"All 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 direction."

Roy Wood, June 1970

'Looking On' 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."

Whilst 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.

How 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.

While 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.

"Jeff 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."

The 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 them."

Wood 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.

"We 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 us."

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 Bowie.

Around 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 again.

Like 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 Race.

Once 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 allegiances.

Preview extract taken from 'Looking On' sleeve notes by Mark Paytress

PHOTO CREDITS (from top):

in Philips Studios, 1970 © The Move archive

JEFF in Philips Studios,
1970 © The Move archive

ROY WOOD the Harlequin! Promotional photo for Brontosaurus, 1970 © Chris Walter/Photofeatures

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