31
Jul 07

WIZZARD – “See My Baby Jive”

FT + Popular55 comments • 5,293 views

#330, 19th May 1973

At work today I was doing a bit of research on sweets, and found a site which boasted a “Bush Tucker Prize” jar – an enormous plastic thing designed to cash in on the I’m A Celebrity reality show. The jar was filled with jelly and candy insects, worms, and animals of all kinds. The nominal weight, explained the site, was two kilograms – but they cram it as full as they possibly can so it actually weighs much more. The photo proved their claim – no possibility of telling individual shapes or sweets apart, everything rammed and mashed in until it squashed against the sides and distorted.

Obviously I wouldn’t be mentioning this if it hadn’t sprung to mind when I was hunting for a way to describe what I feel listening to Wizzard. “See My Baby Jive” sounds like Roy Wood has filled an already way-too-big jar with sweeties and then just kept crushing more and more in: it’s sugary, more-ish, overstuffed and faintly nauseating. You don’t get the feeling Wood rejected many ideas.

Of course Wood wasn’t alone in wanting to take the Spector Wall of Sound and add more bricks – ABBA admit a debt to his extension work and Springsteen’s Road of Sound isn’t an ocean away from “Jive”‘s mighty blurt. But those examples are polished, their ideas more focused and effective, their impact less confusing and visceral. Like his previous #1, “Blackberry Way”, “See My Baby Jive” sounds messy, like it’s slopping over: Wood croons, hollers, yaps, pleas, encourages his band to upstage him if they can.

Roy Wood’s look matched his sound: stagey and complex but still somehow savage – he’s the only one of the big glam names whose visual shock value hasn’t resolved itself into something easier to cope with. Comical, futuristic, pitiful, sexy – Wood isn’t quite any of those. If anything, he’s still a bit scary - maybe that’s why I react to his music with a wary ambivalence, afraid to get too involved.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Waldo on 2 Aug 2007 #

    Let me tell you, you have already punished me beyond what is acceptable under UN Charter by mentioning Millican and Nesbit.

    Yes, the character of Jason King was once voted by women in Australia as “the man they would most like to lose their virginity to”. Subsequent to Mr Wyngarde’s legendary supper of cottage pie, this now seems more sad than humourous.

  2. 27
    Rosie on 2 Aug 2007 #

    Oh, and this was the first number one to earn me any money. I received a modest cheque from the Guardian Diary in 1991 for drawing attention to a suspicious exchange in the letters column in the then-infant Independent. The signatories of the letters being a Mr C Mibabijive and Mr A N Jelfinguz…

  3. 28
    Brian on 2 Aug 2007 #

    I’d like to point out Todd Rundgren played all instruments on ” I Saw The Light ” . It was on a double LP release in North America and I think that he played everything on 3 sides of the project.

    Also McCartney was doing the same thing around this time on the LP with ” My Love” .

    Which, I guess leads to the ineviatable question , T.S. , ” was there a # 1 in which one person played all instruments ?

    singed,
    Ben Doon & Phil McAvity

  4. 29
    Rosie on 2 Aug 2007 #

    was there a # 1 in which one person played all instruments

    Quite a few, I should think. Off the top of my head: two by Winifred Atwell, two by Russ Conway, Floyd Cramer, Don McLean? And that’s without future spoilers.

  5. 30
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Aug 2007 #

    Well these all had rhythm and/or string sections on them and I doubt whether they played those…

    In terms of the first hit single to be entirely performed by one musician I instantly think of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” but I’m sure there must have been others before that.

  6. 31
    Brian on 3 Aug 2007 #

    Yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of hearing a ” full band ” but all parts played by one person……

  7. 32
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Aug 2007 #

    There were rumours at the time that RW actually did play everything on “SMBJ” but that only applied to his solo work; the Wizzard sides were definitely recorded by the full band.

  8. 33
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Aug 2007 #

    But if we’re talking about the first “one man band” to make the charts then it must have been Tottenham Court Road’s finest Don Partridge, who not only sang and played everything on his hits but did so live – his most famous song, coincidentally, was entitled “Rosie.”

  9. 34
    Rosie on 3 Aug 2007 #

    I remember Rosie very well. It was popular in France at the time I went on French exchange, and became my theme song.

  10. 35
    Chris Brown on 3 Aug 2007 #

    From this very site, I learned that Dave Edmunds played all of ‘I Hear You Knocking’. If that’s actually true. I can think of another obvious one in just over a decade’s time.

    As for this track, well it’s one of only two Wizzard songs I know (no prizes for guessing the other one). And I sort of agree with Tom, and suspect you had to be there to get the full benefit.

  11. 36
    Waldo on 4 Aug 2007 #

    Don Partridge still plies his trade around Sussex. I have seen him in my home town on several occasions. Whilst “Rosie” was indeed his most famous hit, it actually wasn’t his biggest. His follow up “Blue Eyes”, equally as pleasant, charted higher.

  12. 37
    Caledonianne on 4 Aug 2007 #

    I always found something gloriously life-affirming about Roy Wood and Wizzard and, as a teenager at the time, sort of thought that he was hiding behind that shredded tapestry of hair and facepaint because exposing his bona fide genius would have been just too uncomfortable as a clean cut retro-innovator. So he turned himself into a live-action cartoon character instead. And SMBJ say him at the top of his game.

    Even though it annoyed the feck out of my name-checked schoolfriend, I’m also with Waldo on Dear Elaine (“The house of spirit crumbles, for your love wears many gowns” – tingle factor for teenage girls, or what?), and still play Boulders, its parent album, with affection today. Elaine, “Miss Clark and the computer”, and the finger-lickin’ folly of “When Grandma plays the banjo” – ye cannae whack it, Jeff.

    Looking ahead I’d second intothefireuk in his avowal that “his is easily, for me, the best Xmas single ever made.”.

    For me, Roy Wood was a big part of what made the seventies such fun.

  13. 38
    Rosie on 4 Aug 2007 #

    Apropos the Best Xmas Single – no, no, no, the best of all is another non-qualifier from The Pogues, surely? (Also the better for not being inflicted on an unwilling populace from October to December quite as often as Mr Wizzard-Wood’s offering…)

  14. 39
    Marcello Carlin on 5 Aug 2007 #

    Be interesting to gauge the reactions when we eventually get to the record which kept Shane & Kirsty at number two…

  15. 40
    Waldo on 5 Aug 2007 #

    Hey, Hey, Hey! Crimbo singles. The Pogues? Hell no. Pretentious shite. Dreadful. My vote? “Wombling Merry Christmas” indubitably.

    Hic!

  16. 41
    Rosie on 5 Aug 2007 #

    Waldo, you scumbag, you maggot ;)

  17. 42
    Waldo on 6 Aug 2007 #

    Oh, Rosie. You’ve just made Orinico cry. And all he wanted to do was recycle.

  18. 43
    Marcello Carlin on 6 Aug 2007 #

    Be interesting to gauge the reactions when we eventually get to the record which kept the Wombles at number two…

  19. 44
    jeff w on 6 Aug 2007 #

    Much as I love to talk Christmas music, even I find it strange doing so in August! But for the record, IWICBCED is my second favourite wobs song ever. My all-time favourite didn’t make No.1 or No.2, or even the Top 40 (although history has been kind to it). I’ll say more when Tom gets to the next festive entry.

  20. 45
    Doctor Casino on 6 Aug 2007 #

    Also McCartney was doing the same thing around this time on the LP with ” My Love” .

    I think you’re thinking of McCartney, which is the LP with “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Which was a hit, but in a live version recorded with the full band. “My Love” is on Red Rose Speedway, which is also really good, but is definitely a Wings effort.

  21. 46
    Brian on 7 Aug 2007 #

    Thanks Doc Casino. I’d forgotten about that little twist.

  22. 47
    Mark G on 9 Aug 2007 #

    I always get to these things way too late, and Marcello’s usually said what I was about to.

    Eddie Cochran, “C’mon everybody” wasn’t that all him? Or am I thinking of “Summertime Blues”, certainly one of them. I remember George Michael claiming the first ‘all composed, all performed’ nmber one medal w/ DiffCorner.

  23. 48
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Aug 2007 #

    No, Eddie’s producer banged a suitcase or a packing case or something like that – I remember reading about it in The Story Of Pop (still got the binders as well).

  24. 49
    Martin Skidmore on 11 Aug 2007 #

    I almost agree with Mark G just above me, except I know I couldn’t have said it remotely as well as Marcello. I love this record.

    Also, re Roy’s solo album Boulders, not only did he play all the instruments (30-something of them, as I recall), he wrote and produced everything and, this being the clincher making it the soloest album ever, he painted the cover.

  25. 50
    richard thompson on 27 May 2008 #

    Roy was on TOTP with Kenny Everett introducing it when this was no.1, more than once I believe, shows which no longer exist I bet, I was ten at the time, Roy didn’t take himself too seriously and still plays the local Midland clubs and not stadiums like U2.

  26. 51
    Billy Smart on 28 May 2008 #

    Indeed, that show no longer exists. The Kenny Everett/ Wizzard edition was transmitted on May 11th 1973. Also in the studio that week were Medicine Head, Nazareth and Suzi Quatro.

  27. 52
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Sadly this will probably be the edition where Wizzard climaxed their performance with a full custard pie fight.

  28. 53
    SteveIson on 20 Jul 2008 #

    Those opening chords and tune in the verse…You just don’t get any songs now that have that generosity of spirit anymore..Its a beautifully written pop song-crammed with beautiful resonant-and sounds great on a simple guitar even without all the production..

  29. 54
    Dispela Pusi on 6 Feb 2011 #

    Radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn was clearly not enamoured with this record. I’ve never forgotten his remark the day it hit No 1 and he had to announce the weekly Top 30 rundown. Something like “I’d been hoping that one would have shot right over the top of the charts and disappeared”.

    And while I’m here, I’ll add my name as a Don Partridge fan to those of Marcello Carlin, Waldo and Rosie (#33, 34 & 36). Greatly saddened to hear of Don’s death last September. The world’s a lot poorer without such characters.

  30. 55
    Cumbrian on 8 Apr 2014 #

    Whilst seeing the discussion on Teletubbies – a record about which I can’t find anything to say that would add productively to the discussion, I wondered how controversial it is (currently in the top 30 if we discount the St Etienne track) and saw that See My Baby Jive is currently the most controversial of the #1s. Reading the thread though, everyone seems to love it – there’s, I think, only one naysayer in the whole thread. So, I ask, where’s the controversy?

    Or is the controversy generated by how controversial is defined (is it standard devs around Tom’s mark or is it standard devs around the mean mark given by readers)?

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