Sep 06

THE MOVE – “Blackberry Way”

FT + Popular64 comments • 5,669 views

#265, 8th February 1969


COVER MOVE blackberry wayThe first time I heard this – one of the songs from this era that was entirely new to me – I thought it sounded like a terrible mess. Everything about it was heavy-handed, lead-footed, fuzzy, all its elements slopping into one another and crushing a pretty pop song in the process.

Then of course I realised that’s the desired effect. “Blackberry Way” gets the emotional mood of a break-up right – the mooching, washed-out misery punctuated with blurts of stupid optimism. But it also captures in its production the physical mood too – the way that in its rejection your body no longer seems to fit right with the world, making you feel clumsy and out of place.

(And by most accounts it fits 1969 too – the psychedelia it nods back to has been compromised and complicated, its colours running. A bleak record, this.)



1 2 All
  1. 1
    Doctor Casino on 10 Sep 2006 #

    I hear all that, but I have a hard time getting past the almost total aimlessness of pretty much everything besides the chorus. It may catch the mood somehow, but it’s amazing to me that this was a hit given that the hook is ALL that seems capable of sticking in anybody’s head. I suppose I could look this up myself, but how long did this stay atop the charts? Was it just a momentary blip or was England in the grip of the Winter of The Move or something?

  2. 2
    intothefireuk on 10 Sep 2006 #

    Firstly I can’t believe you could not have heard this song before – it’s been played regularly on radio since it was a hit.

    The Move had already had some near misses Night of Fear, Flowers in The Rain & Fire Brigade all of which got to 2 or 3 before this. It only topped the chart for 1 week though. Roy Wood demonstrates his love of kitchen sink production aka The Wall of Sound which he would fully explore next on ELO then Wizzard. Its drenched in Mellotron giving it that gritty string sound (used on a number of psychedelic hits before becoming a key component in prog – although this could be the first time its been used on a No1 single). Being a fan of KS productions and picking up on the desperate lyric I think its the first worthy No1 in a long time and another record that fits into the impending doom nature of 1969 singles.

  3. 3
    Tom on 10 Sep 2006 #

    I think the verses are stronger than the chorus, Dr Casino – certainly the opening is what sticks in my head as a hook.

    IntothefireUK – the weird thing is that I know a bunch of other Move songs fairly well, “Flowers In The Rain” certainly. Until the last year or so though (i.e. after I started this project and heard all these songs) I hardly ever listened to radio other than Radio 1, which stopped playing the Move a while back, and Capital and Kiss sometimes.

  4. 4
    rosie on 10 Sep 2006 #

    The Move evolved into Wizzard and we’ll be hearing more from them in a couple of years.

    Thinking of Wizzard reminds me, the Christmas Shopping season is almost upon us. Pass the earplugs and the paracetamol please…

  5. 5
    Chris Brown on 10 Sep 2006 #

    I think the intro is the strongest part too – the way it seems to fall into the song. I’d actually count this as a classic case of what you might call a “solid” Number One – nothing immensely earth-shattering or unprecedented but so well constructed it’s hard not to be impressed. There have been a few of them in this era, but I count this one as something of a favourite because I’m sort of drawn to the melancholy.

    As for the rest of their career, I agree that ‘Flowers In The Rain’ is the most famous Move song, probably because of the Radio 1 connection. Beyond that and ‘Fire Brigade’ I too would be struggling to hum a tune, although I can remember some of the other titles.

  6. 6
    intothefireuk on 10 Sep 2006 #

    The Move were infamous for their riotous stage act which would regularly include the smashing of TVs. That is until they employed Jeff Lynne and his perm. He had more than a song or two to contribute and his own aggenda where production was concerned which is what eventually led him to part company with Wood in the fledgling ELO. Unfortunately for Lynne he wont feature here until he teams up with ONJ by which time he was past his best.

  7. 7
    bramble on 10 Sep 2006 #

    The Move had always been pulled in contradictory positions. Their first two hits of Night of Fear and I can Hear the Grass Grow had hinted at acid-based visons and links to the new underground scene and their stage act and lampooning of Harold Wilson at the time of Flowers in the Rain suggested they wanted to be seen on the wilder side of rock music. However, Carl Wayne and Roy Wood -with his song writing skills rooted in pop history and his efforts for the Eurovision Song Contest -wanted pop respectability. They even played the cabaret circuit for a while. Blackberry Way was the moment the 2 sides became incompatible and Trevor Burton decided to call it a day.

  8. 8
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Sep 2006 #

    “Blackberry Way” makes more sense if you consider it the first ELO number one…

  9. 9
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Sep 2006 #

    …though Wood did in part intend it to be a “Strawberry Fields” pisstake.

  10. 10
    Daniel_Rf on 11 Sep 2006 #

    Johnny Black in I think “Mojo” called this “as lame as Blur”. It does sound like Blur I think, tho that needn’t mean lame.

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Sep 2006 #

    Don’t really see the Blur comparison – unlike, say, Keith West’s “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” from a couple of years previously which, to quote my better half, really is a case of hello Damon…

  12. 12
    wwolfe on 11 Sep 2006 #

    I wonder why the Move never made it in America. I never heard anything by the pre-Jeff Lynne version on the radio; I think I heard the original “Do Ya” once or twice. That’s puzzling to me.

    My favorite description of the band’s sound comes from Robert Christgau: “No other band better evokes a giant mechanical lizard.” (He meant that affectionately.)

  13. 13
    Doctor Mod on 12 Sep 2006 #

    I second wwolfe: The Move were virtually unknown here in the States, and, as far as I can recall, I heard about them long before I actually heard them, probably from the UK music press (yes–I subscribed to the NME, Melody Maker, and Disc and Music Echo–and learned all the latest six weeks after it happened). I think they got some small bit of notoriety in the US about the nude Harold Wilson promo, but that would hardly sell “Flowers in the Rain” here, where Americans are blissfully oblivious to UK politics (and, for the most part, to their own).

    I nonetheless made a point of buying the US single release of “Flowers in the Rain,” but most of what I knew of the Move came from imported LPs (see my comments on this phenomenon in the “Albatross” discussion) that I bought after they were no longer an entity. I’m trying to remember, but was “California Man” a Move single? I did hear that on the radio a few times, also “Brontosaurus” and the original “Do Ya.” I think the previous commentors would agree with me that their output is an unusual admixture of pop and psychedelia that, remarkably, often turns out better than it should, given the combination. I do think, though, that the other Move recordings that I’ve mentioned come off better than “Blackberry Way”–which is not to say its a bad song, really, but just not very catchy or memorable.

    In the 70s I was a big ELO fan–I still listen to them on my car CD player for old times’ sake. Because I came to appreciate the Move retroactively via ELO, I’m sometimes unsure where one ended and the other began. For me (and, I suspect, for many others), ELO seemed to pick up some of the pieces of Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour Beatles and attempt to carry on what the Beatles had started there. In some ways they carried out the logical projectory of the experiments that the Beatles didn’t stay around to finish this. I recall George Harrison saying something to this effect (specifically mentioning “Telephone Line” as evidence) during a late 70s radio interview.

    I also appreciated Wizzard’s “See My Baby Jive,” but I’ll hold off until the time comes. Bloody shame that ELO never got a #1, though.

  14. 14
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Sep 2006 #

    Er, they did, but it wasn’t, shall we say, one of their better singles…

  15. 15
    Oh No It's Dadaismus on 13 Sep 2006 #

    This isn’t as good as “Curly” or, my own favourite “Fire Brigade” (what an odd song), it’s a bit ponderous and doomy but I must compliment Roy Wood for having the good sense to pinch the melody from Nilsson’s “Good Old Desk” (released the year before)

  16. 16
    Caledonianne on 15 Jul 2007 #

    Blackberry Way is redolent of what life was like in the UK in dreary late sixties’ winters, at least in the provinces. I’m sure that opening chord progession is distinctly Monty Norman/John Barry, and that Mr Wood threw this nod to Bond into the mix quite deliberately.

  17. 17
    terry on 17 Aug 2007 #

    can someone tell me what or where is BLACKBERRY WAY please?

  18. 18
    wichita lineman on 20 May 2008 #

    “Absolutely pouring down with rain”… Tom’s spot on, it’s the grey and murky dislocation of a break-up in song, the bleakness of the verse (mellotron to the fore, always so sad) set against the jackboot forced jollity of the chorus.

    As for “goodbye blackberry way” – wouldn’t that be a tribute to (rather than piss take of) Strawberry Fields and its rapidly fading pop-psych offspring genre in late ’68?

    Check also the Beatley flip of Curly – This Time Tomorrow – which is And I Love Her gently warped into bossa-psych, and deffo not a piss take in any way.

  19. 19
    and everybody elses Mark G on 20 May 2008 #

    Actually, “This time tomorrow” sort of reminded me at first of the Boo Radleys, maybe one of their acoustic b-sides. Then I realised it’s the same tune as “Lazarus” and no wonder.

  20. 20
    Matthew on 16 Jan 2009 #

    Now this is more like it! For some reason I have never encountered The Move before that I can recall, in any shape or form, but this is the sound of the sixties that I can really get behind. Seems like a much more Kinks-y vibe, and I’m so glad that strand of British pop is still bubbling under in the charts, holding its own against Beatles and Stones alike.

  21. 21
    Waldo on 3 Aug 2009 #

    I swear to God we were actually obliged to sing this during music lessons at school a handful of years later. The lyrics (which I knew anyway) were put onto a screen via a slide projector and off we all went. It was fucking ridiculous. I remember asking Mr Young, our piano playing teacher and Fred Housego lookalike, what we were doing this song for, as the black lads (and all the girls) murmured general agreement. It was genuinely puzzling to me. Mr Young told me that if I didn’t shut up, “I’ll make you do a solo”. It was by far the most ludicrous punishment any teacher ever threatened me with and I avoided it by shutting up. Moments later it was:
    MUSIC CLASS: “Blackberry Wayyy! Absolutely pouring down with raaain! It’s a terrible dayyy….”

    Happy (if confusing) Days.

  22. 22
    Paulito on 8 Feb 2011 #

    Now all but forgotten, the Move’s second single, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow”, is a an early flowering of Roy Wood’s odd genius: a joyously bonkers cod-psychelic classic. Driven by a thunderous Who-esque backing (the early line-up had a superb rhythm section courtesy of Ace Kefford and Bev Bevan), it packs an astonishing amount of hooks and ideas into its three minutes. I once read it described as their “beer-boys-on-acid epic”, which sums it up very nicely indeed.

  23. 23
    Mark G on 8 Feb 2011 #

    Forgotten? Not round here it’s not!

    BWay’s overriding memory is of a quite loud track that always seemed distorted on record. One of those that wore its bass frequencies out after a couple of plays

  24. 24
    Cumbrian on 8 Feb 2011 #

    There’s some really great Move records – pop but still quite heavy. I think my favourite is probably Fire Brigade, with a pretty decent Duane Eddy-esque guitar line and the backing vocals mimicing a siren.

  25. 25
    DietMondrian on 8 Feb 2011 #

    Mark E Smith hadn’t forgotten I Can Hear the Grass Grow, either.

  26. 26
    punctum on 8 Feb 2011 #

    Not remotely forgotten; a huge hit here and a constant on oldies radio.

  27. 27
    wichita lineman on 8 Feb 2011 #

    I like Jon Savage’s comment on I Can Hear The Grass Grow, re “if you can’t smell what you’ve found I know that you’re not my kind” being psych-mod snobbery and oneupmanship. Bugger peace and love!

  28. 28
    punctum on 8 Feb 2011 #

    The record certainly boasts some of the fleetest and most agile drumming ever laid down by Top Tory Drummer Bev “Bev” Bevan.

  29. 29
    Mark G on 8 Feb 2011 #

    Oh, that’s exactly what the song is about, sure.

    xpost what, Bev “will work for socialists” Bevan, of The Paul Weller Band fame?

  30. 30
    punctum on 8 Feb 2011 #

    I was as surprised as anyone when Bev turned up on Wake Up The Nation but presumably the Joy of Music matters more than political differences to Weller these days. Wasn’t always the case; I recall that Lulu wanted to work with the Style Council back in ’83 but PW said no, much to her chagrin, because of her Toryness. “So ye’d put politics above music, wid ye?” she quipped. “Yes,” retorted Weller.

1 2 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page