Roy Wood has, far too often, been criminally overlooked over the years when it comes to listing the greatest songwriters in relatively modern musical history. Most people know the bearded Brummie for his band’s two number one singles of 1973, ‘See My Baby Jive‘ and ‘Angel Fingers‘, and primarily for the same year’s perennial yuletide hit ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday‘. Older pop pickers will also recall The Move‘s 1968 chart topper ‘Blackberry Way‘, and the oft repeated quiz question “What was the first record played on Radio One?” (‘Flowers In The Rain‘), as well as the fact that he was a founding member of the Electric Light Orchestra. All classic tunes, granted, and as infectious as cholera, albeit a heck of a lot more pleasant than that.
But this is not the extent of Wood’s talents, as the 1974 album Introducing Eddy And The Falcons clearly showcases. Recorded just a year after the commercial triumph of those three big hitting singles, it was something of a concept album focused on the mythical band of its title. Not that there was much of a story behind it, rather, it was an attempt to channel many of Wood’s own influences, mainly from the late fifties era, into a fictional rock and roll band. The most obvious lift comes on ‘Everyday I Wonder‘, essentially a reworking of Del Shannon‘s ‘Runaway‘, but perhaps borrowing equally from the Beach Boys songbook throughout the course of the song. Equally blatant is the Elvis aping of ‘I Dun Lotsa Cryin’ Over You‘, the song’s moniker itself giving the game away before you even hit play.
Because the whole thing was intentional though, it never feels like an embarrassing pastiche of the greats of yesteryear. These are splendid songs in their own right. The only single to make any impact on the UK Top 40 here was the miserly number 34 placing of ‘This Is The Story Of My Love (Baby)‘, but that’s a shame. Undoubtedly it was chosen because it was pretty much the only track to continue the ‘classic Wizzard sound’ from the previous year, but, as Gill Thomas’s sleeve notes here point out: “‘You Got Me Runnin’ was a missed opportunity for a massive hit single, with its Ronettes style backing vocals and a most hummable melody.” It’s a fair assessment. I suspect Wizzard would have had another blockbuster on their hands, had that been put out as its introductory affair, and probably would have propelled what really is a fine album higher than the lower reaches of the Top 20.
Main Street was originally intended as the second disc of a double album, ostensibly to exhibit the more jazz-influenced side of the band. With the record company losing patience at how long it was taking to commit to vinyl, that plan was scuppered and it wasn’t released until some 26 years later in 2000. A whole lot less concerned satisfying the ‘pop’ audience that made up a large percentage of Wizzard’s following, Main Street had a more sophisticated ambience more in line with the likes of Steely Dan on the opening, title track, while still giving a knowing nod towards Brian Wilson, but then ‘Saxmaniacs‘ changes all that with a kind of freeform jazz nobody could reasonably have expected. OK, it’s not quite Captain Beefheart‘s Trout Mask Replica in presentation, but I suspect it might have caused a few rumblings of discontent in the Jet Records boardroom at the very least.
‘The Fire In His Guitar‘ proves that Wood is equally adept at pulling off the Classic Rock sound, melding the likes of Hendrix, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and sounding for all the world like a forerunner to metal chart gods Iron Maiden. ‘Don’t You Feel Better‘ comes across as some kind of gritty seventies cop drama theme tune, while ‘Indiana Rainbow‘ with its galloping rhythms is arguably one of Wizzard’s most scandalously underappreciated singles.
Anyway, the variety here is stunning, and it’s a crying shame that it wasn’t released as a companion piece to Introducing…, as originally intended, but now you can redress that balance by buying them both together and raising a glass with me to Roy Wood, one of the finest songwriters ever to grace the planet.
The re-issued Introducing Eddy And The Falcons and Main Street are out now on Cherry Red.