Jul 07

WIZZARD – “See My Baby Jive”

FT + Popular59 comments • 7,663 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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  1. 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……

  2. 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.

  3. 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.”

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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…)

  9. 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…

  10. 40
    Waldo on 5 Aug 2007 #

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


  11. 41
    Rosie on 5 Aug 2007 #

    Waldo, you scumbag, you maggot ;)

  12. 42
    Waldo on 6 Aug 2007 #

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

  13. 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…

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 46
    Brian on 7 Aug 2007 #

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

  17. 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.

  18. 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).

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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..

  24. 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.

  25. 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)?

  26. 56
    Phil on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Springsteen’s Road of Sound isn’t an ocean away from “Jive”‘s mighty blurt.

    Hmm. And over here, for Wizzard’s next #1, there was this:

    let’s look at that line, “I drove my motorcycle to that small café” – and think about one of Wood’s acknowledged inheritors, Bruce Springsteen. “Angel Fingers” lends “Born To Run” its size and clarity and a heap of specific ideas, but that line encapsulates why there hasn’t been, and can never be, a British Springsteen: our motorcycle dreams end in small cafes, service stations, scuffles on beaches, cold Midlands nights. Our roads are rarely open.

    Well now. The first time I heard “Born to Run” – which was around the time of that awful “my baby daughter is asleep and I have just seen the future of rock’n’roll” review – I wasn’t impressed for a second; it took me many repetitions over several years to get into it. Or rather, to get back into it – the first time I heard it, a year or so before punk, heavily recommended by the friend who’d previously introduced me to the Move, Wizzard, Gong and Hillage in that order, my instant reaction was that it was that thing again, that thing that had been done a million times before. That clanging, instantly memorable riff, that sax with just the right balance of body & raw edge, that great locomotive drive, that bugger me it’s a glockenspiel… OK, it’s well done, but it’s just that thing, again. Heard it all before. Don’t ask me to rave about it at this late date, and for God’s sake don’t ask me to believe in it.

    I expressed some of this to my friend, but then found myself oddly unable to say where I’d heard it all done before. Well, it’s sort of like Spector, isn’t it… a bit kind of Righteous Brothers… And trailed off muttering something about how it was just that thing, probably. This, though – this and Wizzard’s other two great everything-including-the-kitchen-sink #1s, perhaps “Angel Fingers” most of all – this is a clue. You can throw it all in, and then throw in some more. You can let a wall of sound – a great breaking wave of sound – crash down on you, and come up smiling. And, most importantly, you can do all this in a spirit that isn’t earnest, isn’t yearning, isn’t driven by that awful endless loop of rock’n’roll tension’n’release (if only we could make it well maybe we can! but they say we never will but maybe they’re wrong!, and repeat). Instead, at the heart of Wizzard’s records there’s something joyous and playful – very seriously playful, but playful all the same – and, most importantly, something wistful. What’s he saying, in the middle of this great lava flow of big band pop music? He’s saying

    But you, you make things that get along turn out so wrong

    You better rock on – the band might play our song

    You gotta rock on – your daddy ain’t coming home

    Odd, dreamy, dissatisfied notes in the heart of a fairly dionysian celebration of a bop. The evidence is stronger in “Angel Fingers”, of course. This is still the writer of “Dear Elaine”, not to mention “Flowers in the rain”, “Fire Brigade”, “Curly” et al – all those pop hits with elegiac minor-key sections. This is someone who knows the power of music but also knows it isn’t going to let him break on through to a whole new world of smooth celebration – never thought it would, really – and is content to build some of the awkward corners, frustrations, losses into the music itself.

    So, yes, I’ll stand by that: when I heard “Born to Run” I’d already heard it done better – by Roy Wood. Although – as you will have noticed – the friend who’d actually turned me on to RW was equally impressed by Springsteen, so this may just be me. Never mind: for me this record was, is and ever shall be a 10.

  27. 57
    lonepilgrim on 19 Jul 2019 #

    Played at a disco or a party this would sound utterly compelling – a relentless exhortation to have fun. If I pay too much attention to it then I find it a bit overpowering.
    I don’t think anyone has mentioned it above but I always thought of Wizzard as an inspiration for early ABBA – I can easily imagine Wizzard covering Waterloo, presumably in full Napoleonic regalia.

  28. 58
    Paulito on 22 Jul 2019 #

    @57 If memory serves, Roy Wood guested on a cover version of “Waterloo” by Doctor and the Medics.

  29. 59
    Gareth Parker on 5 May 2021 #

    I think Tom is spot on with his score here. Appealing enough, but doesn’t quite grab me. 6/10.

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