that's happening now is that we're enjoying the freedom to
write what we want. Jeff and I work separately. My style has
changed - it is much heavier now. Before I had to write commercial
stuff and to do that you have to leave out certain desirable
bits. The whole thing was limiting. The successful formula
was right but we didn't want to be a pop group.
We made pop records just to make money. I'm not ashamed of those
records - they were a stepping-stone to what we are doing now
We've done one track so far ('Looking On') - I think it's the best
thing we've ever done. The album may evolve with Jeff writing and
producing one side and me doing the other. That will give a good
cross-section of our music as it stands now and show our musical
Roy Wood, June 1970
is the third Move album, the first to feature Jeff Lynne
and Fly Records' debut album release. It is also often
overlooked as the "joker in the pack" in the band's
catalogue. "It was ploddy,"
concedes drummer Bev Bevan. "While
several songs on 'Shazam' were long, everything on 'Looking On'
really did go on and on."
it is certainly true that four of the album's eight tracks
loudly crash through the six-minute barrier, what some might
regard as Roy Wood's folly can also be seen as the
most relaxed and confident expression of a genuine maverick.
And, 30 years on, something of a progressive rock era classic.
else to explain the honking sax solo that trespasses all
over 'Turkish Tram Conductor Blues'?
Or the cranky crumhorn that bleats exotically on 'Feel
Too Good', before eventually belting up in favour
of a doo-wop pastiche and a mock-operatic finale. And we
haven't even got to Jeff Lynne's magnificent opus, 'Open
Up Said The World At The Door', which virtually out-Wooded
Roy at his own game.
the epic nature of parts of 'Shazam',
released to little fanfare in February 1970, pointed the way forward,
'Looking On' was hardly less eclectic than the preceding pair
of Move LPs. But things had certainly changed. The UK pop market
had grown up fast. And with underground cult hero and gifted songwriter
Jeff Lynne in for the departed all-rounder Carl Wayne,
who drifted into cabaret and soap-star infamy, so too had The
Move. After four years of relative isolation and forced to carry
the burden of the group's songwriting single-handedly, Roy Wood
at last had the creative foil he'd been seeking.
was great for Roy, especially in the early months,"
says Move bassist Rick Price. "His
arrival sent Roy in a completely new direction."
Wood agreed, as he told Mike Davis in Trouser Press:
"Lynne joining us made a big
difference because we now had two songwriters instead of one.
I needed somebody in there who could write, and who I rated
as a writer."
first real manifestation of the new set-up was to shift
the band's priorities away from bread-and-butter touring,
which in 1969 had seen them play both to cabaret crowds
and to hippies, and towards serious studio work. The result
was 'Looking On', recorded during sessions that took place
between May and September 1970.
"There's much more variation in The Move's music now,"
insisted Jeff Lynne midway through sessions for the album.
"The LP is going to help people
realise this. We're not deliberately trying to get the underground
audiences. It's just that the stuff that Roy and I are writing
is different to what The Move used to do when Carl was with
celebrated the arrival of a new Move epoch - and a new decade
- in typically paradoxical fashion. For three years, he'd been
talking ambitiously about extending the boundaries of pop, perhaps
bringing it closer to the rich textures and grander structures
that were commonplace in orchestral music. But as if to counterbalance
all the serious muso talk, he chose to introduce his new-look
quartet to the world with a dramatic image change that anticipated
the garish excess of glam rock by at least a year.
had no idea that Roy was gonna turn up wearing all this black
and white make up,"
says Bev Bevan. "It
was as if this madman had suddenly appeared on stage with
The press called it his "Harlequin"
look: black and white native Indian-style markings fighting
for attention with his now considerable growth of facial hair,
while black and white triangles of material flapped from his
specially designed stage frock. With a star neatly painted
on his forehead and hair backcombed as if some wild parody
of the archetypal crazed hippie pop star, Roy Wood had seized
back his crown as the wild man of British pop.
He unveiled his new look in March 1970, on BBC 2's Disco 2,
promoting the new Move 45, 'Brontosaurus'.
But it was the Beeb's flagship chart show, Top Of The Pops,
that really mattered - and Wood knew it. Bev Bevan remembers. "(Roy)
always wanted to look different for every performance."
Just as Wood's theatrical make-up and sparkling outfit was an obvious
precursor of glam rock's visual excesses, so too his masquerade
of personae would have been noted by habitual hat-changer David
the time of the single's release, leading New Musical Express
journalist Keith Altham described Roy Wood as "a
musical iceberg with only one third of his real ability reflected
by The Move's previous hits." 'Brontosaurus', driven
by a granite version of The Beatles' 'Lady
Madonna' riff, slow-burned its way up the chart, eventually
resting at Number 7 in April 1970. The single paved the way for
a minor chart invasion of hard rock singles that year - Jimi
Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile', Black
Sabbath's 'Paranoid', Deep Purple's
'Black Night' - and while Wood obviously
took comfort in leaving the previous year's excursions into cabaret
clubs behind, he was certainly not going to be so easily typecast
Wood, who by now had amassed a collection of weird and wonderful
instruments, The Idle Race's Jeff Lynne also saw himself
as a musical eclectic, revelling in the freedoms available to
the late '60s pop musician. Weaned, like his colleague, on greasy
'50s rock'n'roll and Shadows instrumentals, Lynne had been
Roy's replacement in the Nightriders when Wood jumped ship
to join the fledgling Move in December 1965. By the end of '66,
Lynne had taken control of the band, writing original material
and prompting a name change to the more fashionably obscure Idle
The Move began to notch up the hits, they struggled to hang
on to their clubland credibility. The Idle Race - John
Peel and Kenny Everett favourites and more obviously
underground - nevertheless had it in spades. But the connection
between the two groups remained strong. Late in 1967, Lynne's
proto-hippie combo covered Wood's '(Here
We Go Round) The Lemon Tree' on 45. A year later, Roy
demoed 'Blackberry Way', The
Move's biggest hit, at Lynne's makeshift home studio. When
Move bassist Trevor Burton announced his departure
at the start of '69, Wood reckoned on poaching Lynne to replace
him. "There's a good composer
down the end of the road," he said. But it
was only after Carl Wayne's departure at the end of January
1970, and the serious talk about phasing The Move out in favour
of a new rock/classical hybrid, Electric Light Orchestra,
that Jeff Lynne felt sufficiently encouraged to switch his
extract taken from 'Looking On' sleeve notes by Mark Paytress
CREDITS (from top):
in Philips Studios, 1970
© The Move archive
Philips Studios, 1970
© The Move archive
WOOD the Harlequin!
Promotional photo for Brontosaurus, 1970
© Chris Walter/Photofeatures