Tuesday, March 27, 2012


As Monty Python would say "And Now For Something Completely Different!"
Well, you who have read these pages before may see some similarities, but And Now For Something A  Lot More Cheerful.
After the big beat-boom in 1964 of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five and other less revolutionary bands England was teeming with thousands of young hopeful groups. A lot of these bands were sticking to the safest most mundane side of Merseybeat, but from London and later Birmingham rose 3 bands to whom we can thank for everything from hard rock to heavy metal to psychedelia to new wave to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and just about everything else. These bands would be the former Hi Numbers now called The Who spearheaded by guitar and songwriting genius Pete Townsend and The Kinks from Muswell Hill- a small place for the revolutionary sounds of the two Davis brothers Ray and Dave.
  When the Kinks exploded in 1964 with "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night" a knife inserted into an amplifier by Dave Davies and Ray's snarling vocals created heavy metal ages before anyone would catch up, but it would be true to say that here was the beginning of hard rock, glam rock, heavy metal and punk. With more maturity The Kinks became an unstoppable force always driven by the two polar opposite brothers who hated each other with a passion, but made up for it with amazing music. The songs that grace the first real album releases when Ray found himself like Face To Face, Something Else, The Village Green Preservation Society, and Arthur these are not just songs they are epics they are stories they are the literature of the future coming years for grown up British rock. Ray Davis knew how to be sympathetic as well as cynical. His vision of The British Empire and "Preserving The Old Ways Protecting The New Ones" was far removed from the primal sexuality of the early hits and Dave was fast becoming a creative writer in his own right- also with a unique voice readily identifiable as the high falsetto in the harmonies. Songs like "David Watts," "Harry Rag," "Phenomenal Cat," "Big Sky," "Victoria," "Brainwashed," and "Shangri-La" all came from classic albums and all inspired every worthy group in England to rock hard yet move forward- add in a few new spices to the recipe. The more subtle ones like "Phenomenal Cat" would heavily influence the Toytown pop psych sound of the best British bands of that era playing softer material yet they always had that crunch and punch- that same crunch and punch that came from all the way back in "You Really Got Me." The Kinks would not die come the 70s either. Like The Move and like best work of The Who they would forge ahead with new ideas and create new sounds. The Who's fallout from their glory days was fast. They had been THE MOD BAND PAR EXCELLANCE of the 60s, but the further they moved into the 70s the less inspirational they became. It all would tank after the hard hitting classiness of Live At Leeds and Who's Next, but as a live act they would remain unstoppable. The Kinks too would pioneer the kind of antics The Move and The Nice later indulged in during their unpredictable stage shows where anything could happen. And the Americans were listening too.
  Demand for British bands to come over here to the States and tour was huge, so huge that bands like The Kinks and The Zombies were seen as a threat and they tried to ban them from touring here. They could try all they wanted, but nothing was going to stop the music from breaking through and the early excitement of those classic hit singles led to American bands emulating the British. Many would try to disguise this with a uniquely American slant such as Paul Revere & The Raiders and Tommy James & The Shondells, but their influences were obviously The Kinks and The Who. Then a big change started happening in the States around 1966- American bands became part of the countercultural revolution playing music like no one before had ever dared. The Doors, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Byrds, Love, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Left Banke (probably our Greatest Band- our Kinks) all these very diverse and different bands if they didn't sound English sounded American and were loved back in the country that gave birth to the ability for most of them to exist- England.
    The Kinks had 3 classic hard rocking hits in 1964/1965 "You Really Got Me," "All Day And All Of The Night," and "Till The End Of The Day." Ray would follow up with "A Well Respected Man," "Tired Of Waiting For You," and "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion-" pioneering brilliant songs. There was just one problem: the albums didn't live up to the singles. Not only that there were dreadful, clueless songs on the albums and no cohesion to their early releases. This same lack of consistency bit away at The Zombies on their first long player and until the second and final album Oddesey And Oracle much of their output was erratic. Remember these were the days of "The Singles Bands." However, by 1966 Ray Davis discovered the ability to write an entire album's worth of amazing songs and Face To Face was Ray's discovery of himself. He put together his intellectual brilliance and matched it with new ideas and punchy melodies helped along by the even punchier guitar work of Dave. Mick Avory and Pete Quaife (who died recently) were the ample rhythm section.
  As Ray would invent new wave decadence long before there was even a word of Roxy Music and Dave would inspire guitar heroes later on to crank the volume to eleven new things were happening in British Rock. The Who came on the scene in 1965 with the classic youth anthem to end all youth anthems "My Generation." These at that time young fresh faced Mods from Shepherd's Bush area London were all about chaos. John Entwhistle's dynamic, flowing, forceful bass and Keith Moon's frantic drumming laid the foundation for Pete Townsend's amazing feedback power chord assault. Roger Daltrey, blond and with an interesting face and a great voice, proved to be the perfect frontman and Pete Townsend right away saw to it that the albums did not disappoint. Unlike The Kinks The Who would rise fast and die fast. From early classics like "Substitute," "I Can't Explain," "Love Is Like A Heatwave" (A Motown cover), "I'm A Boy," and "Picture's Of Lily" to the world's first taste of a rock oratorio in "A Quick One" this was a band you couldn't do anything but have your mind blown in awe for. Their destructive stage act with smashing guitars, drums flying all over the place, screaming onslaughts of pure noise, and Daltrey frantically thrashing around would be the foundation upon which all future Heavy Metal was laid. However, when The Pretty Things released S.F Sorrow Townsend was a changed man. He had a vision of a rock opera to make The Who more musically mature, but how much more mature could you get than THE WHO SELL OUT? The shocking thing about Tommy was the music of which most was brilliant and the huge change over in sound. All of a sudden The Who were now part of progressive rock. They had added in brilliant new ideas, finely crafted instrumental musings, and Roger Daltrey's voice was getting much heavier sounding. The Who were now at the number one position in rock. They could fill any stadium. They were now poised to be giants of the 1970s along with the equally groundbreaking Led Zeppelin. To think this all started as far back as 1966- it's amazing. Every band from Britain in the 60s owed so much to The Kinks and The Who and the band you are about to hear about- my personal favourite The Move.
   The Move were named after the move away from Mike Sheridan's Lot and Carl Wayne and The Vikings- two Brumbeat bands and in case you don't know what that means it means Birmingham bands. Roy Wood was born Ulysses Adrian Wood and if he had kept his amazing birth name even that wouldn't have stopped him from surpassing anything and everything. In the beginning, in 1966 Roy was fast becoming a prolific songwriter who could dip into classical music influences, early heavy metal, British whimsy, and pure solid Mod pop and in 1967 The Move set about conquering England.     
   With good looking Carl Wayne on lead vocals, strange looking Ace Kefford on Rhythm guitar, Trevor Burton playing the heaviest bass ever laid down, and powerful drummer Bev Bevan laying down the backdrop for Roy's virtuosity they burst onto the psychedelic/pop scene with the freakiest single hit of 1967 "Night Of Fear." Based around the 1812 overture it was a heavy, hard, punch-you-in-the-jaw scary single that freaked me when I first heard it having only heard the later Move material, but what a hit it was. Now British pop had it's newest most hopeful young group and the single shot up high in the charts. Even creepier than "Night Of Fear" was the flipside "Disturbance" about a mental collapse and violent breakdown. It was originally intended as the choice song, but it was later to be the flip on a rather strange breakthrough hit for the young band. Roy was now constantly questioned about if LSD had inspired the single, but this really pissed him off as Roy wouldn't touch drugs. The single was a good start, but was surpassed by everything that came after it. "I Can Hear The Grass Grow," "Fire Brigade," "Flowers In The Rain" these were the most perfect slices of heavenly heavy British power pop psychedelia and The Move were ranking up the huge hits with all their singles releases.          
    Throughout 1967 their crazed stage act which came after The Who and Wood's genius level writing made them a sort of even heavier Who or a very uniquely British take on a huge amount of influences that Roy and friends had stored up. While The Who never really embraced psychedelic rock and only dipped into it a scant few times The Move not only had a psychedelic edge they were sharp enough to be described as "Progressive Pop." Roy Wood is a guitar virtuoso and when he opened his mouth to sing a golden voice poured out. A blueprint for Ozzy Osbourne the heavily Brum accented Wood had an impish yet paradoxically tuneful delivery and with "Fire Brigade" and "Flowers In The Rain" hitting the charts like a hammer he would soon be pushing aside Carl Wayne who wanted to be a cabaret singer! With Ace Kefford singing his only lead vocal on their first self-titled LP opening track "Yellow Rainbow" and the rest of the vocals mainly shared between Wood and Wayne their first record is one of the great ones of 1968. It included many of their 1967 hits and new very exciting album tracks made the Move much loved in England, Europe, and America, but it was England they really took by storm. Roy Wood ran into a few complaints about his humourous treatment of mental illness, but I believe that he was sympathetic to people who weren't all there and wasn't putting them down. He also would continue to receive annoying questions about what inspired him to write. Roy would just write songs- he didn't need drugs or any other unnatural stimulants. He would lock himself up in his room and write for hours on end perfecting gem after gem. The Move wanted to go forward and make a more experimental second record and did so with SHAZAM. This album was my introduction to The Move and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Side Two showed them moving through 3 cover versions covering everything from grandiose psychedelia in the Ars Nova penned "Fields Of People" to Led Zeppelin before Led Zeppelin heavy metal in "Don't Make My Baby Blue" to the uproarious cabaret/folkrock of "The Last Thing On My Mind" by Tom Paxton. It was these amazing performances that helped me to turn even sworn enemies in my horrid private school into friends, but it was tracks like Wood's "Hello Suzie" the album opener which had me floored. Roy Wood was becoming a hero, a really cherished secret, and by the time I got into the first album and early tracks after hating them around November/December 1992 I became a Move fan for life. Roy's unique voice, his masterful skills as a musician who could play any instrument ever created, his ability to do all the vocals, and his songwriting genius would never run dry.
    When Roy Wood disappeared from music he did simply that- just retired on a high note. This was 1979 and if you wanted quality from The Who by now forget it. The Move had long since folded and so had Roy's glam rock stardom in Wizzard, but when I saw him give a rare performance in 2002 in Manhattan I witnessed what a true music lover this man is. He had passed out onstage the previous night and was suffering a really bad flu. He came onstage with an all younger than him girl backing band and was cavorting around like nothing was wrong. He made many wry comments about his bad health that night and the night before, but he wasn't about to cancel the show. He went on and rocked hard for the whole time. He played a million instruments. He sang brilliantly, and we were all cheering him on- me shouting "ROY!!! ROY!!! ROY!!!" He nodded at me. I felt blessed.
    Back to The Move now. During their 4 album and many more singles run many line up changes influenced the direction that Roy would take, but not one track during their career was a throwaway. He also kept busy producing for other bands and the most notable of these was the tragically unsuccessful Idle Race. The Idle Race were fronted by a very talented young songwriter named Jeff Lynne and Lynne's funny, whimsical, and loving warm hearted songs were somewhat like a lighter more Beatles inspired Move. After two flawless classic albums THE BIRTHDAY PARTY and their self titled second Roy made the second of two offers he'd make Jeff to join The Move. Before Jeff Lynne had refused, but with The Idle Race going nowhere in commercial terms and depression setting in he joined. Now The Move had two multi-instrumentalists and geniuses and it's amazing that they didn't fall into some kind of confused mania with both Wood and Lynne on board. Instead they made as their next venture after SHAZAM the brilliant LOOKING ON. LOOKING ON picked up where the heaviest previous material left off and saw The Move playing a perfect hybrid of early heavy metal/heavy psych and Beatles inspired psychedelic numbers with Jeff Lynne beginning his Lennon fixations which would lead him to the top of the charts with Electric Light Orchestra. Another series of classic singles followed and "Brontosaurus" lifted from the album became an instant favourite. The much covered "Do Ya," "Tonight," and funny "Chinatown" came around this time, but none of these appeared on the band's last album MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY. This was a continuation of everything The Move had done before and more. Not since the 1st album with Trevor Burton singing the rock and roll 50s pastiche "Weekend" had The Move revisited the early days of Elvis, but here Roy Wood began his 1950s obsession in earnest with the uproarious "Don't Mess Me Up." Bev Bevan also sang a track- the even more hysterical Johnny Cash tribute/send up "Ben Crawley Steel Company," but much of the rest of the album sounded like The Beatles if they could have stayed together maintaining their integrity along the way. The Move continued to be ahead of their time and to inspire many musicians to form exciting bands. Songs like "Message From The Country" by Jeff and "It Wasn't My Idea To Dance" by Roy helped lift this album to the list of Greatest Ever- a list in which everything The Move did has a very high position. They would never fail you and they wouldn't bring you down into self-indulgent boredom either. The Move are one of the best rock and roll bands ever formed.
   So here are the 3 bands Post Beatles who made the biggest dent and the most exciting music, but I must also bring to your attention two other revolutionary bands- Cream and The Yardbirds. While I don't have time to go into full detail they are two bands you will be familiar with as pioneers of heavy metal and I don't think that either one need an introduction as along with The Move, The Kinks, and The Who bands that will live forever and more as the most exciting music of the 1960s. Cream came out of The Yardbirds and both bands came out of the blues- something I haven't touched on till now. While The Move would take some classical bents and some blues influences and turn them psychedelic Cream and The Yardbirds would blow the blues into fragments and then reassemble them. I was listening to UFO the other night and realized how huge an impact Cream had on them. The song was "Pack It Up (And Go)" and the album was OBSESSION- listen to this song and you can hear "Swablr" off DISRAELI GEARS in hyperspeed. For UFO, for Black Sabbath and all the other great hard rockers it all goes back to the 1960s- a time of youthful optimism and wide-eyed wonder. There are simply too many great bands for me to go into detail about and not be here all night, but what I can end with is the music will play on and play on LOUD! You will find all the inspiration for all the coming bands of the 70s and the best of the 80s too in The Kinks, The Move, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, Cream- the British Invasion wouldn't die down despite some awful throwaway shlock bands it would lead to American bands playing the most exciting music of all time in that decade of genius along with The British and soon a worldwide explosion of talent. It was a time I wish I had been around for, but can always revisit in the music. Let the music play and let the music ROCK YOU HARD!

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