Roy Wood: Interview with Martin Kinch for Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio

Recorded in 1992


MK: Roy, first of all, thanks a lot for giving up a few moments of your spare time. Do you know itís now over ten years since you did the last interview for Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio?

RW: Really?

MK: Yep, ten years, in a pub near your house in Stourbridge, do you remember? And weíve caught you at a time when youíre about to go back out on the road. Are you looking forward to it?

RW: Well with trepidation really. I suppose I am. I enjoy it once Iím up there playing, but itís all the other stuff that goes with it, you know, that sometimes can get a bit of a drag. As you know, originally, I formed a band to play at the NEC about a month ago for the Barnardoís concert, and ever since then Iíve had people phoning me up wanting me to go back out and do some so weíre going to do about half a dozen over Christmas just to feel the water and mainly to find out if we can go out on the road with a twelve piece band and not lose money, you know.

MK: Itíll be quite an expensive do, I should think.

RW: It will, really, but itíll be worth it if we can make it pay.

MK: So tell us about the band youíre using, Roy.

RW: Well, they come from different factions, actually, about four different bands rolled into one. The rhythm section are called The Poorboys, theyíve been around for years in Birmingham, a really good group, and Iíve got an all girl brass section who play with the Youth Jazz Orchestra and are really absolutely excellent, and two girl singers called the Naylor Twins who do the vocal backing.

MK: So will you be playing some new material as well as old?

RW: Yeah, well, weíve still got to rehearse that actually, because when we did the NEC we only had to play for 45 minutes and we just went on and did all the hits, you know, it was easier that way Ďcos we only had time to do about four rehearsals, so we couldnít really learn any new stuff, and now Iím getting some new songs together for doing the Town and Country Club in December and we wanna play some new stuff on that, Ďcos I think weíre going to be playing for about an hour and a quarter.

MK: So do you think itíll be about fifty-fifty new and old stuff then?

RW: Well to start with itíll probably be mostly old stuff, weíre going to sprinkle some new ones in between.

MK: So are you using them just for live work or are you perhaps going to go into the studio with them as well?

RW: Iíve got no plans for going into the studio with them yet, weíre going to see how it works live first, Ďcos Iíve already got some material recorded, enough material for a new album, but as yet I havenít got a record deal, so Iím just waiting on that at the moment.

MK: Youíre hoping your new stuffíll be released soon then?

RW: Well I hope so, yeah, I mean, if in the next few months we canít get anything sorted out Iím thinking of starting my own record label.

MK: Good luck with that, and we hear that youíve been in the recording studio with Jeff Lynne. Is that true?

RW: Yeah, that was about eighteen months ago now, we did a couple of new tracks which turned out rather well actually, I was rather pleased with them.

MK: Was it good to work with him again?

RW: Oh yeah, weíre still pals. I donít actually see Jeff very often Ďcos heís living in America now, but we speak to each other on the phone quite a bit, and weíre still mates.

MK: Can you let us in on the titles of those tracks, or not?

RW: Not at the moment no, because they will be on the new album actually, and I donít want to give any titles out at all yet Ė Iím not quite sure what Iím going to call the album, you see, and it might me one of those titles.

MK: You and Jeff were responsible for the formation of the Electric Light Orchestra back in the early seventies. You didnít stay around very long though, did you?

RW: No I didnít. Basically, my main reason for leaving was more to do with the behind-the-scenes things. There was a lot of political stuff going on that I didnít like, and I left for those reasons. Nothing to do with the music or, the press tried to make a big thing about me and Jeff falling out, and it was nothing to do with that at all, really, it was basically down to a management thing that I wasnít happy with.

MK: OK. I hate to remind you of this, but itís now twenty years since you burst onto the scene with Wizzard.

RW: Thanks pal!

MK: And the singles still get played quite a lot on the radio. How do you think theyíve aged over the twenty years?

RW: I dunno, itís difficult to judge your own material. I suppose even now, I need to play my new material to people to get a reaction. I mean, I know itís obviously good enough to play to people, or I wouldnít play to anybody, but the old stuff, you just get used to it, it becomes part of your system really. I think the Christmas one probably stands up better than the others, purely because itís a seasonal thing, it sounds right when it comes on the radio.

MK: Do you find itís a problem with record companies, that they expect you to come up with the same sort of stuff?

RW: Yeah, I think so. Itís difficult to know where you do stand with record companies. Ďcos some say "well come back when youíve written another ĎSee My Baby Jiveí", and other people want dance records, and I stuck somewhere between the two really, itís quite difficult. The new stuff Iíve written doesnít sound like Wizzard, but itís still commercial songs, which Iíve always been into writing anyway.

MK: Speaking as a fan, it wasnít just the music with Wizzard, it was the actual image of the band. Did that help you sell the band, do you think?

RW: Yeah, I think itís very important. Itís the same with my new band now, I mean, thereís twelve of us on stage, and half of those are girls, I think that adds to the image really.

MK: It was a bit of a wild man image really, wasnít it, but you struck me as quite a shy man. Is that right?

RW: Erm, reservedÖ I think I used to get rid of all my inhibitions on stage, and by the time Iíd come off stage itíd all gone, and it was back to being quiet again. Bit of a Jekyll and Hyde I suppose.

MK: To be honest Roy, how do you feel when the fans approach you after a gig, or in the pub, do you enjoy it, or donít you like that side of it really?

RW: Well, yeah, I like people in general, but it does depend. Sometimes you might be in the middle of talking to somebody about something important, and somebody comes up and destroys your conversation, but itís all part of the job I suppose. Most of the time I donít mind at all.

MK: So do you think people still point at you when youíre sitting on the bus going through town?

RW: Yeah, Iím still quite recognisable, I suppose!

MK: Is that a deliberate thing Roy, or do you just like the way you look?

RW: Itís the way I like to look I suppose. Iíve always liked long hair, and Iíve always disliked shaving, so there you go, thatís me!

MK: ĎCos you havenít really changed over the years, I suppose thatís a good thing in a way.

RW: Well I suppose so, yeah. If Iíd done what some record companies had wanted me to do a few years ago, cut my hair and shave my beard off, I wouldíve just looked like a bank manager or something. But as it is now, people still recognise me when Iím walking down the street, which is good, really.

MK: So back in the sixties Roy, you formed the Move. That must have been quite exciting, to suddenly have all those big hits, the first five singles were all top five hits, werenít they?

RW: Oh it was great, yeah. My feet didnít touch the ground then, Ďcos we were playing live constantly, and every time I had a day off I had to be writing material and getting ready for the recording studio.

MK: How long was it between forming the band and having the first hit. Do you remember?

RW: The Move? We didnít have a record contract for the first twelve to eighteen months, we just built up on our live performances, and managed to get a bit of a name from that, really, and a reputation, and the record companies became interested in us through that, not particularly on how good we were musically. I think we first started we were probably better musically than we were later on, we did more harmonies and that.

MK: One of those hits, "Flowers In The Rain" was the first record to be played on Radio 1, in September 1967. Is that something youíre proud of?

RW: Oh yeah, it was great! It wasnít planned Ė I spoke to Tony Blackburn, who was the DJ on that particular day, years afterwards, when we happened to be at a bit of a do together, and he said it was just a mad panic on that morning, and he wasnít sure if all the records had been sorted out properly, and in the right order. The programme came on, and he just dived for the first record he could lay his hands on, and it happened to be ours, it was pure luck.

MK: There was a lot of publicity surrounding that record. Are you allowed to talk about that now?

RW: I prefer not to. People that were around then know that we were sued by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and it was a libellous case, and I donít want to go into too much detail of how, because I donít want to be done again, soÖ

MK: The royalties went to charity, didnít they?

RW: Yeah, none of us ever earned a penny off of it.

MK: Do you think you ever will?

RW: No, I donít think so!

MK: You performed a new version of that song on TV recently, didnít you, complete with bagpipes, which sounded a bit strange! Was that a bit of fun?

RW: Yes, a bit of a laugh really. Unfortunately, that was the song that they wanted us to do, so I thought I might as well try and make it a bit different.

MK: I was surprised that they billed it as the Move, because over the years you must have had many offers to reform the band, and youíve not really done it, have you?

RW: Loads. I always felt it was dangerous to step back if youíve still got new ideas. Itís a sign that youíve run out of new ideas if you go back to the Move, or Wizzard or whatever. Iíve had loads of offers to reform Wizzard and the Move and go back out on the road, but really to me, I donít know if Iím right or not, itíd be an admission of defeat. I donít want to be stuck in a time warp, like a Gary Glitter figure. Full marks to Gary, Ďcos I like him, but I donít really want to do that myself. Iíve got loads of new material written, that Iíd really like the general public to hear, and while they think that I am still Wizzard or the Move, all theyíll want to hear is the old stuff.

MK: Thatís right, because we still get Gary Glitter and Mud and the Sweet touring, and theyíre in it for the money, they donít really care what people think.

RW: I couldnít do that. Obviously, when we do the live shows, we have to do some old material, because people expect to hear it, like "See My Baby Jive", we do that, but it suits us, weíve got slightly new versions of them with the big brass section, and it works quite well. I would like to go on Seventies package tours and be known as that sort of act, no.

MK: Just going back to the Move again, when do you think they were at their best, because the line up was never very stable, was it?

RW: There were two points that I enjoyed being in the Move. The very early days, I didnít, Ďcos we had a lot of pressure on, and we didnít particularly get on that well. There were two times in the Move that I thought were good, an that was when Ace had left, and Trevor was playing bass, and there was myself, Trevor, Carl Wayne, and Bev, I think that was quite a good Move. The other Move I enjoyed was the Brontosaurus one with myself, Rick Price, Jeff Lynne, and Bev. Those were the two times I enjoyed it most.

MK: In both stages you shared the vocal, earlier on with Carl Wayne, and later on with Jeff Lynne, didnít you? Was that a deliberate thing?

RW: Yeah, there were a lot of talented people in the band, it was nice to show everyoneís talents off I suppose. It wasnít a thing weíd worked on at all, it just came naturally.

MK: So do you still see any members of your old bands?

RW: I saw Rick Price about a month ago, I see Bev occasionally, I donít see Jeff very much, heís in America, as I say, but I speak to him on the phone. I speak to Carl Wayne occasionally on the phone, and thatís it really, I donít really see anybody else.

MK: Bev Bevanís now involved with ELO Part Two. As a creator of the original band, what do you think of that idea?

RW: Iíve got mixed feelings about it really. I suppose he had to try it, but I think they would be better if they did all new material. I know itís difficult, but while theyíre standing up and being a clone of what Jeff did, theyíll always be judged, by Jeff, you know. Iíve seen them a couple of times, in fact I played with them and sang with them in Bristol recently. We had a good time, it was a good laugh, but theyíre still going through that transition stage, and I think they will be judged better if they can drop the old stuff, and get some new stuff.

MK: Is it true that you were asked to join at the beginning of that?

RW: Yeah, I was at one point.

MK: Do you thing you will work with them at some point?

RW: I wouldnít rejoin them, no, but if they asked me to go and sing, or guest on a program, then I would, yes.

MK: Over the years Roy, youíve written, produced and played on many tracks for other artists. Do you enjoy that sort of thing?

RW: Yeah, itís interesting getting involved with lotís of different things, Ďcos you can get stuck in a bit of a cocoon doing the same thing day after day. Itís nice to branch out and try other peopleís music from time to time.

MK: Are you working with anybody at the moment?

RW: Not that I can talk about, no. Thereís a couple of things coming up that sound quite interesting, but I canít really talk about it. Keep you guessing for a bit!

MK: Youíve been doing some music for Central TV, havenít you?

RW: Yeah, Iíve done some TV stuff, some incidental stuff, an I did a news thing for them. It was alright, that was a different thing to do as well, I enjoyed it, having to work to the second, and all that. With TV stuff youíve got to work to the clock, and start and finish exactly when they say, which isnít always totally easy, when youíve got a tune in mind and youíve got to shorten it or lengthen it.

MK: So would you like to get into doing commercials? Carl Wayne does a lot doesnít he?

RW: He does, yeah. I would really, I suppose. Itís not that easy to get into either. There are a few elite people who do it, and companies tend to stick with the same people. I suppose I havenít really tried all that much because Iíve been into recording songs, but if I made my mind up and said, right, Iím not going to do any more of this, and go into commercials, I suppose I could get a job doing it, but thereís time for that. I can be doing that when Iím old!

MK: Youíve got your own recording studio now, havenít you, which you must be very happy with?

RW: Itís alright, yeah. Itís great Ďcos you donít have to worry about running out of money and having to pay extortionate fees for going into studios. I can get most of the donkey work done at my own place and hopefully if and when a record company is interested I can then go and mix it and produce it somewhere good.

MK: Now you moved away from Birmingham, Roy, didnít you? Do you miss it, isnít it a bit inconvenient to be away from the action or is it deliberate?

RW: Not really, I havenít lived in Birmingham for donkeyís years, I lived in Worcester for fifteen years. I left Birmingham more or less as soon as I could really.

MK: But even in Worcester you were near the action.

RW: Near the motorway! I was nearer the motorway than where I am now. Itís alright, Iím not quite sure if weíll stay where we are now, but weíll have to wait and see. If I carry on doing this live stuff we might need to move.

MK: So what plans do you have for 1993 then Roy?

RW: Well, weíre just using the Christmas period to feel the water with the new band, and see if we all want to do it or not, is one thing, and the second thing is to see if we can not lose money. And if we can do that, weíll probably go out and do a couple of tours next year. Weíll see how it goes.

MK: And weíll see the new album as well next year?

RW: I hope so, yeah. Iíve got enough material, anyway.

MK: Well good luck with that Roy, and thanks for letting us take up some of your time for the patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. We look forward to the new album, we look forward to the gigs, and thanks a lot, Roy.

RW: Thank you very much indeed!

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