Man of 1,000 Faces

 

One track sounds like Duane Eddy. One like Neil Sedaka. And Rick Nelson, Dion, Elvis... ROY WOOD'S new Wizzard album is riding the crest of a wave of nostalgia. He talks about it to ALLAN JONES.

The Move, at their best, were a great band. The Electric Light Orchestra was an interesting experiment, whose full potential has yet to be realised. But Wizzard, the current brain-child of Roy Wood, has, by comparison to these earlier hands, always seemed confused and incoherent.

Their brand of rock'n'roll pastiche and revamped Spector sound, coupled with Wood's eclecticism has never encompassed the breadth of vision of, say, Bryan Ferry, whose cross cultural references give Roxy Music a depth which Wizzard definitely lack.

Which isn't to say that what Wood does, he doesn't do well. The Wizzard singles, especially, have been accurate recreations of Wood's rock 'n' roll influences, and if there's ever to be a rock equivalent of "Man Of A Thousand Faces," it's a safe bet that Roy Wood will he in with a chance for the title role.

Or maybe that should he, The Amazing Vanishing Man, because it's beginning to look as if he isn't going to turn up for the interview, and nobody knows where he could be.

It's not an unusual situation. Roy has some difficulty in getting from one point on the map to the other without being mysteriously waylaid. He's often late, but he's rarely been known to miss out altogether.

Nevertheless, plans are already being tentatively made to rearrange the date for the interview when Wood suddenly appears, sporting the most amazing pair of outsize clogs you're likely to find this side of Amsterdam.

He seems rather ill at ease, as if he would rather be stuck away in some recording studio, producing another couple of Wizzard singles and a new solo album.

The conversation comes around, not unnaturally, to the new solo single, "Going Down The Road". It's a particularly eccentric creation, combining reggae, and a Scottish Reel, complete with bagpipes. How had the song come about?

"It was pretty silly really. I'd always wanted to do a reggae thing. I was messing about with drum rhythms, and the reggae beat was like a marching neat . . . and the obvious thing to go with a marching beat is a Scottish Reel."

It seems so simple that it’s surprising no one’s ever done it before.

Besides the new single, Roy has also been completing work on the new Wizzard album, to be released shortly, called "Eddie And The Falcons."

"It's a rock album, and what we tried to do with it was to bring back a bit of nostalgia."
But wasn't there quite enough of that knocking around already, hanging round rock's neck like a lead albatross?

"Yeah, well, there is. But the only nostalgia you've got is people reviving old rock 'n' roll records, There aren’t any new songs, and what we've tried to do on each track is to get the whole atmosphere of the late '50's, early '60's.

"We did a track in a Duane Eddy style, one in a Neil Sedaka style, another in a Rick Nelson style, one in a Dion style, another in a Del Shannon style, one in an Elvis…"

This is beginning to sound like a necrophiliac rock’n’roll legion call. What’s the matter with the originals? Can’t they be left in peace? Is it really necessary to dig up such relics, seminal as they might be in rock history?

"Basically, we do it because we enjoy it. When I first started playing in bands, I was playing rock'n'roll, and I was influenced by all the things that were around, like the Shadows and Elvis.

"And I thought, well it's great for us to play that sort of music, 'cos that's what we were brought up on. with the type of audience we're playing to now, they're too young to know about that era… they might know about it vaguely 'cos their older sisters might have had rock 'n' roll records.

"But they wouldn't have been totally involved in it, and it's something new for them."

What sort of reaction had the band been getting at gigs?

"Well, a thing we have had to do is rearrange our programme for British audiences. When we first started out, we were formed as a college band, really, and we were doing quite a hit of jazz, as well as rock'n'roll – to the point of being self-indulgent, and it didn't pay off for the type of audience that wanted to see us.

"On our last tour, where we were playing ABC cinemas, we had to change the show completely after the first night, to a sort of pop show as the people who were coming to see us were mums and dads who were bringing their kids along… It was like 'Crackerjack'."

Wizzard, at least on television, had always seemed a little disorganised. Was this a fair criticism?

"We are disorganised, because we've never really rehearsed it. We just go onstage and have a good time, and hope it rubs off. But, actually when we get the new programme together, which we're gonna do for the States, we're gonna work a little more on the visual thing.

"Y'know, they came originally from the TV appearances, before that, I dunno, we were attractive to the audience because of the line-up, but we'd never put on any sort of show.

"And now in the States, I think they'll accept it. One of the reasons that I felt a bit nervous about going to the States is that we didn't know which way to approach it. Most of the musicians in Wizzard are very conscientious, and they want to go on stage and prove they can play.

"They're very good musicians, but they don't really know where to draw the line between musicianship and this visual thing, where we go on stage and it's like a big piss-up and we have a good laugh… and neither do I really."

Roy has, in fact, just recently returned from a promotional visit to America, where he was well received.

Wizzard were quite well known in some areas, and there was a great deal of anticipation about the impending tour. The Move, of course, held some reputation among American audiences, as the result of one tour and their albums.

Did Roy feel there was a lack of respect for him in this country?

"I don't know. I like to think that I've got some respect. I think I've got more recognition as a writer than I had before, even though I did write all the Move hits."

Roy's not reluctant to discuss the Move, but he does remain a little evasive. It seems the rather involved personality clashes within that band have cancelled out any fond memories. and the only period with the Move which he recalls with any pleasure is the time before the final split when Jeff Lynne joined.

Had Roy anything to say about the strangely developing career of Carl Wayne, who left the Move to pursue a career as an "all round entertainer", and ended up singing on the Terry Wogan Show on Radio Two with the occasional appearance on Crossroads for good measure?

"No."

Oh, well… What about the current band. Was there any difficulty in co-ordinating such a large number of musicians?

"No, none really. Actually, there was one point where I did get cheesed off with going on the road, and I thought I would prefer to stay in the studio and record. But being with Wizzard, it's like party time every night. You don't notice that it's work really."

With the band itself fairly stable, did Roy, nevertheless, prefer to work alone in the studio, without having to translate his ideas to other musicians?

"Yeah, that is very satisfying. I am getting a studio of my own pretty soon. I hope it will be in operation shortly after Christmas.

"It is easier, but it depends on the style in which I'm working. I do quite a lot of stuff on me
own in the studios, but when it comes to Wizzard, I do like to get their opinions."
While he was in America, Roy met Brian Wilson, one of rock's great innovators and another of Wood's heroes and sources of inspiration.

"It was unfortunate, really, 'cos he phoned me as soon as I got to LA, this surfin' voice just came over the phone, 'Hello, is that Roy, this is Brian."

"I was pretty excited about it, and he was really friendly. He said he'd liked 'Forever,' and I got invited up to his house.

"But he wasn't very well, I got to speak to him for about five minutes and he was pretty ill. I met his kids, though. Two little girls. They were singing 'Forever' in harmony."

Did he feel there was a lot of pressure on him, what with his commitments to Wizzard and his solo projects, and various plans to produce an album for Neil Sedaka?

"Well, I never get depressed by the music side. But I do come up against a lot of brick walls, y'know, from people who shall remain nameless.

"Through the usual channels: there's red tape and that. They say you can't do this and you can't do that.

"And there's the pressure from the record company who say that the album’s got to be out next week, so you've got to finish the tracks NOW.

"And I think with all the time I've put into the album, it's gonna ruin it by rushing the last couple of tracks. 'Cos you set yourself certain standards."

 


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