Above is a maddeningly catchy Roy Wood song by the Move from 1971. If you’re unfamiliar with the Move, they began in the mid 60’s as a moddish, quirky R&B /psych-pop band. Their writer and driving force was the insanely talented mult-instrumentalist, Roy Wood. By the early 70’s, their work ranged from smart pop to bloated prog, sometimes within the same song. By that time Wood had brought in fellow Birmingham native Jeff Lyne to take on some of the singing and songwriting load. Then, Wood (allegedly) came up with the idea of forming a new band to further incorporate their love of classical music. Thus the Move became Electric Light Orchestra. Wood wrote most of the material for ELO’s first album before abruptly departing. Over the next few years Lynne developed as a singer, writer, and producer, and the ELO hit machine took off. Meanwhile, Roy Wood made some brilliant, hook-laden, and ridiculously quirky solo albums on which he played all instruments. He indulged his prog instincts in a band called Wizzard that I find pretty unlistenable. Pretty much all of his work was too nerdishly clever or downright strange to be very successful. To my ears, his infuence can be heard in ELO far past his departure in the kitschy, oddball, and bombastic arrangements. In fact, I’d argue that ELO (along with Queen) most successfully used classical influences because they understood that what they were doing was kitsch, and played that to the hilt. In contrast, most prog bands just took themselves far too seriously.
Below is another great one from a few years earlier, 1968 I think. I’m pretty sure I hear the origins of ELO in the mock-siren background vocals.
Here’s a great 32-year-old article from SPIN’s archives, from around the time that I was getting into them. (Yes, I was late to the party and had to work my way back through the Twin/Tone albums.) The band had just parted ways with manager Pete Jesperson, fired lead guitarist Bob Stinson, and released one of their best albums, Pleased To Meet Me. Recorded right here in Memphis!
“When we started,” [Westerberg] says, pausing to sip from a midmorning Schmidt, “we definitely had a fear of success. We had a fear of everything. We were all very paranoid, and I think that goes hand in hand with the excessive drinking thing. We’d get drunk because we were basically scared shitless, and that snowballed into image. Now we’re a little more assured of what we’re doing. We’re not positive which way we’re going, but we think we know what mistakes lie ahead, and we’re trying to sidestep ‘em.”
The Nazz was Todd Rundgren’s band in the late 60’s. This psych-pop song was highly influential on 70’s power-pop bands as they formed. Interestingly, these guys, along with the Move, were pioneers in both power pop and progressive rock. Genres were fluid then, still formulating, so bands picking up on the experimental pop of the Beatles often found themselves pulled in both directions. By the mid 70’s the lines were clearer, and by the late 70’s prog-rockers and power-pop/punk guys barely spoke to each other.
In most cities around the world, Brian De Palma’s 1974 rock opera-ish The Phantom Of The Paradise is a cult classic, appreciated mostly by self-proclaimed cinephiles with a taste for over-the-top strangeness. (As our own Ignatiy Vishnevetsky describes it in a piece recommending the film: “[Phantom Of The Paradise] represented the pinnacle of Brian De Palma’s undisciplined early excess: a smorgasbord of camp, Grand Guignol, and bird imagery that thumbed its metal beak at commercial considerations.”) In Winnipeg, Manitoba, however, it was a box-office sensation, and is still a pop-cultural touchstone on par with Star Wars.
This documentary premieres on July 12, and you can bet your bastard ass I’ll be seeing it as soon as possible.
This time I fell for the Vostok Amphibia, a ridiculously affordable Russian diver. Watch the video for a little history – it’s fascinating stuff. There seem to be hundreds of styles to choose from on this site. Here’s mine.
Oh! For you trivia-obsessed bastards, this is the watch that Steve Zissou’s crew wore in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, only it was this dial …
Trump delivered an inspiring speech to celebrate our nation’s independence yesterday, and dropped a little unknown history in doing so. I had no idea that our army controlled the air in the Revolutionary War, and we also controlled all the airports. George Washington was a pilot not to be fucked with…