The best thing about digging around thrift-store CD bins is discovering someone else's cast-offs. The records that people got sick of, or had absolutely no regard for how awesome it could be. Months back, a wife seemingly threw out her husband's entire punk-rock collection during routine housecleaning, and I found a trove of Sex Pistols bootleg discs and an inordinate amount of mid-'80s TVT Records releases. It was a fun and brooding ride back home.
This past week, I discovered The Move, the late-'60s British mod-rockers who never quite made it here, but whose influence is still interwoven with all who came after. At the Value Village off 19th Street in the Heights, I found a three-disc anthology chronicling the band's early garage singles up to the addition of guitarist and piano man Jeff Lynne, who would take hold of the band and steer them into becoming Electric Light Orchestra. The rest is freaky, operatic, sound-effects laden pop history.
The Move, "I Can Hear the Grass Grow"
There were many bands from the British Isles around this time who didn't take us all by storm. The Move is one of those bands who wasn't as cute and flashy as the others; additionally, they played with a ferocity that ended up with them being labeled proto-metal in some circles.
For instance, the menacing Pretty Things never really took hold here, but they did untold damage to the ears of people like David Johansen and Fred "Sonic" Smith. Likewise, the Kinks are praised as garage gods now, but a fiasco over their erratic behavior led to their work visas being held up. You can only imagine what they could have done with full reign over the States at such a lucrative time. How Flowers in the Rain" isn't on some sort of daily rotation on one of our classic "rock" radio stations is beyond me.
The Move were just plain snotty. They played too hard and too fast for some. Many couldn't take their genre-busting instrumentation and live shows. Their lyrics were pessimistic, even more than The Who, but they weren't lorded over by an issue-laden misfit like Pete Townshend.
The Move had Roy Wood, who seemed to be the reason for the whiplash changes that unnerved many and led to an almost silent reception on this continent. The ten-minute workout of "Fields of People" can stand up to "Baba O'Riley" anytime in my book. It predicts krautrock and the lysergic hysterics of Hawkwind in those few minutes.
"Don't Make My Baby Blue" would be Exhibit A in a court proceeding against Jack White for wanton pilfering. The band began to split at the seams with all the changes going on, personally and artistically. A rift with a philandering prime minister over the promotion of "Flowers in the Rain" stifled all work from 1967 on, and diverted most royalties to charity by court order.
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Wizzard, "See My Baby Jive"
Ultimately, The Move morphed into Electric Light Orchestra with the addition of Jeff Lynne. Wood had a falling out with Lynne soon after and embarked on a solo career and his own band called Wizzard. He performed every single damn note on those records, funnily enough. He did all this looking freaky as shit, donning proto-Kiss makeup and sporting a purple mane, presumably to cash in on the glam-rock movement of the time.
Wood consistently put out records of varying popularity and did hired-gun work for Bo Diddley. By the '90s, he was reworking old Christmas singles by furry act the Wombles. He just recently he received an honorary music doctorate from a college in England. The Move's sound can still be heard in bands like the Raconteurs and the Kaiser Chiefs.
A newer (and more expensive) retrospective than the one I picked up is now available on Salvo Records, and includes live radio clips and an entire live gig at the Marquee Club in London.