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Sep 07

WIZZARD – “Angel Fingers”

FT + Popular65 comments • 6,154 views

#337, 22nd September 1973

Again Wizzard offer maximalism pushed to the point of grotesquerie, a sprawling rock’n’roll pastiche that keeps flinging hooks at us, simply not knowing when to stop. This time though the effect is more touching, as “Angel Fingers” is a love song, and a music nerd’s love song at that – Roy finds himself surrounded by his favourite records on a jukebox, pleading with his baby not to leave him. Maybe the song is just all of them playing at once.

Actually, 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.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 13 Sep 2007 #

    I’m not arguing with you, but unpack Motorcycle Emptiness with this thesis.

  2. 2
    CarsmileSteve on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Driving Away From Home? It’s immaterial.

    i don’t think i know this wizzard song…

  3. 3
    Tom on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Of course I thought about Motorcycle Emptiness (and actually almost included some reference to the severn bridge) but it fits with the thesis exactly – the possibility of escape in ME is zero! (I now really want to hear it tho).

  4. 4
    Tom on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Tho I suppose the possibility is in the music not the lyrics, or rather the possibility in the music is denied by the lyrics which is why it’s a sad song)

    “Tramps like us, baby we were born to walk.” is perhaps the other key text here.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 13 Sep 2007 #

    This is one of those number ones that I heard about – through leafing through the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles – decades before I actually got to hear it. My initial reaction was one of disappointment – this one’s not as good as ‘See My Baby Jive’, is it? – and thinking that it sounded a bit reedy, and then forgetting about it.

    Over ten years later, I got the Roy Wood Greatest Hits, and then it all made sense to me through hearing it as a component of a body of work, like an individual scene in a play that also works when performed on its own. Having been touched and convinced by the declarations of love in other songs (‘Rock & Roll Winter’ and ‘Dear Elaine’), I could then believe in the singer’s love for Angel Fingers in this song, which let me believe in – and be excited to listen to – the world that Roy Wood creates in this fab record (which, as Tom rightly says, is as much about encroachment as it is about freedom).

    Sometimes songs can only resonate with me through the context of having heard other songs first. Suddenly being affected by a record that you’ve always felt indifferent about is a lovely feeling when it happens.

  6. 6
    Waldo on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Riding in on the coattails of SMBJ, “Angel Fingers” only just failed to annoy me, as Roy Wood went without apology to the same well again. Not much to say about this one. Pretty unremarkable really.

  7. 7
    Rosie on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Sort of neither fish nor fowl. I might enjoy it more if I didn’t have to make the inevitable comparison with a) See My Baby Jive, and b) something else coming up in the not-too-distant future which is cleaner, slicker, and a lot more fun. I hadn’t thought of comparing it to Born To Run, but when I do, Brucie wins by a distance.

    I’ve been waiting to do my Janice Nicholls thing. Oi’ll give eet foive.

  8. 8
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Hey hey Wednesbury!

    Pretty much the “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” to SMBJ’s “Cum On Feel The Noize,” i.e. more of the same albeit with sneakier and freer sax playing, but I can’t be objective about Roy Wood; the man’s a hero of mine. I think 7 is a fair mark though.

    Pity that the unimpeachable follow-up stopped at number four, but then, as Dale would say, there was a lot of strong competition at that particular time…

  9. 9
    Erithian on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Hmm, British “road” songs will I suppose always suffer from the comparative size of the country and our own over-familiarity with the place names. Going back to Springsteen, you’d cringe at the idea of a British song mentioning Darlington, but “Darlington County” from Born in the USA works pretty well. And the Cumberland Gap, fifteen miles from Middlesbrough, works better when it’s in Kentucky and not Tees-side.

    There have too been a number of British versions of US road songs which self-consciously pastiche the originals with less glamorous British names – “Convoy GB” namechecking Toddington and Watford Gap, Mike Read’s version of “Promised Land” detailing a trip down the A30 and referring to Indian Queens and Holloway College (my alma mater, pity it didn’t get to feature on a hit record!) and of course Billy Bragg’s “A13” version of Route 66. On the other hand, remember those tracks from a decade or so ago, “It’s Grim Up North” and “It’s Weird Out West” (part of the KLF stable I think?) which simply intone British place-names and are pretty effective in themselves?

    But that’s just one line from “Angel Fingers” – the other picture I get is that the scenario of the song, boy-meets-girl in the diner is part of the common theme that runs from “American Graffiti” to “Happy Days” to the video for the current number one (Sean Kingston). As such the record fits snugly into the rock’n’roll nostalgia vogue, less mind-blowing than their previous number one but still a cracking production.

  10. 10

    there is really something so ODD (and unlikeable) abt english self-loathing when it comes to the latent history and romance of our own villages and towns and suburbs and whatever — i wonder is it related to our imperialist phase, when “ourselves when great” meant the GREAT BATTLES OF EMPIRE (cf pre-PC roadnames in many english towns: Navarino, Omdurman) rather than what we were pottering about with at home, local stuff for local people (hazlitt came from WEM! i love this kind of fact…)

    when i was in normandy last week i learnt more about the battle of hastings — and post-hastings english history — than i ever did at home: even tho i too grew up in a town which has a village next to it called BATTLE (bcz long ago there was one) (shakespeare wrote about it!)

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Sep 2007 #

    “It’s Grim Up North” is the greatest thing ever. Whereas *SPOILER ALERT* that bloody Sean Kingston record makes me feel SWUIIIEEECWIIDULLL whenever I hear it.

    Also I should point out that the full title of this single as written on the la-BEL is Angel Fingers Open Brackets A Teen Ballad Close Brackets five points Graham Archive.

  12. 12
    Brian on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Of course there is an entire sub-culture in North America deveoted to the road and it’s primarily populated by truckers. This genre of song has found it’s home in tha canon of Country Music Culture.

    For those of you that like it , a Canadian Band ” The Road Hammers ” were formed to pay tribute to road/truckers songs. http://www.theroadhammers.com

    There are some great rockin’ treatments and good originals on the CD.

    ” Keep on truckin'” , as they say.

  13. 13
    Erithian on 14 Sep 2007 #

    P*nk Lord – the Bayeux Tapestry museum and the Museum of the Battle of Normandy are both utterly ace.

  14. 14

    yes i went to bayeux — but then made a bad decision about a “leisurely drive along the coast road” when i left, which took about five hours longer than i expected w/o actually seein the sea more than a couple of times, so had to ditch other museums in those parts plus also ditch enjoyin much of the rest of the day

    there is lots more on william the conqueror in the much-mentioned (by me) funnyname town of EU in haute normandie, cz it’s where WtC got married — and where i spent last sunday night bored out of my mind as everything was shut and no one was about

    the whole area is rather war-based, as you realise when you drive thru etaples and cross the somme — i imagine if i had read up on it first (or thought abt it for like 10 seconds) i wd have been less ambushed by this, but there you go

  15. 15
    Billy Smart on 14 Sep 2007 #

    In a rockist styling, you really can’t beat ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ as a musical evocation of the British road experience.

    Erithian, when did you graduate from Holloway? Our paths might have crossed.

  16. 16
    Rosie on 15 Sep 2007 #

    I get my kicks
    On the A686

  17. 17
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Billy – blimey, old Hollowegians get everywhere! OK, I graduated in 1984 (showing my age again) – the best thing about finishing in that year being that you could sing chorus after loud chorus of “Relax” as your gang headed down to the Barley Mow at the end of finals.

    Of course you know who everyone’s favourite old Hollowegian is right now, as her new album’s just come out?

  18. 18
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    50 Cent?

  19. 19
    Billy Smart on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Indeed. I used to sit next to her in Contemporary Feminist Playwrights! She is a very nice person, and I think that its much better for her that shes become famous at 30, rather than in her early twenties.

    That said, I do find that Other Side of the World song to be a bit insipid.

    The year that I was a finalist, the big things were Alainis Morissette and The Spice Girls…

  20. 20
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2007 #

    In case other readers haven’t twigged, we’re talking about KT Tunstall. Cool claim to fame Billy!

  21. 21
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Whose new album with its very 1973 cover has entered the album chart in third place behind Kanye and 50 Cent – both of whom went to Harrow.

  22. 22
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2007 #

    And Fiddy said he’d stop recording if Kanye outsold him – let’s hope he keeps that promise.

  23. 23
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    No, you were supposed to say “What do you mean, both Kanye and Fiddy went to Harrow?” so I could retort with “Yes, they took the wrong turnoff at Brent Cross flyover boom boom” oho cue tumbleweeds I’ll get me coat &c.

  24. 24
    Mark G on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Angel Fingers I always thought was the “overload on ideas” track, so I was surprised when that was the accuation levelled at “See my baby jive”

    These are probably the tracks that would benefit most from a 5.1 remix. I did see “Wizzard Brew” had been ‘remastered’ with extra tracks at a low price, but having bought the ‘full price’ CD a couple years previously, I need to know if the update is better/less muddy/worth it.

  25. 25
    intothefireuk on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Finally – this is where it all began for me. Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) was the first record that I bought. Amazing really since we only had one of those old radiogram type things to actually play it on – which pretty much shredded any record that wasn’t made of industrial strength titanium. Consequently I have a great affection for this – the messy gritty production sounded wonderful on vinyl and it probably benefitted from being played on a (back to) mono system. Not sure a 5.1 would actually do it any favours. Roy Wood was & is a genius -no question (Dear Elaine & the mighty Forever were also shortly to chart).

    Does anyone remember a forerunner to Smash Hits called something like Song Words or even just Words ? Not suprisingly it featured the song lyrics from all the latest chart hits. Except that they frequently got them very wrong. And so it was for this one as for many years I thought he’d sung ‘will neon still be so important to you on your wedding day ?’. Not quite as funny though as their version of Ian Hunters ad lib at the end of Mott’s ATYD from the previous year when he actually says ‘there you go’. Instead, in their wisdom, they printed ‘Dago !’ which admittedly does sound similar on the record but even so !

  26. 26
    Matthew H on 17 Sep 2007 #

    And you can bet they wouldn’t print Ian Hunter’s heartfelt words today. It’s political correctness gone mad.

    Disgracefully, I think I only know three Wizzard tracks. The beauty of a forum like this is that I’ll rush out to find out more.

  27. 27
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    That “Star Words” mag sounds suspiciously like Disco 45, to which I did subscribe, or possibly Popswap (xpost)…

  28. 28
    Erithian on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Personally I still think of it as “neon” and think it works better than “Dion”. More on “Words” early in ’74, with a passage I tragically remember verbatim about a particular number one. I think this was the mag that had a strange feature on Mott which maintained that “All The Young Dudes” did OK, but their real breakthrough was “Honaloochie Boogie” (about a dozen chart places further down and a year later).

  29. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Mott’s biggest selling single in the UK was actually “Roll Away The Stone” which did about 300,000 but only peaked at number eight because, as previously mentioned, the competition at Xmas 1973 was especially fierce…

  30. 30
    intothefireuk on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Well ‘Disco 45’ was probably THE lyric mag to have but ‘Words’ was it’s bastard cousin – worth searching out for comedy value alone.

    As regards more road songs, how about Roy Harper’s ‘Watford Gap’ (a plate of grease and a load of crap) gem.

  31. 31
    Brian on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Does ” Driving Home For Christmas ” by Chris Rea count as road song or Xmas song ?

  32. 32
    Tez Burke on 17 Sep 2007 #

    For many years, I laboured under the misapprehension that when Lonnie Donegan sang about the Cumberland Gap being fifteen miles from Middlesbrough, he was referring to the A66 junction of the A1 at Scotch Corner, which is indeed about fifteen miles from Middlesbrough and eventually comes out in Cumberland!

    Not the best song about roads in Teesside though; that honour falls not to Boro boy Chris Rea either, but to Steely Dan’s “A19”.

  33. 33
    Caledonianne on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Steely Dan’s A19 – ROFLOL!

  34. 34
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Sep 2007 #

    Roy Wood was on the Radcliffe/Maconie show last night talking about the reissue of Boulders. Apparently it was recorded in ’69 but didn’t come out for four years since Don Arden essentially sat on it (insert punchline of your choice here) on the grounds that it would confuse Move fans. “Dear Elaine” got played and it never ceases to astound me that it got to number 12 in the chart (yes, I know you only need to sell 12 copies to get to number 12 nowadays but in those days you needed to sell about 20,000 minimum even to get to number 40)…it’s like Animal Collective or Ariel Pink thirty years ahead of schedule, gorgeously wracked avant-indie pop (and better than either AC or AP IMO but then I would say that)…pity they didn’t play “Miss Clarke And The Computer” though, which for 1969 is a pretty bloody astonishing song and production.

  35. 35
    Erithian on 18 Sep 2007 #

    Darn, missed that last night.

    Roy Wood’s Rock’n’Roll Band is still gigging – they’re playing the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford on 15 December. Wonder what the encore might be? (Just steer clear of those toilets, Roy…)

    Number 2 Watch – the week “Angel Fingers” was number one, Sweet crashed straight in at two with “Ballroom Blitz”. Of course I thought it was sure to go the extra step the next week, but didn’t. Gutted. Especially given the record that overtook it.

  36. 36
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Sep 2007 #

    Interestingly, in last night’s interview, Roy gave a severe public reprimand to top Tory drummer Bev “Bev” Bevan for touring with “a bunch of his mates” under the Move name and without Roy’s consent. That’ll learn him to try it!

  37. 37
    jeff w on 18 Sep 2007 #

    I really enjoyed that interview. Roy sure gives good anecdote.

  38. 38
    Snif on 18 Sep 2007 #

    Is that interview available as a podcast?

  39. 39
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Sep 2007 #

    If you go to the Radio 2 website and use the Listen Again facility you’ll be able to hear that programme, including the interview, online up until next Sunday.

  40. 40
    mike on 21 Sep 2007 #

    intothefireuk OTM! Yet to become a serious vinyl collector – that was still a few months way – “Angel Fingers” was a rare purchase, and sounded wonderful when played on the Bush mono gramophone with the smoked-effect perspex hood that my father bought me to cheer me up when my mother walked out on us to marry his best friend. In the midst of such a desperately miserable year, the surging day-glo joyfulness of glam-pop was exactly what was needed to take me out of myself, and “Angel Fingers” took me further than any other single from that year. I played it incessantly and obsessively, luxuriating in its maximalist thrill, dancing with myself in the sanctuary of my room. (I had routines, and a video in my head.) Sonically, it’s a fuller, tighter, more intricately worked upgrade on “See My Baby Jive”, with a scintillating pizzicato break and glorious french horns. Wood’s continuing Spector obsession eventually led me back to the original productions, but this was a case of the pastiche surpassing its source. 10 out of 10 (and having finally, FINALLY heard the “one that got away” space age madrigal “Dear Elaine” for the first time this summer, I can only say that it was worth the wait).

  41. 41
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Sep 2007 #

    Despite Tom Browne’s sterling efforts on Solid Gold Sixty to convince us that it was about a woman named Deirdre Lane.

  42. 42
    mike on 21 Sep 2007 #

    Oh, and I quite agree about Words being Disco 45‘s poor cousin; the layout was shonky and amateurish even by 1973 standards, and the song choices frequently bizarre and wide of the mark attempts at second-guessing future hits. Whereas Disco 45 was my pre-teen proto-Smash Hits bible, when I wasn’t sneaking glances at my sister’s Music Star

  43. 43
    Caledonianne on 21 Sep 2007 #

    Ooh, Music Star!

    I loved Music Star!

  44. 44
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Sep 2007 #

    My principal reading matter in terms of pop music in 1973 was the Story Of Pop magazine-which-builds-up-to-a-complete-encyclopaedia series, complete with free binders. Even now I’m unsure whether the publishers ever actually completed the run (I also subscribed at the same time to All About Science which was the same thing and probably the same publishers – Phoebus? – but with science, obv. Nice bright blue binders they had).

  45. 45
    mike on 21 Sep 2007 #

    …whereas I was a Pictorial Knowledge child, also complete with (orange) binders, whose run was abruptly and prematurely ended by the publishers.

  46. 46
    Waldo on 22 Sep 2007 #

    I didn’t read any music mags in 1973. I do however recall reading “Catch 22” at about this time and my English teacher telling me that I shouldn’t “fill (my) head with such nonesense”. Heller’s masterpiece is one of the great novels of the 20th century, surely to goodness? Problem was, I was a child who whilst gobby, couldn’t possibly argue with a teacher. I’d rip the idiot to pieces today.

  47. 47

    treasure
    world of wonder (cancelled)
    look and learn (grew out of)
    puffin post (grew out of)
    nme (read then wrote from then “famously” resigned from)
    sounds (stopped takin in disgust at poor review of 1st raincoats LP)
    the wire

  48. 48
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Ah, so that’s who you are, P^nk etc.

    Is Angel Fingers the first pop-fan-as-pop-star number one? The only one, even? The blaring Spitfire saxes, the pin-up strewn bedroom in the opening verse, the image of a divine teen goddess on the chorus, this is just so damn evocative.

    In almost every pub conversation that it’s cropped up in, 25 years and counting, I’ve been the only person defending it. Well done Popular! Another winner!

  49. 49
    richard thompson on 9 Jun 2008 #

    I remember Disco 45 and they had articles about different groups each week and they said all the young dudes should have done a lot better than it did, they got the words wrong to see my baby jive as well.

  50. 50
    mike on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Ooh, did someone mention All The Young Dudes?

    This is as good a place as any to shoehorn in the Exciting Revelation that Overend! Watts! from Mott The Hoople was in our village pub the Sunday before last. He is currently walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats, popped in on his own, and ended up getting dragged into our fund-raising Quiz Night.

    The aforementioned Exciting Revelation is that both Overend and Ian Hunter are in favour of a Mott reunion (“Well, everybody else is doing it”), and that Steps Are Being Taken to that effect. You heard it here first.

  51. 51
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Speaking of which, we ought to compile a list of OTHER RECORDS ARE AVAILABLE BY THIS ARTIST for the benefit of radio station programmers, and Mott/”Dudes” would be top of the list.

    Also:
    Harley/Cockney Rebel (Make Me Smile)
    Talking Heads (Lifetime/Road To Nowhere)
    Curtis Mayfield (Move On Up)

    (posters plz come up with other examples kthnxbye)

  52. 52
    Billy Smart on 9 Jun 2008 #

    We may be pre-empting ourselves a bit here, but –

    THE HUMAN LEAGUE, CULTURE CLUB AND DEXYS DID HAVE OTHER HITS, YOU KNOW! Some of which are every bit as good…

    Barry White

    Take That

  53. 53
    mike on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Human League: “D*** Y** W*** M*”
    The Clash: “Rock The Casbah”
    The B-52’s: “Love Shack”

    (EDIT: Oh, snap!)

  54. 54
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Yesterday on BBC Radio London Tony Blackburn treated us to “Together In Electric Dreams” by “Philip Oakley.”

  55. 55
    Billy Smart on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Heaven 17

    ABC (why does everybody know The Look Of Love, and no-one under 35 know Poison Arrow?)

  56. 56
    Laban on 6 Jan 2009 #

    A lot of Roy Wood’s Wizzard stuff is pop-fan-as-pop-star. I’m particularly fond of “Eddy and the Falcons”, pastiche of everyone from Del Shannon through Dion to Neil Sedaka. And the cover features a small ‘greasy spoon’ caff of the sort where you’d go to hear the jukebox and play pinball, before you were old enough to go to the pub.

  57. 57
    wichita lineman on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Yes, Laban, I’ve always been very fond of Forever which is theoretically a Neil Sedaka tribute but trumps everything that noxious character every recorded (how unpleasant is The Queen Of 64?). “I saw my brand new baby walk out the door” – such a fabulously POP opening line.

    Just dug out Eddy & The Falcons for the first time in years. It’s rather pub singer isn’t it? And incredibly muddy. Hats off to Everyday I Wonder for blurring the lines between Del Shannon’s Runaway and ELP. Spector-drear This Is The Story Of My Love is quite perfect, though. Such odd chords. The brownness and pub element take it away from ’62 pastiche and into suburban 70s caffdom; it’s the sound of Angel Fingers slowly being swished around the two-thirds-empty glass of a pint of mild.

  58. 58
    AndyPandy on 4 May 2009 #

    Listen to “In a Shady Nook (By a Babbling Brook)” by Donald Peers then listen to this – slight similarities to put it mildly…

  59. 59
    wichitalineman on 4 May 2009 #

    Bloody hell, good spot! I was prepared to give Roy the benefit of the doubt til it got to the last line of the chorus. Unlikely source of a Popular entry on a par with Rolf Harris’s War Canoe. I’m also impressed by how you ended up listening to Donald Peers on a grey bank holiday.

    In A Shady Nook reached no.3 on the Radio Luxembourg chart in early 1949, even though Peers recorded it in ’44. For the record.

  60. 60
    Erithian on 5 May 2009 #

    Another connection we can no doubt credit to Mike’s “Which Decade” project, which recently featured Donald Peers’ unlikely top-five comeback in 1969 – that has to be why Andy was searching out his work. I love how this stuff all fits together!

  61. 61
    AndyPandy on 5 May 2009 #

    Erithian beat me to it there!
    I read about Donald Peers on here the other week and remember my dad mentioning him once or twice (I think in a kind of ‘Peers=very old-fashioned way’) then when I saw he’d had a hit in the late 60s thought I’d see what it sounded like (ie there’s not many top 10 hits from about 1964-about 1987 I havent heard).
    Been meaning to mention the Angel Fingers similarity on here for the last week or so…

  62. 62
    wichitalineman on 6 May 2009 #

    Snap. I don’t think I’d ever heard Please Don’t Go, which has to be one of the most obscure Top 3 hits of the 60s (in as much as it’s never been an oldies hit). More cod contintentalism. Not as good as In A Shady Nook, is it?

  63. 63
    AndyPandy on 6 May 2009 #

    I’ve already forgotten what it (“Please Dont Go”) sounded like! Shady Nook I suppose would have already been slightly dated in the 30s kind of a slightly more poppy ancestor of the kind of thing that’d be being sung as they shifted to the more middle class characters in a dinner party scene in a dramatisation of “Our Mutual Friend” or something…

    I say dated although particularly amongst Celts (esp Irish, Welsh) up until quite recently there has been quite an audience for this type of stuff amongst quite working class people (Joseph Locke etc).

  64. 64
    Lena on 17 Sep 2013 #

    Drug is the love?: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/vanishing-dreams-rolling-stones-angie.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  65. 65
    Gareth Parker on 3 Jun 2021 #

    I like Roy’s work with the Move, but I can’t take to this at all. To my ears it is overblown and overlong. A mess of a record, imho. 2/10.

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