Single of the week

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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Give A Little Bit (Supertramp)

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Daddy were formed in 1969 in Wiltshire and originally classed as a prog rock band. After 12 months without any success they changed their name to Supertramp and then their career started to take off.

Within a couple of years their sound became more commercial and they found themselves on mainstream radio.  The band, although had a varying line up over the years, consisted of mainstays Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John Helliwell, Doug Thomson and Bob Benberg.

Their first two albums, Supertramp and Indelibly Stamped failed to excite the record buying public, but it was their next offering, Crime Of The Century, that opened their chart account by reaching number four. Their debut single, Dreamer reached number 13. Crisis, What Crisis? made number 20 the following year and this was followed in 1977 by Even In The Quietest Moments.

That album opened with the song that became one of their most popular despite only reaching number 29 – Give A Little Bit. “I think it’s a great song,” commented Roger Hodgson in an interview with Dan MacIntosh. “I didn’t realise it when I first wrote it. It actually took me six years before I even brought it to the band. But I wrote it I think around 1970. That time, the late ’60s, early ’70s, was a very idealistic time, one of hope, a lot of peace and love and the dream of the ’60s was still very alive and maturing, if you like. The Beatles had put out All You Need is Love a year prior to that. I believed in love – it was always for love – and just felt that was the most important thing in life. That song has really taken on a life of its own, and I think it’s even more relevant today than when I wrote it. Because we really are needing to value love in a much deeper way, and also we’re needing to care. The song is basically saying: just show you care. You know, reach out and show you care. So in concert it’s the perfect show closer, because what I try to do in my show over two hours is unify the audience and unify all of us. So that at the end, when everyone stands up for Give A Little Bit, they’re open and ready to open their hearts and sing at the top of their lungs and go away with a smile on their face. And that song really does, it has a very pure energy. The moment I start, people just start smiling. It’s amazing. It was written at a time when writing simple songs was very easy because I didn’t over-think them.”

Roger described what happens when he performs the song in concert in very recent times, “I look out and people just start hugging each other and they start singing with me. It’s a very unifying song with a beautiful, simple message that I’m very proud of and really enjoy playing today. The song itself is such a pure, simple message that I think is really especially even more powerful today when the world has even more problems and it’s even more difficult sometimes to be compassionate and caring because we’ve got to put up all these barriers to survive; that it’s a song that really inspires people to give a little bit, not give a lot, just give a little bit.”

Interestingly the song writer credits both Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson although it is a Hodgson composition. The pair, like Lennon and McCartney agreed to share writing credits from 1974 through until 1983, when Hodgson left to pursue a solo career.

The song was a favourite of Princess Diana’s and Roger sang it at a special concert For Diana at Wembley in 2007. “I was kind of sad that I never got to actually play for the princess while she was alive but I was very, very happy that the princes invited me to play for her honour 10 years after her death.”

In 2001 the song was used in the Gap advert on television with various artists performing versions of it including Sheryl Crow, The Band’s Robbie Roberston and Shaggy. The Goo Goo Dolls recorded it for their Live from Buffalo album in 2004 and even made the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Right Here Waiting (Richard Marx)

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When Richard Marx first arrived on the British chart in 1988, he was 24 years old and was seemingly a new kid on the block, but in truth, Richard had been involved in music in one form or another for almost 20 years.

Richard’s father wrote jingles and his mother sang them, so by the age of five, Richard, who had been accompanying his parents to the recording studio, was now singing them himself. As a teenager he began writing songs and when he was 18, in 1981, he sent a demo tape to Lionel Richie who acknowledged his talent and suggested he came to Los Angeles where he was invited to sing backing vocals on Lionel’s 1983 album, Can’t Slow Down.

The following year he co-wrote ‘What About Me’ with Kenny Rogers which Kenny sang with Kim Carnes and James Ingram. Later that year he met Cynthia Rhodes, the lead actress in Stayin’ Alive and also the girl seen dancing in Toto’s video for Rosanna, they dated and married in 1989.

In 1987 he released his debut album, Richard Marx, and the first two singles, ‘Should’ve Known Better’, with backing vocals by Fee Waybill of The Tubes and the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit and ‘Endless Summer Nights’ both made the top three in the US and both peaked at number 50 in the UK.

Due to Cynthia’s filming commitments and Richard’s touring schedule, the couple were apart for about three months. Despite a few attempts to meet up, it didn’t happen. He went to a friend, Bruce Gaitsch’s house and decided the only way he could carry on without his love by his side, was to write a song about her. Richard recalled how it happened, “I wrote the song for Cynthia who was in South Africa shooting for a film. We were not married at the time but I wanted to meet her because I had not seen her for a few months. But my visa application was rejected and when I came back I wrote this song which was more of a letter from me to her. It was the fastest song I wrote, in barely 20 minutes. This was the time when there was no Skype and Social networking so I had to ship the track to her. The song was very personal and was not intended to go public. But my friends pursued me to record it.” The song was eventually included on the parent album Repeat Offender.

In the Nineties, Richard had further UK Top 20 hits with Hazard, Take This Heart and Now and Forever. He also wrote hit singles for Barbra Streisand & Vince Gill (If You Ever Leave Me) and Nsync (This I Promise You). In 2004 Richard won his first Grammy for Song of the Year with Dance with My Father as sung by Luther Vandross. He recalled, “I’m very proud to have co-written that song. I helped Luther write it musically, but lyrically it was all him. It was a tribute to his father.” Richard accepted the award on the night but he said, “I couldn’t really celebrate because Luther was not there. He was recovering from a debilitating stroke and it was sad. It felt wrong.” Luther never recovered and passed away on 1st July 2005.

In the summer of 2006, Richard was asked to join Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band for a North American tour of 22 cities. He played guitar in the band supporting Ringo and performed his own hits at each show. In 2008, he began touring with former Vertical Horizon lead singer, Matt Scannell, as an acoustic duo and released a CD called Duo. The following year Richard’s latest CD Emotional Remains was released which features contribution from Jennifer Hanson and Kenny Loggins.

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Wordy Rappinghood (Tom Tom Club)

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The first number one in the UK that contained rapping in came in 1983 in the shape of New Edition’s Candy Girl, but commercial rap was being tested as early as 1981. Remember Blondie’s Rapture? The Human League gave it a go in Love Action and two members of the Talking Heads gave it a different dimension as the Tom Tom Club.

The Talking heads were formed in New York in 1975 and got their break supporting the Ramones at the CBGB’s club. Arguably one of their greatest singles, Psycho Killer, never made the UK chart but their first success came in 1981 with Once In A Lifetime reaching number 14 but the next three hits failed to make any great impact. Their only other visit to the top ten came in 1985 with Road to Nowhere.

With the ever changing music scene of the early 80s, a diversion was needed and so the husband and wife duo Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth – the Talking Heads’ drummer and bassist respectively – temporarily broke away and formed the Tom Tom Club in March 1981. Not only that, they did it in style by relocating to Nassau, the  capital of the Bahamas where they bought a house right next to Island record label owner Chris Blackwell. He owned Compass Points Studios and he invited the pair to record some tracks. He said that if he liked their sound he would record a whole album. Frantz and Weymouth brought in Steven Stanley, a 21 year-old keyboard player who was the sound engineer on Ian Dury’s Lord Upminster album and they found a fantastic bass player called Monte Browne who had been a member of T-Connection.  Chris Frantz explained what happened after Blackwell approved, “So we then went back into the studio and did the rest of the album including this track called Genius Of Love which was eventually released as a single in America in 1981, but only after Island Records had shipped and sold like 100,000 12″ singles. Seymour Stein and the people at Warner Brothers sort of said ‘Oh, maybe Chris and Tina are on to something. We should release this album over here.’ So they did and to date it’s still one of the biggest selling records we’ve ever had, either with Talking Heads or Tom Tom Club.”

Their original intention was to record and released only one track, but they found they all inspired each other sufficiently to carry on. The band’s line up grew too and now included Weymouth’s two sisters, Laura, a freelance video technician, and Lani who was a New York student studying psychotherapy. They trio called themselves the Sweetbreaths. Wordy Rappinghood obviously impressed the reviewers in Smash Hits who exclaimed that it was ‘Aimed at the more intelligent end of the market’. At the time, Weymouth said in an interview, “When we did Wordy Rappinghood, we didn’t really know what we were doing. I think a lot of people thought Chris and I were going to do something really self-indulgent, and David (Byrne) and Jerry (Harrison) (Talking Heads members) were going to do something more legitimate.”

Wordy Rappinghood open with the tapping of a keyboard with an intellectual keyboard beat follows, setting a creative tone. The first verse, Tina noted has a vocabulary that exists for newspapers. “It’s tighter and precise. Words exist to create hundreds of pages of a book. They are spoken. There are also negative connotations. Guilty and steal are reserved for crooks. I will be with you are said to convey comfort. Surrender and truce can stop war. Stop, go, can’t express permission. Words build relationships, form bonds, and employment. I advise people to dine on the finest conversations and stimulate their minds. Swears are junk foods and leave people feeling unsatisfied. The pre-chorus is a bunch of nonsense words jumbled together.”

Blackwell had the idea to team them up with legendary reggae producer Lee Perry, but the day before, Perry and Blackwell had a falling out and Perry failed to show up. Instead they worked with a young Jamaican engineer called Steven Stanley, who later went on to have a successful career as a songwriter and is best remembered for the beat behind Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit Fantasy, mainly because it sampled Genius Of Love.

After Wordy Rappinghood, they added Steve Scales on percussion, Alex Weir guitar and Tyron Downie on keyboards. In 1986 they replaced Scales with Gary Pozner and Downie with Mark Roule. Their next album came in 1988 with Dark Sneak Love Action and despite a guest vocal appearance by Kirsty MacColl on the title track, the album failed to generate sales. In 2000 two further singles, Happiness Can’t Buy Money and The Good, The Bad and the Funky, were released and equally did nothing and so the band finally split.

In 2003, Wordy Rappinghood made a comeback in Europe in what was known as the Electroclash scene. Weymouth explained, “Those new electronic kids really dig it and they’ve used that little opening keyboard riff over and over again in remixes and stuff. It’s even been used in France for a cookie commercial…a children-oriented commercial for a French cookie called Le Petit Ecolier.” In 2011 the track was used again, this time on UK TV, to advertise Evian water.

The Tom Tom Club were the first white band to appear on the legendary programme, Soul Train. Chris Frantz explained what it was like, “It felt like a wonderful crossover. Here we are on this really cool TV show called Soul Train and that must mean we’ve got soul! That’s what we wanted – to have soul.”

Wordy Rappinghood discusses the importance of communication. “People are talking even if they don’t realise it. It’s a natural thing to do and something that’s taken for granted. Without language, people would struggle to relate to each other. Words define people and express their personalities,” Weymouth explained. In a world of texting, tweeting and Facebook, it’s doubtful that a song like this could be written now that a younger generation can understand.

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Wide Open Space (Mansun)


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When Mansun landed on the musical map in 1996 their lead singer and main songwriter Paul Draper exclaimed “Exhibitionism is back” by sporting a new shiny houndstooth suit alongside blue eye liner and nail varnish on his right hand and then proclaimed, “I should have worn my nail varnish on my chord-playing hand really that way it’ll get more noticed.”

The band were formed as a trio in Chester in 1995 and originally called Grey Lantern after one of Draper’s songs. Whilst in a recording studio and technician claimed “That name is the worse fucking name ever”. Draper had a Verve EP in his collection and it contained the track A Man Called Sun which then got concertinaed down to Mansun. The other two members were Stove King on bass and Dominic Chad on guitar and they eventually added Andy Rathbone on drums.

Between March 1960 and December 1967, the chart compilers tracked an EP chart with the Shadows leading the way with 38 charting extended plays. Had this EP chart still been going, Mansun would have had a chance to be high up on it as their first 11 hit singles were all EP’s entitled numbers One to Eleven. Their debut in April 1996 had the lead track Egg-Shaped Fred – a small town ligger and their first top 20 hit was Stripped Vicar about a transvestite.

Wide Open Space was the lead track from their fourth EP and was the track that enhanced their career as it was their most successful single in the USA where it reached number 25 on the modern rock chart. The song took a while to write; in the sleeves notes of Legacy: Best Of, Draper explained how he recorded the entire song without the vocals six months before he wrote the lyrics. He remembered, “”I struggled for six months to find the lyrics, but I eventually got them from absorbing someone talking on TV which gave me the title, then I painted the imagery around that.” The song reached number 15 in the UK chart and was promoted by two different videos. The first was directed by Paul Cunningham and featured the band playing in a small dilapidated room while Martino Lazzeri (who played Joe Williams in Grange Hill) walks around a city alienated and paranoid amongst a vampire-like atmosphere. The American’s probably wouldn’t have got that so a second and simpler video was made and that was directed by Nigel Dick.

The track is included on the million-selling album  Attack Of The Grey Lantern, but that wasn’t the original title as Paul recalled, “No, it was originally called Attack Of The Green Lantern, but then we talked about it amongst ourselves we realised that none of us are into green, so we changed it to grey.” The American version of the album was quite disastrous with many unnecessary changes. The album has all the tracks segued together but Stripped Vicar was replaced by the early single Take It Easy Chicken which didn’t seem to fit with the grandiose feeling of the album and other tracks were chopped into a different order which made it lose its feel, as journalist Stephen Thomas Erlewine put it, ‘it ludicrously robs a fine concept album of its concept.’

Eighteen months later Mansun unleashed their second album, Six, which reached a respectable peak of number six, but within four weeks it had disappeared from the chart completely. Their third long-player, Little Kix, did even worse, reaching number 12 in the UK and barely registering in the US when it appeared in the summer of 2000. One track from it, Electric Man, had heavy rotation in all the men’s toilets of UK Cineworld cinemas, but may weren;t in there long enough for it to register and turn it into sales. Work began on a fourth album in 2002 but Mansun split up in May the following year. The results of the new material appeared on the double CD Kleptomania in 2004.

The reason for their split was unknown at the time but it transpired that Paul Draper was undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the time, having been diagnosed with cancer in 2002. Paul had made a full recovery, but did have to have half a finger removed during surgery which resulted in a slightly different sound because he had trouble with some of the chords.

In 2009, at the last ever gig at London’s Astoria, Paul appeared with the My Vitriol performing a version of Wide Open Space. In 2010 Draper started promising fans new solo material which hasn’t, as yet, materialised. Now it doesn’t look likely because during 2011 he contacted numerous internet forums and blogs requesting that all dialogue relating to his solo material be removed.

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