I See Rainbows In The Evening (The Move)

Out here on the perimeter of the Interwebs there is stuff that you hope to one day find but it is probably not going to happen. A personal grail is to discover live footage of the astounding raunchy funk of Ms Betty Davis…yeah,one day. This week I found the 17 year old Alex Chilton singing a Box Tops’ hit in bad, phonetic Italian. Who knew that the Memphis blue-eyed soul boys were so big in the Italian speaking world (that’ll be Italy then !). It’s good, I was not aware of its existence but it is a novelty really. This though is the real deal…as the young people say..WTF !

I have read about the Move’s live performances but by the time they made it into our TVs the rough edges had been smoothed a little. The auto-destruction & pyrotechnics made them rivals to  the Who but, while Ace Kefford & Trevor Burton certainly were  the guys to have by your side in a tight situation, the band went for the pop-psych Roy Wood songs. They were memorable hits, there is a lot of love for the Move among my fellow bloggers & around my F-book karass. So here is the garage-psych of 1966, the mean & moody arsonists leaving an impression & a few scorch marks behind them just as the first single “Night Of Fear” is about to come around.

“Watch Your Step” is just brilliant. An incantation running into a freak out while stuff around the stage burns. Carl Wayne had always, in my view, seemed a little marginalised as Roy stepped forward. Here Carl leads his men over the top, setting about a smoking TV set with a fair-sized axe. Roy is content to whip up a raging feedback somewhere else on the caliginous stage. This is why the Move were considered to be a premier live act at a time when Jimi & the Who were raising the bar for beat group brouhaha. Even Bev Bevan, quiet man/loud drummer, a stalwart of the band, is moved to raise himself from his seat !

Let’s have a bit more then. The next 3 years should have been fun & games for the hit makers. It seems to have been more games than fun. First Ace, after an indulgent tour with Jimi & the Floyd, left as did Burton who complained of a pop bias. The Move spent 1969 playing the UK cabaret circuit a fairy tale…grim… when there was a growing reputation in the US as a rock band. Roy Wood, a quiet man, seemed to put up with it all. His hit songs really are a fine body of work but as late as 1970 the LP “Shazam” was half self-penned, half covers, none of which were singles. When Carl Wayne finally left Wood roped another Brummie, another writer, into the band & the Move, which was a brand with contractual obligations but barely functioning as a group, finally got busy.

Jeff Lynne had been a face on the Birmingham beat scene for some time. His band the Idle Race had come close a few times with some clever Beatles inspired pop. Not close enough, I remember plenty of those 45s but there is not one video clip of the group in action. Having Jeff around inspired Roy Wood to get some songs finished & there was a 2nd LP in 1970. “Looking On”  lacks consistency as some of the songs seem to be experiments rather than a commitment to a new sound. “Brontosaurus” put the Move back in the Top 10 but the  bluesy “When Alice Comes Back To The Farm” , just one of the directions investigated by the band, missed out even though it is a superior bit of work.

There was one more Move LP & there is plenty of good musicfon “Message From the Country”. Wood & Lynne were set on their Electric Light Orchestra project. I think that Roy felt that the Move could not make the change & Lynne was not going to let this second chance go. E.L.O. was not a joint concern for too long. It seemed that Wood just gave it away, retreating behind the hair, make-up &  the Spectoresque rock & roll of Wizzard. The later work of the Move is substantial enough. I have thought about checking for the subsequent work of Jeff Lynne but I have heard a couple of E.L.O. songs & life is too short for that.

This last clip though is not one of the last 4 singles the band released. It goes back to the original 5 giving it loads to sell the 2nd single on French TV. They were smart young Mods who were not wrecking the joint. Carl looks as if he is in another band entirely with no idea about the lyrics he is singing. Ace & Trevor are the naughty boys while Roy is almost hiding behind them, not even bothering to lip-synch his parts & Bev hits some stuff. The song, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” is an absolute powerpop-psych classic. Lovely stuff.

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The King Of Regal Zonophone (Denny Cordell 1969)

Denny Cordell was an outstanding record producer & a face on the 1960s British music scene. His 2 smash hits are big old units designed to impress the listener & to launch a new artist. There is though no trademark “Cordell Sound”, he just made records that sold a lot. By 1969 Denny had the run of a label operating under the giant, awash with Beatles money,  E.M.I. Here are 3 records, one produced by Cordell, the others by his company & released through the mellifluous imprint Regal Zonophone. Man, my favourite name for a label…ever !

Denny Cordell learned the ins, outs & roundabouts with Chris Blackwell at Island Records before getting an independent gig to produce the Moody Blues after they hit around the world with “Go Now”. After a #1 with Georgie Fame a hook up with publisher David Platz  gave him a year to make some records for Deram, Decca’s new “cool” label. 12 months later, after 2 Top 10 records for the Move & “A Whiter Shade of Pale”…well, you know how that one goes because skipping the light fandango was the dance craze of 1967, Denny could do whatever he wanted wherever he pleased. Regal Zonophone was known for Australian country & western or Salvation Army pop (strange but true !). It was revived solely for the records the Cordell organization wanted to release.

“A Salty Dog” is the title track of Procol Harum’s 3rd LP. When a group has a record like “Whiter Shade” it can be a tough act to follow. In an industry where merit is measured in sales rather than aesthetics it is unlikely that you are ever going to be that hot again. So commercial pressure on a  hastily assembled line-up, attempting to attain a tricky balance of blues & classica,l made for a rocky road. The follow-up 45 “Homburg” was, I thought, a cracker, the 2nd LP, with a 17 minute progressive rock suite, had more success in the US than in the UK. In 1969 Cordell was a busy man. He was, apparently, a hands-off producer anyway & Matthew Fisher, Procol’s organist was given the responsibility & did a good job.

“A Salty Dog” is a consistent, interesting record. It established Procol Harum as having more than just that song. Fisher, who took great pains to prove his entitlement to some “Whiter Shade” royalties, promptly left the group. The replacements reunited the members of the Paramounts, a band from the Beat Boom, & the guitar convolutions of Robin Trower came to the fore. The consolidation of this record allowed Procol to pursue a successful career for almost a decade only with tunes I don’t think I’ve heard.

Ha ! Any excuse to get the Move into one of these things. Tony Secunda, the band’s maverick manager, was a kindred spirit & lifelong friend of Cordell’s. Like Procol the Move crossed from Deram to Zonophone with the boss. “Curly” was the Brummies’ only single of 1969. Denny had produced all the 45s up to the unsuccessful but wonderful “Wild Tiger Woman”. This time the man who had run Deram, Mike Hurst, came on board for a one-off job for Zonophone. Hurst, a former member of the Springfields, was an innovative & interesting producer who’s ornate arrangements impressed this young boy. He merits & one day may get one of these of his own.

“Curly” is the lightest in tone of any Move single. 1969 was a transitional year for the group as Rick Price came in for Trevor Burton on bass for this song then singer Carl Wayne, who had always seemed a bit spare, left as well. Before the next record, “Brontosaurus”, Jeff Lynne was in & the seeds of the Electric Light Orchestra were sown. At this time my school played sport against a youth prison, a Borstal, like we saw in “Scum”. The kids there had their haircut very short while we were trying to dodge the barber for as long as possible. As we stepped off the coach the bad boy reception party sang “Curly” at us & I am unable now to separate the memory from the song.

In 1968 Denny Cordell produced a big hit for a new star. Joe Cocker, a former gas fitter from Sheffield, was of that same British provincial stock as Van Morrison & Eric Burden, a young white guy who wanted to be Ray Charles & developed his own unique voice. “With A Little Help From My Friends” was a pumped-up transformation of Ringo’s  “Sergeant Pepper’s” song. It was Joe’s 3rd UK single & it was time to make a mark. Joe had an extraordinary voice, the Grease Band a perfect back up; It was as a performer that his full impact was felt. The National Lampoon/John Belushi parody was called “Muscular Dystrophy”. The spasmodic, electrified jerks, the amazing voice coming from a Northern scruff…it could not fail.

Cordell needed material for his new star. He found it in Leon Russell who, after a time in Los Angeles with Spector’s Wrecking Crew, was simmering a fine pot of swampy Southern rocking soul with Delaney & Bonnie. This clip of “Delta Lady” shows how it works better than I can describe it. I bought this single in 1969, it rocks. Denny Cordell was having a busy time in that year. There was more to running a label than having an eye for new talent & an ear for a hit song. He did not have the time to work with the artists he had started with. It was Cordell, Cocker & Russell who were to share a path in the future. With this record, a startling appearance at Woodstock & 1970’s impressive Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour Joe was one of the biggest stars in the US.

This Regal Zonophone disc shows how many plates Cordell was having to keep spinning at the same time. Apart from E.M.I. there is the publisher Essex International. New Breed & Straight Ahead are both companies formed between Essex & Cordell. Why they are both on the label is confusing but maybe pounds, shillings & pence (ask your parents) has something to do with it. Well, Jimmy Miller produced the Move…I did not know that. Artistically Denny was assembling some real talent. He had brought over Tony Visconti as an apprentice & to produce Tyrannosaurus Rex. Both of them went on to bigger things. It is a lot of business on one small label & everyone would be looking to get paid. Cordell liked to get high, to make the scene. Even if he had good accountants you can bet the industry heavyweights had better ones.

In the New World with his new star & his new friends he saw the possibility of more freedom to make some music. He put some distance between himself & the wheeler-dealers & started Shelter Records with Russell. He was now the Lunar Teacake Snake Man, there were more hits & another whole strange new scene. That’s for another time (soon). There are other independent producers who get more attention but Denny Cordell was a free-wheeling guy who could spot, encourage & nurture talent on both sides of the recording desk. He made some records that we all know with some fine artists…respect !

Just About To Flip My Mind (The Move)

I’ve posted clips of the Birmingham pop-psychedelicists the Move before. (https://loosehandlebars.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/my-heads-attracted-to-a-magnetic-wave-of-sound/). This live performance clip from a 1968 German TV programme “Beat, Beat, Beat” is of such high quality (less than 300 views, you have got to be kidding me !) that I want it on here and I will try not to repeat myself.

The band were the hand-picked young guns from various bands playing the Midlands circuit. In 1966 they dressed as gangsters, had an attitude, an energy and an appetite for destruction which drew comparison with the Who. Joe Boyd, in his fine memoir “White Bicycles”, writes of seeing the band at the Marquee Club in London and having meetings with them about replacing Pink Floyd as the new residents at the hippy U.F.O. club. The group were managed by a young hustler, Tony Secunda, who was eager to play with the big boys in the music industry. He chose to head for the overground and a record contract was very publicly signed…on the back of a topless female model !

The Move signed with young producer, Denny Cordell, a man who proved that he knew how to make a hit record many times. The guitarist Roy Wood was encouraged to write songs and the first single “Night Of Fear” went to #2 in the UK charts. “Night Of Fear” nicked a Tchaikovsky riff and was a pre-Summer of Love warning of a bad trip. There were contemporary bands presenting their own British take on pop-psych, the Smoke, Tomorrow, Les Fleur de Lys .The Move were the most commercially successful because they were the best at it.

Here the band play live, look smart and put on a great show. They play the first two singles (“I Can Hear The Grass Grow” was another Top 10 hit, another song about tripping ) and “Walk Upon The Water”, a track from the first LP. I had forgotten what a terrific song tune this is…lovely. I always thought that the singer Carl Wayne had a touch of the business of show about him, less comfortable in the Carnaby Street clobber, side-lined by the emergence of Roy Wood as the talent. They are all looking good here, the ill-advised perms, kaftans and bells came later. Bass player Ace Kefford particularly is the image of the dude rock star with the coolest look, moves and attitude.

Within a year the scene had shifted. The album was now the thing and the Move were locked into singles success. They made some great 45s but never managed to, or maybe did not want to, produce a concept album/rock opera. Roy Wood never seemed the most confident of men. As he became the leader of first the Move, then E.L.O. and Wizzard he hid himself behind increasing facial hair and ridiculous costumes. His run of singles with the Move compare with the best of British music at this time and he deserves a higher regard than he has. Still, if you need to hear the Move it’s a “Best Of” collection that will do the trick.

The original line-up of the Move splintered. Ace left, then Trevor Burton and finally Carl. The hits kept on coming for Roy Wood though. Trevor Burton formed Balls, another Birmingham supergroup involving Denny Laine, Steve Gibbons and others. Tony Secunda hustled a big advance, hired the great producer Jimmy Miller and the band went to a country cottage with the intention of “getting it together”. They only got very high for a long time and by the time “Fight For My Country was released the band had split. The song is an overblown epic of muscular peacenik psychedelia. Hey, they are Brummies, it was never going to be anything else. I had forgotten this song for over 30 years and it’s a cracker.

Years later I was visiting friends in Birmingham. We went for a beer at Sunday lunchtime and Trevor Burton was playing a set at the local pub. Usually a weekend in Brum involved smoking a lot of dope and listening to a lot of reggae, not much else. (Don’t knock it…it’s a thing). On returning to London my mates were impressed at the quality of entertainment provided by the neighbourhood boozer. Good memories of the Move and their very acceptable pop music.

My head’s attracted to a magnetic wave of sound.

Roy Wood does not get the place in the Britrock scrapbook he deserves. He missed the great pop art splurge of 1965-66 which produced figures still considered (rightly) iconic. As these bands went to the country to “get it together” he was busy writing  & playing on 9 hit singles. He is best remembered for a Xmas hit from a couple of bands down the line. His “real” band, the Move, made some great pop singles. His less successful contemporaries have their records recycled & re-packaged as Freakbeat or pop-psyche while his Top 10 records are overlooked

 

I love this clip. Roy in dodgy crusader chic, the rest of the band in their Carnaby finery. Except for the T-shirted Bev Bevan ,quietly planning world domination for E.L.O. Despite having a free hand at I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, Ace & Trevor still look like the Brummie  rough boys they were. Ace Kefford was not long for the band. Off to an unsuccessful solo career. Carl Wayne had originally been the lead singer, he had always had a touch of the cabaret act about him. Roy’s songs became the 45 releases & Wayne pretty much became the “Bez” of the band. He hung around though, knowing a good thing when he saw it.

“Fire Brigade” was the 4th in this run of hits. The first two were lyrically psychedelic, all 3 were musically muscular pop. “Fire Brigade” was the most poptastic yet. Their shyster manager Tony Secunda was fond of a publicity stunt to keep the group in the public eye. As they became more established this became less necessary. However the very next single bombed.

Was it because Carl sang lead ? Was it the Move trying to go “Heavy” ? Whatever, it was a great song. A few years later when we had a Regal Zonophone collection it was this track which got played. Other Move singles raced up the charts. This one just never gathered any momentum. The next single “Blackberry Way” was their only #1. So “Wild Tiger Woman”, a lost pop hit of the 60s. Play it again, it rocks.

Wood hooked up with Jeff Lynne from the Idle Race , an unsuccessful Brummie band. The Move were now down to 3 members & they were all planning the next stage of their career. A band using a classical string section, the Electric Light Orchestra. There is a fascinating clip for the single “Tonight” but it is not comparable to the rather astounding final 45 release by the Move.

The b-side “Do Ya” is pure E.L.O .only better. The Move had never made a name for themselves in the USA. It was this song which gave Jeff Lynne an entry there. What the hell is going on in this video ? “California Man”  is pure Rock n Roll pastiche, a style Wood used increasingly for the rest of his records. Touched by the brush of Glam the expanded band just look a mess. The contrast between the rock threads and the 70s hair, Wood , forsaking the guitar so that he could roll around on the floor while pretending to play the saxophone. the saving grace of the whole dog’s dinner is that it is a great vibrant single.

Joe Boyd, producer & all-round music man, in his very readable memoir “White Bicycles”, was very impressed with the early Move. A successful residency at the Marquee led to consideration that the band could replace Pink Floyd as residents at the hippie UFO club. How different would things have been if this had happened ? Instead the band chose the road to Top Of the Pops.The quote at the end of the clip from Rolling Stone is a fair way to end this. I might come back to Wizzard because I quite liked them. I will leave though by underlining the quote & repeating that the Move have been underrated for too long.