MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY
Harvest SHSP 4013, 1971 (UK)
Issued in US as Capitol ST 811, 1971
Reissued as One Way/CEMA Special Markets CDL 57476, 1991
Conventional wisdom has it that the British Invasion wiped out American rock and roll in the Sixties, and that Raoul and the U.S. Teens would buy anything that was recorded within a hundred yards of a Union Jack. Counterexample numero uno is the story of the Move, a major British band that made no noise over here until its members had gone on to bigger and/or better things.
In 1966 there were only three bands in and around Birmingham, England getting semi-steady work, and members of all three eventually fused into a group of their own. Roy Wood was the guitarist for Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders. Trevor Burton had played bass for the Mayfair Set. And Carl Wayne and the Vikings yielded up, not only vocalist Wayne, but guitarist Ace Kefford and drummer Bev Bevan. These five became the Move, a name coined by Wood, who eventually became de facto leader of the group.
When Tony Secunda took over management of the Move, he generated tons of publicity for the group, some of it good (they soon managed to adapt that strange American phenomenon known as psychedelia) and some of it not so good (a publicity photo for the "Flowers in the Rain" single, showing then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson in quasi-flagrante delicto with a young woman strongly resembling the secretary Wilson was rumored to be diddling, was not kindly received by #10 Downing Street), but all of it propelling the Move onto the British charts, and none of it having the slightest effect on the American market.
After a number of personnel (and, eventually, management) changes, the final version of the Move was Roy Wood, Bev Bevan, and Jeff Lynne from the Idle Race (which grew out of the same Nightriders group Wood had previously left). And it was this version that recorded the Move's third LP, Looking On, and the fourth, Message from the Country.
The ten songs on Message are diverse to the point of perversity. Wood's "It Wasn't My Idea to Dance", which opens the set, proposes the oboe as a rock-and-roll instrument, and actually makes its case. Lynne's "No Time" is a Beatlesque ballad with harmonies out of the Bee Gees' book. Also Fab Four-inspired is Lynne's "The Minister", which has the effect of playing "Paperback Writer" at 78 rpm. "Ben Crawley Steel Company" is Wood's sendup of Johnny Cash; Bevan's "Don't Mess Me Up" does similar things to Elvis. None of this is particularly coherent, but all of it is wonderful to hear except maybe "My Marge", a not-all-that-funny poke at singers of the Rudy Vallee stripe.
Message didn't sell, and the Move were already making plans for their next project, which became the Electric Light Orchestra, which did sell. But more Move singles came out, even in America, and one of them "Do Ya", written by Lynne actually charted, which prompted United Artists, which had signed ELO to a US contract, to issue an album containing those singles and seven tracks from Message, which was ultimately released as Split Ends (United Artists UAS 5666, 1972). Roy Wood left ELO after one album, and Lynne and Bevan carried on to great financial (and, more often than not, artistic) success even in the United States.
Produced by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne
Updated 9 September 2000
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Cover art © 1971 by Capitol Records, Inc.