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.