“Woah, look out, look out your mama will shout
You might as well go home
Just then my beard gets into your hair
So give me back my comb”
Take scary facial hair and psychedelic make-up, mix it with extensive musical knowledge, add a wicked sense of humour, place it in front of a group of musicians and the result is Roy Wood and Wizzard. The band’s name and image were a perfect reflection of each other with Roy often looking as if he’d been on the receiving end of an exploding caldron.
I used to love watching Wizzard on TV as you never knew what would happen, whether they would play it straight or in gorilla suits, whether there would be angels on roller skates or a custard pie fight. Couple that with my parent’s comments on Roy Wood (“that can’t be his real hair”, “there’s something wrong with him”) and each appearance used to be 3 minutes of perfect enjoyment.
In fact there was nothing wrong with Roy (and it was his own hair most of the time) who, by the time he formed Wizzard, already had an exceptional track record in the business. Roy had originally been a member of the Move who famously recorded “Flowers in the Rain”, the first record played by Radio 1, and were infamously sued by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, for the promotional postcard associated with it. Whilst the Move had chart success, and a great live set, Roy wanted to introduce classical music into pop. This led to the formation of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) by Roy, Jeff Lynne and members of the Move. Roy stayed with ELO for one album and tour before deciding to move onto fresh challenges and it was then he formed Wizzard.
Wizzard’s first single, “Ball Park Incident”, hit the charts in 1972 peaking at number 4 and was quickly followed by two number 1’s in the form of “See My Baby Jive” and “Angel Fingers”. Despite my parents disparaging comments about the group, which I now realise were probably just for me, they actually bought the first three singles and I can remember being really confused when I read the b-side of “Ball Park Incident” (“The Carlsberg Special (Piano’s Demolished Phone 021 373 4472)”) – was it an advert or a song?
However the single that Wizzard will always be remembered for is “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” and this reached number 4 in December 1973 (being beaten by Cozy Powell at 3, Leo Sayer at 2 and the mighty Slade at 1 with “Merry Xmas Everybody”). Unlike most Christmas singles this is one that I actually like to hear every year, with the knowing sound of a cash register at the start and the “when the snowman brings the snow” refrain, it is a song that I can guarantee I’ll sing along to!
Alongside Wizzard Roy was also recording as a solo artist and while a couple of further Wizzard songs hit the charts in 1974 contractual problems alongside the pressures of overwork led to the group abandoning live work and eventually disbanding.
Despite the demise of Wizzard Roy Wood has continued to plough his own musical furrow with extensive gigging, recording and producing throughout the 80’s and 90’s. In 2006 he’s still going strong, which my parents couldn’t believe when I told them last night, and well worth catching live!