Oct 232009

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Roy Wood, in particular his work with The Move and his solo album Boulders. However, once he crossed the line into ridiculous, futuristic-retro glam with Wizzard, I have trouble keeping up with the guy. First of all, his recordings sound worse than ever. I’m no audiophile, and I’ve always found something charming about the overloaded sound of The Move records and the claustrophobic Boulders, but Wizzard simply sounds terrible – and not in a good way.

More troubling is the progression of Wood’s Look and what it says about his interest in communicating with humans on any level. As seen in this 1972 ELO video, the guy was pushing it a few years before Wizzard and his Mustard solo album. It’s one thing to be “eccentric,” quite another to announce to the world that you do not intend to ever be taken seriously, not even in a joking way.

Anyhow, I’ve rarely found interviews with Wood, and my attempts at reaching him myself have not been fruitful. I’m all for rock’s outsiders, wildmen, and such, but someone needs to put a little scrutiny on Roy Wood, someone needs to ask him one question:

Uh, Roy…

What the fuck?!?!
As a cult artist, and even less than that in the US, it seems no one bothers to speculate on what the deal is with Roy Wood. Does anyone talk about his upbringing, drugs, a woman, a religion? Is there any possible explanation for what became of Roy Wood? Should it really matter if there is an explanation? Probably not, but considering all the scrutiny rock fans grow up learning about the likes of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jeff Tweedy, why shouldn’t we get to scrutinize Roy Wood?

There are some other artists I can think of who’ve managed to fly their freak flags way under the radar, such as Jonathan Richman. Has anyone ever taken the time to figure out what his deal is? What artist do you feel is badly in need of some scrutiny?


  16 Responses to “Artists Badly in Need of Some Scrutiny”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    STEVIE WONDER! Seriously, that guy has been given a HUGE rock hall pass, and has escaped all kinds of scrutiny — both of the nerdy/academic and sleazy varieties. I need dirt!

  2. BigSteve

    Amazing video clip. I had no idea Leon Russell was in ELO.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Stevie Wonder is a FANTASTIC example of what I’m talking about. Way to step up and place a loved one in front of the mirror, Hrrundi!

  4. Not sure if this is the same thing, but I’m slightly mystified by Yo La Tengo’s elder statesmen status. I quite like some of their ’90s albums, but I thought the new one was just more of the same, boringly so. Yet critics love ’em, and fans say they’re better than ever. I’m surprised there’s no real backlash, no one willing to point out how narrow their range really is.

    On the opposite end of the coolness scale, where does Leon Redbone get off portraying himself as some sort of man of mystery? Who cares what your real name is and where you were born? Just ‘fess up!

  5. Some scrutiny could apply to the White Stripes. Does anyone know absolutely for sure whether Meg and Jack are/were husband and wife or bro & sis? Does it really affect their music, no? But does it weird me out, yes??

    Dr. John could also do with some scrutiny. I live in the Big Easy and that guy went from some strange fake gris-gris Night Tripper to the ultimate pimp. I see him every year at Jazz Fest.

    and.. of course TB loves the fact that I have Dr. John’s 10th grade yearbook photo.

    “Do you know the Doctor? Doctor John??”

  6. Meg and Jack were brother and sister, AND husband and wife.

    Forget it, Mick. It’s Chinatown.

  7. What about Beck? He’s a Scientologist, which somehow seems at odds with his super-hipster image. He comes from a family that is an interesting mix of artists and religious types. He goes back and forth between making big beat music and acoustic introspective songs. And mostly, he seems to be very private. Who is this guy?

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    I think Paul McCartney owes us a few explanations for what he’s done/become over the last 40 years.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    Some good ones, but I don’t want to confuse the rock media’s willingness to go along with a stage persona with the rock media’s disregard for asking the hard-hitting questions that need to be asked, like How the fuck does Tom Verlaine manage to support himself all these years on the strength of one tremendous album side?

    McCartney’s pretty much explained himself over the last dozen or so year, HVB, by his admission that he could have had Yoko first. Had he nabbed Yoko…well, this sounds like a job for Townsman Alexmagic to draft!

  10. How the fuck does Tom Verlaine manage to support himself all these years on the strength of one tremendous album side?

    he probably bought the shithole he lived in with his Marquee Moon money. it is probably now worth $10 million.

  11. underthefloat

    Mod said: Anyhow, I’ve rarely found interviews with Wood, and my attempts at reaching him myself have not been fruitful.

    I have a book on Power Pop by Ken Sharp. It has a fairly long interview with Ron Wood. I read it again about 3-4 months ago. What I was most surprised about in reading it was how completely and utterly normal/reasonable Wood seems in the interview. Weird.

    I wonder if Beck’s ever met the David Miscavige, the head cheese of Scientology. For that matter I wonder if he’s ever properly saluted David’s pet beagle? Or been pummeled for not doing so…
    All this on Nightline last night (other then Beck).

    How about Alex Chilton? How can a guy allegedly have so much talent and put out so much uneven stuff. By the way, his interview in the book I mentioned is pricelessly strange…

    What about Eric Burdon. I can’t formulate it beyond…What is the deal with you Eric?

  12. Mr. Moderator

    There is an explanation for Eric Burdon, I believe: he was touched by Jimi Hendrix. I think Jimi’s spirit has been working through him since then, causing some spiritual discomfort for the host body.

    I’ll have to check out that Ken Sharp book. He’s a Philly area guy, but I don’t think I ever met him when he lived here – or there, as I’m presently writing from the West Coast.

    Chilton’s definitely a strange cat with little back story.

  13. Chilton is downright scary.

    My bandmate and I worship at the altar of Big Star, like so many Memphis power pop bands. We went to Oxford, MS a few years back to catch the reunited Big Star. It was a GREAT moment in the history of us. (There’s a DVD bootleg of this show floating around and you can see us down front, grinning and nodding with each song.)

    After the show, we spoke with Mr. Chilton for a few moments. I asked him about a recording he did of “I Wanna Pick You Up” for a Beach Boys tribute comp. He was nice enough, but his was answer was odd to say the least. Maybe it was just our hero worship nerves getting the best of us, but we were also aware of the man’s spotty history. Perhaps we just didn’t want to piss him off. I respect the fact that he doesn’t want to talk at length about his past. Let the work speak for itself and all that jazz. Mystery can be a good thing, sometimes. But, wow. It’s always been really queer to me how Big Star was a little stop on Chilton’s musical journey. It’s just one of the things that he does. (He also still plays pretty regularly with The Box Tops. They played locally here a couple of years ago. I wish I’d gone, but I didn’t.)

    Jody Stephens, on the other hand, was completely accessible and seemed very keen to chat with us. We talked a little bit about Ardent, which is dear to his heart.


  14. underthefloat

    I saw Big Star (I’m also a big fan) maybe 10 years ago?? The first time they did the reunion thing. I have a vague memory of Alex throwing out some rather cynical comments and Jody having a much warmer response to Alex’s comments on stage. Seemed like very different personalities.

    Some of Chilton’s comments in the book are not to wacky. Sometimes his honest and rather critical view of his own talent is rather “funny”.
    Interesting to me in that he does give Bell a lot of credit for what worked in Big Star and thinks the first album is far better then the second. He seems to think Bell kept him in check in a way.

    Here is one interesting Chilton response (again, I certainly love these songs)..

    Q:Do you like the songs “You get what you deserve” and “What’s going Ahn?”

    Chilton: Those songs are all so damn earnest. It’s like they’re not really rock and roll songs. I don’t know what they are. They’re some kind of psycho drama tunes about something that doesn’t have any place in music.

  15. Sounds like classic Chilton: vague and indirect. Very much like the response he gave me. In our defense, we did stray away from the typical idol worship conversation (probably wisely) like, “Remember when you were in Big Star…?”

    It also seems likely that he would (and should) give credit to Chris Bell. Listening to the box set, there’s a sharpness to that first Big Star record that lacks in the later work. (Didn’t we have this discussion, already?) I’ve said it before, but Chris Bell is my own Robert Johnson. So little is known that everything is a revelation of sorts. Another note is listening to the song “Country Morn” that later became “Watch The Sunrise.” “Country Morn” is a Chris Bell weeper that Chilton turned into a thing of beauty. It’s an easy assumption, but a valid one: Chris Bell was responsible for the Big Star polish and Chilton was responsible for the slop.


  16. On Roy Wood, a participant on another web site states:

    “he was a normal Brummie who liked to have Indian takeaways most nights in the studio ! I think he was very shy so the makeup was to compensate for that… “

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