Blackberry Way (The Move)

 

The Birmingham band, The Move, comprised Carl Wayne (lead vocals), Roy Wood (vocals, lead guitar), who was born Roy Adrian Wood and not as often erroneously credited as Ulysses Adrian Wood, which came from a flippant interview comment in 1966, Trevor Burton (rhythm guitar) Ace Kefford (bass) and Bev Bevan (drums). They were signed by the London manager, Tony Secunda, who dreamed up outrageous, and wholly unnecessary, stunts to secure publicity. “We were a pretty wild band,” admits Carl Wayne, who later joined the Hollies, “We smashed up TV’s and we had a bogus H-bomb in Manchester, but it worked against us. If we had had the guts to carry on with the infamy like The Stones, it might have worked but The Stones didn’t give a damn and we were frightened young boys from Birmingham. The Move was a very good pop band, but we had to live up this myth that we were aggressive louts.”

“This worked against us,” says Roy Wood, “We’d smash up TV’s on stage and then the promoters would ring up the agent and say that we had smashed up the dressing room so they didn’t have to pay us.” The Move had their first hits with Night Of Fear and I Can Hear The Grass Grow and then, quite by chance, The Move’s Flowers In The Rain was the first record to be played on Radio 1. However, they were sued by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, for a publicity cartoon which showed him in a compromising position with his secretary. Fire Brigade was their fourth hit, but they thought of disbanding when Wild Tiger Woman failed to ignite.

Then came The Move’s only number one, Blackberry Way which Roy once admitted he had no idea what it was about despite writing it, although it does resemble a Birmingham version of Penny Lane with a little of Strawberry Fields Forever thrown in: “I suppose it could have been,” says Roy now, “We were all very influenced by what The Beatles were doing because they were the best songwriters around.” The bridge was ‘borrowed’ from the intro of the song that opens Harry Nilsson’s 1968 album Aerial Ballet, Good Old Desk. Richard Tandy, a future member of ELO, played an electronic harpsichord on the song and musicologists have praised the E minor augmented ascent, which is the first sound we hear.

The band already decided that if Blackberry way wasn’t a hit they would call it a day, but it became their biggest hit and they went off to tour the USA despite them not being known over there. They returned in late 1969 with Carl Wayne saying: “America has straightened us out as a band. There is great harmony in the group now.”

It didn’t last. Ace Kefford left the band as he couldn’t stand the publicity and Carl Wayne moved out in a disagreement over bookings into cabaret clubs. Jeff Lynne came in, and then Roy, Jeff and Bev formed the Electric Light Orchestra. Wood soon moved on and led Wizzard. “I wish that Jeff and Roy had done more together,” says Carl Wayne, “I think that the best Move records were after I left when they did Chinatown and Tonight. Lennon and McCartney were double genius, God’s talent, but Jeff and Roy together could have come close.”

The publicity for Blackberry Way was more restrained than usual as the press were sent blackberry pies with champagne. And was there a Blackberry Way? “Well, I’ve never spotted one,” says Roy Wood, “It would be nice to find one.” Cover versions of this song are few and far between, but the New Seekers put it on their 1971 album, Beautiful People. In 1978  a Swedish rock group called Strix Q gave it Swedish lyrics and re-titled it Hem till Stockholm igen and a live version can be found on Marillion’s  2007 album Friends.

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