me round the waist, pinning my arms… I struggled with all the strength fear and hate could give me.

With a supreme effort I succeeded in half-freeing my right arm so that I was enabled to dig my scissors into the fleshy part of his neck.

Betty escaped to Paris where she met up with a man known as the “White Panther” who introduced her into the one of the ciy’s L’Apache gangs. She later claimed it was this gang who nicknamed her “Tiger Woman” after she became involved in a fight with one of the gangster’s girlfriends. When separated by the gang leader she bit into his wrist like a wild animal.

Now part of gang, Betty became involved in various robberies and acts of violence—in one occasion branding a possible informer with a red hot knife. This experience led her to quit Paris.
 
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Apache gang members or hooligans fighting the police in 1904.
 
To be honest, Betty’s autobiography reads at times like a thrilling pulp novel and without corroborative evidence seems more like fiction than fact.

Returning to London, Betty resumed work as a singer and dancer. She sought a husband and found two suitors: the first died after a mysterious boating accident; the second blew his brains out one fine summer’s day. Betty eventually married a trainee doctor Miles L. Atkinson, who introduced her to the joys of cocaine.

I learnt one thing on my ­honeymoon—to take drugs.

Atkinson had an unlimited supply of cocaine via his work with the hospital. The couple embarked on a mad drug frenzy. They fell in with a den of opium smokers. May’s drug intake escalated to 150 grains of cocaine a day plus several pipes of opium. She became paranoid—on one occasion believing the world was against her after ordering a coffee at a cafe and the waiter served it black. She decided to divorce Atkinson, but he was killed in action in 1917 while serving as a soldier in the First World War.

Betty then met and married an Australian called “Roy”—not believed to be his real name—who weaned her off drugs by threatening to beat her if ever he caught her taking any. However, she divorced Roy after catching him having an affair.

Continuing with her career as an artist’s model, Betty sat for Jacob Epstein and Jacob Kramer, who she claimed painted her as the Sphinx.
 
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Jacob Kramer’s painting ‘The Sphinx’ (1918).
 
Her notoriety grew after the publication of a book Dope Darling by David “Bunny” Garnett, which was based on Betty’s life as a coke addict. The book told the story of a man called Roy who falls in love with a dancer Claire at a bohemian cafe. Claire is a drug addict and prostitute. Roy believes he can save Claire by marrying her. Once married, Roy gradually becomes a drug addict too.

In the book, Garnett described Claire as being :

...always asked to all the parties given in the flashy Bohemian world in which she moved. No dance, gambling party, or secret doping orgy was complete without her. Under the effect of cocaine which she took more and more recklessly, she became inspired by a wild frenzy, and danced like a Bacchante, drank off a bottle of champagne, and played a thousand wild antics

But all of this was by way of a warm-up to her meeting the Great Beast.
 
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‘Dope Darling’ by David Garnett.
 
In 1922, Betty met and married the poet Frederick Charles Loveday (aka Raoul Loveday). This dear boy (aged about twenty or twenty-one) was an acolyte of Aleister Crowley. With a first class degree from Oxford University and a book of published poems to his name, Loveday was utterly dedicated to Crowley and to his study of the occult.

Crowley first met Loveday at a dive in London called the Harlequin. He liked Loveday—saw his potential and claimed he was his heir apparent—but he said this about many other young man that took his fancy. He was however reticent in his praise for May—describing her as a “charming child, tender and simple of soul” but impaired by an alleged childhood accident he believed had “damaged her brain permanently so that its functions were discontinuous.” This condition was exacerbated by her drug addiction—though he was complimentary in her strength of will in curing herself.

Crowley believed he could save Loveday from the “vagabonds, squalid and obscene, who constituted the court of Queen Betty.”

In his Confessions, Crowley recounted a typical scene of Betty “at work” in the Harlequin:

In a corner was his wife, three parts drunk, on the knees of a dirty-faced loafer, pawed by a swarm of lewd hogs, breathless with lust. She gave herself greedily to their gross and bestial fingerings and was singing in an exquisite voice ... an interminable smutty song, with a ribald chorus in which they all joined.

 
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Aleister Crowley
 
Crowley moved to Sicily where he established his Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu. He wanted Loveday—and to a lesser extent May—to join him there. However, Loveday had been ill after an operation and several friends including Nina Hamnett warned him off going. But Loveday was determined and the couple traveled to the Abbey.

Arriving there in the fall of 1922, Betty and Loveday were soon party to various sex magic rituals under Crowley’s direction. On one occasion, Betty chanced upon a box filled with blood soaked neckties. When she asked Crowley what these were, he replied that they had belonged to Jack the Ripper and were stained with the blood of his victims.

Crowley may have tut-tutted about Betty’s sexual hi-jinks with other men in the club, but he didn’t seem to mind all the fucking and sucking that went on at the Abbey. Betty was unsure about Crowley. She was intrigued by the occult and her superstition kept her belief from wavering. But she never fully trusted him.

Everything came to a head after a black mass where Crowley commanded Loveday to kill a cat and drink its blood. Crowley claimed the cat was possessed by an evil spirit. Loveday beheaded the cat and greedily drank its blood. Within hours he fell ill and died, on February 16th, 1923.

Betty blamed Crowley for her husband’s death and swore revenge—deciding to kill him.
 
More on Betty May and her life of sex and drugs and the occult, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Hilarious and totally chaotic interview (plus fire and TV destruction) with The Move, 1966
10.26.2015
08:37 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
The Move


 
The mavens will know this stuff, but it merits a recap: the Move were a vital link in ‘60s British rock between the R&B-influenced early ‘60s scene and the hard rock and prog that were to come. They distinguished themselves not just with heavy sounds, but with violent stage antics that made the Who look like featherweights—most notoriously, singer Carl Wayne was noted for destroying TV sets with axes. As hard rockers from Birmingham, the Move surely had an impact on the young men who’d form Black Sabbath, and indeed, Move drummer Bev Bevan turned up in that band’s lineup years later, on the tour in support of the Born Again album. But ultimately, despite their notoriety and influence in their day, the Move became best known in the early 1970s, when a later member named Jeff Lynne shepherded the band through its transition into the slick, orchestral-pop juggernaut Electric Light Orchestra, and they remain best known today under the long shadow cast by that enormously popular group.
 

 
Here’s a 1966 television interview that captures the young band at its most manic—this is the original lineup of Wayne, Bevan, founding bassist Ace Kefford, and guitarists Trevor Burton and the band’s de facto leader Roy Wood—mugging, goofing off, and generally just being silly young men on speed. When they (OK, not really “they,” mostly just Carl Wayne) manage to let off any serious answers, the origin and creative intentions of the band are discussed, but things really heat up when the band gets to playing. The mugging ends, their faces get serious, riffs get mangled, notes get bent out of shape, fires get lit, and a TV set is handily reduced to scrap. This is the band at its most insane, in the sort of performance that made its reputation as a live must-see.
 

 
Much gratitude is due to Craig Bell for this find!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
They were one of the best British bands of the era, why wasn’t The Move able to crack the US market?
11.06.2013
08:39 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
The Move


 
The Move—vocalist Carl Wayne, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Roy Wood, bassist Trevor Buton and drummer Bev Bevan—performed a ten song set on Colour Me Pop, one of the BBC’s earliest color shows, on January 4, 1969. Due to the BBC’s penchant reusing videotapes most of the Colour Me Pop programs, including a set by the Kinks and a Strawbs outing that featured David Bowie doing mime, have been lost to history, although a small handful survive, including outings from Moody Blues and The Small Faces performing selections from their Ogdens Nutgone Flake concept album. Thankfully this stellar set from The Move also escaped the BBC’s degaussing magnet.

1. I Can Hear The Grass Grow
2. Beautiful Daughter
3. The Christian Life
4. Flowers In The Rain
5. The Last Thing On My Mind
6. Wild Tiger Woman
7. Goin’ Back
8. Fire Brigade
9. Something
10. Blackberry Way

(“Blackberry Way,” which is Wood’s sardonic answer to “Penny Lane” was one of The Move’s best numbers, great to see it included here)

Although they were inarguably one of the top British bands of the era—they scored nine top ten singles—The Move only ever played a small handful of American gigs including an October 1969 opening set for The Stooges in Detroit, a show in LA and and two shows at the Fillmore West in San Francisco.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Move: Chop up a TV and set fire to the stage, 1966

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One of my all-time favorite bands, The Move giving a truly incendiary performance of “Watch Your Step,” at a concert in Holland from 1966.

Lead singer, the late great Carl Wayne takes an ax to a TV set; while the genius composer Roy Wood keeps out of the way, playing guitar; and drummer Bev Bevan keeps beat, as Ace Kefford and Trevor Burton keep rocking. This is a great piece of theatrical anarchy—like Hendrix setting fire to his guitar, and far better than The Who smashing instruments, for there is a sense that anything could happen.

Watch out too for the fire blazing at the side of the stage—this was the kind of exuberant behavior that led to The Move being briefly banned from every venue in the UK.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

The Genius of Roy Wood: From The Move to Wizzard


 
With thanks to Cherry Blossom Clinic
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
7 Inches of Pleasure: ‘The Joy of the Single’

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The first single I bought was “Snow Coach” by Russ Conway. It was at a school jumble sale, St. Cuthbert’s Primary, sometime in the late 1960s. I bought it because I loved winter, and Christmas, and the idea of traveling through some snow-covered landscape to the sound of jingling sleigh bells . I also knew my great Aunt liked Russ Conway, so if I didn’t like it….

I bought it together with a dog-eared copy of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperback (No. 3 “The Copenhagen Affair”). These were the very first things I had chosen and bought for myself, with a tanner (6d) and thrupenny bit (3d). I played the single from-time-to-time on my parents’ Dansette Record Player - its blue and white case and its BSR autochanger, which allowed you to play up to 7 singles one-after-another. My brother had a selection of The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Elvis and The Move, which he played alternating one A-side with one B-side like some junior DJ. It meant I didn’t have to buy singles, as my brother bought most of the things I wanted to hear, so I could spend my pennies on books and comics and sherbert dib-dabs. It was a musical education, and though Conway was a start, the first 45rpm single I really went out and bought was John Barry’s The Theme from ‘The Persuaders’, which I played till it crackled like pan frying oil.

As this documentary shows 45rpm singles were an important part to growing up: everyone can recall buying their first single - what it looked like, its label, its cover, the signature on the inner groove - and the specific feelings these records aroused. With interviews from Norman Cook, Suzi Quatro, Holly Johnson, Noddy Holder, Richie Hawley, Paul Morley, Jimmy Webb, Jack White, Neil Sedaka, Trevor Horn, Miranda Sawyer, Brian Wilson, The Joy of the Single is a perfect piece of retro-vision, that captures the magic, pleasure and sheer bloody delight of growing-up to the sound of 45s.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Something Else’: The Move live at the Marquee, 1968

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Audio of The Move playing a selection of cover versions, recorded live at the Marquee Club in London, and later released as Something Else from The Move, a 7-inch EP, in 1968. The line-up was Roy Wood (guitars, vocals), Carl Wayne (vocals), Trevor Burton (guitars, bass, vocals), Chris “Ace” Kefford (bass, vocals), and Bev Bevan (drums, vocals).

It’s a great recording which mixes old and (for the time) new songs, ranging from The Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, Arthur Lee’s “Stephanie Knows Who”, Eddie Cochrane’s “Something Else”, Jerry Lee Lewis’ “It’ll Be Me” and Spooky Tooth’s “Sunshine Help Me”.

Alas, no genius compositions from Mr. Wood, but at least we have The Move.

01. “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”
02. “Stephanie Knows Who”
03. “Something Else”
04. “It’ll Be Me”
05. “Sunshine Help Me”
 

 
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Previously on Dangerous Minds

Roy Wood: The talent behind The Move, ELO and Wizzard


 
Bonus - The Move ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ from ‘Color Me Pop’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Bilzen Festival 1969: 2 Hour Concert with The Bonzos, Deep Purple, Shocking Blue and more

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Not going out tonight? Then stay in and enjoy over 2 hours worth of compilation footage of the Blizen Jazz Festival, from 1969. The concert includes performances by Deep Purple, The Move, Humble Pie, Shocking Blue, The Moody Blues, Soft Machine, Marsha Hunt, leading up to a joyous set by The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

Here’s the listing as posted on YouTube in no particular order:

Shocking Blue - August 22, 1969
“Venus” + interview

Deep Purple - August 22 1969
“Wring That Neck” 
“Mandrake Root”

Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - August 22, 1969
“Big Shot”
“You Done My Brain In”
“Hello Mabel”
“Urban Spaceman”
“Quiet Talks And Summer Walks”
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”
“Canyons Of Your Mind”
“Trouser Press”

Taste - August 22, 1969
“Blister On The Moon”
“Sugar Mama”

Moody Blues - August 22, 1969
“Tuesday Afternoon”
“Have You Heard” (Part 1)
“The Voyage”
“Have You Heard” (Part 2)

Soft Machine - August 22, 1969
“Moon In June” + interview

Marsha Hunt & White Trash - August 22, 1969
Interview
“My World Is Empty Without You Babe”

Brian Auger & The Trinity - August 22, 1969
Interview
“Pavane”
“I Just Got Some”

Steve Shorter & Tilly Set - August 22 1969
“Move On Up”

Humble Pie - August 24 1969
“The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake” /” I Walk On Gilded Splinters”

Life - August 24 1969
“Baby Please Don’t Go”

Blossom Toes - August 24 1969
“Stargazer”

The Move - August 24 1968
“Sunshine Help Me”

Roland and The Bluesworkshop - August 23 1968
Belgian TV - BRT

Various clips from this concert have appeared on the web over the years, but when placed altogether like this, it is a fab 2 hours. Enjoy!
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Roy Wood: The talent behind The Move, ELO and Wizzard
11.08.2011
02:22 pm

Topics:
Heroes
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Move
Roy Wood
Wizzard

image
 
Happy Birthday to Roy Wood - musical genius and founder member of The Move, the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard.

From the moment the needle hit the vinyl and the sirens screamed, I was hooked on Roy Wood’s music. His single “Fire Brigade” was 2 minutes of perfect pop with the best opening lyric I’d ever heard

Cast your mind back ten years
To the girl who’s next to me in school
If I put me hand upon her leg
She hit me with a rule.

I’d have to cast my mind back farther than 10 years to recall the girl who sat next or near to me in school. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d put my hand upon her knee, but do know she grew up to be a cop, who made headlines for her sexual shenanigans, and is up before the beak for perverting the course of justice. But, so much is life.

“Fire Brigade” charted in February 1968, and was The Move’s fourth single, it’s a work of sheer bloody brilliance that later helped the Sex Pistols with “God Save the Queen”.

I don’t think Roy Wood has ever received the full respect and recognition his musical talents deserve. Founder of 3 highly successful bands - The Move, The Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard, and a composer of a jukebox full of hit singles, Wood is as important as Goffin & King, Lennon & McCartney, Jagger and Richards. But where they all had writing partners to bounce ideas off, Wood was on his own. He is one of those rare solo geniuses like Pete Townshend or David Bowie.

Roy Wood was born on 8 November 1946, in Kitts Green, Birmingham, England, He tested his mettle with various bands before forming The Move with Chris “Ace” Kefford, Carl Wayne, Trevor Burton and Bev Bevan. By dint of writing the songs, Wood was the band’s unofficial leader, yet his lack of confidence saw him share lead vocals with Wayne.

Wood was also a multi-instrumentalist, which made him and The Move far more experimental than any of their rivals, and this includes The Beatles. Take for instance, The Move’s first single “Night of Fear”, from 1966, which sampled Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture to create a song about the downside of LSD. The subject matter reflected the band’s interests in the pop sherbets - particularly Burton and Kefford, who were “the ones out of their brains on drugs,” as drummer Bev Bevan later recalled.

In 1967, Kefford tripped out of his mind and the band during a fancy dress party at Birmingham’s Cedar Club. As he later told Mark Paytress for the liner notes for The Very Best of the Move:

‘There were all these little men sitting around me with pointed heads and big noses and long fingers that touched the floor. They were with me all night, man. Acid screwed my life up, man. It devastated me completely.’

It wasn’t just drugs that brought The Move national notoriety, their stage show involved the chain-sawing of motor cars, and at one point, long before Punk, they were banned from nearly every venue in the UK.

On the upside, The Move’s popularity led to their single “Flowers in the Rain” used to launch BBC’s Radio 1 in 1967. It should have been a crowning moment, but turned out to be a painful loss. The Move’s original Manager Tony Secunda decided to promote the single with a satirical postcard of then British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson in bed with his secretary, Marcia Williams. The postcard was Secunda’s idea, and had nothing to do with Wood or the other band members. Unfortunately, Wilson sued for libel, and won. All of Wood’s royalties for the single were paid over to Wilson, who donated them to charity - a situation that continues 16-years after Wilson’s death.

In a way, this story captures the essence of The Move, a band more dangerous than The Stones, more original than The Beatles, but too often short-circuited by their own and others’ actions.

The Move followed Wood’s musical direction through psychedelia (“Night of Fear”, “Disturbance”, “Flowers in the Rain”, “Lemon Tree”, “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”), pop (“Curly”, “Omnibus”, “Tonight”, “Blackberry Way”, “Beautiful Daughter”), Heavy Metal (“When Alice Comes Back to the Farm”, “Brontosaurus”) and Rock (“California Man”).  These were all stunning songs, but The Move never achieved legendary status because they didn’t conquer America. By the time the US music press did pay attention to the band, it was too late, as John Mendlesohn noted for Rolling Stone in 1971:

“The Move is the most under-rated rock group and deserve to be put in the same category as Led Zeppelin and The Faces.”

Wood had three other careers going by the early seventies. After Trevor Burton left in 1969 and Carl Wayne in 1970, Wood invited Jeff Lynne to join the group, and also suggested starting a second group The Electric Light Orchestra, together with Bev Bevan, which would mix classical music with Rock ‘n’ Roll, and “start from where The Beatles left off”.

For me the sixties finished when When Roy Wood announced the end of The Move and his departure from the Electric Light Orchestra. Thereafter, the ELO was Jeff Lynne’s band, which never realized the potential of Roy Wood’s original idea.

But Wood wasn’t finished yet, he was about to become the Grandfather of Glam with his next band Wizzard - a Brummie fusion of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. The seventies started when Wizzard released their first single “Ball Park Incident”. I can still recall the sensation when I first heard it, an epiphany akin to Jesus walking on the water and turning it into wine. Here was the past and the future all rolled into one.

Wizzard flourished with a series of hit singles and the albums Wizzard Brew (1973) and Introducing Eddie and The Falcons (1974). Then there was Wood’s solo work, firstly the superb album Boulders, originally recorded between 1969 and 1971, and released in 1973. Then the brilliant follow-up Mustard in 1975.

Between 1970 and 1975, Wood recorded 8 hit albums - 3 with The Move (Shazam, Looking On, Message from the Country; 1 with ELO; 2 with Wizzard and 2 as a solo artist. The quality and consistency of these albums is unparalleled, and when compared to the output of Lennon or McCartney at this time, Roy Wood puts the former Beatles in the shade.

From this he deserved to go on to greater success, but his career was drastically cut short by his asshole manager, Don Arden, as Wood explained in an interview with the Sunday Mercury in 2009:

“I was contracted to Don Arden for longer than I should have been,” he sighs. “When I broke away he stopped me from recording in any London studio. I ended up booking in under false names but I was soon recognised.

“He ruined the momentum. After Wizzard it was difficult. People haven’t got very long memories and suddenly you fall out of favour. When that happens it’s really hard to get back if you’re not high-profile. I was working flat-out but to little effect. After that, I was just mucking about with musicians and going into local studios. We had an album called On The Road Again that was originally going to be on EMI but wasn’t promoted at all.”

Sadly, Wood disappeared from the music scene, releasing the solo albums On the Road Again in 1979 and Starting Up in 1985, to little affect. Now, to those in the UK, Roy Wood is generally associated with his 1973 festive hit “I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday”, rather than as a highly talented musician and performer, and a true pop genius. But, then again, so much is life.

Happy Birthday Roy!

Roy Wood will tour the UK this November and December, details here
 

The Move “Fire Brigade” - Live 1969
 
More of Roy Wood’s golden hits, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment