Thursday, 10 December 2020
Interview: Author James R Turner discusses Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard
#1,552: It would be true to say that elo beatles forever (elobf) has been waiting for James R Turner's new book "Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard" (Sonicbond Publishing ISBN 978-1789520088) to arrive for quite some time and the good news is that it will finally be published on Friday 18th December. Yours Truly KJS caught up with the author recently and asked some searching questions about James himself and the development of the book in this latest addition to my exclusive series of interviews for elobf. It was great for this particular fan to interview a fellow fan on familiar subject matter! Here's hoping that you enjoy reading it as much as I did putting it together!
KJS: First things first, James! Tell me about yourself?
JRT: Hi Keith! I'm 43 and live in North Somerset with my fiancée Charlotte, our three cats and two dogs (Dilys the West Highland White Terrier and Freja the Rhodesian Ridgeback) and have been a music fan since my early teens. I've been writing album reviews, interviews, features for various places like the (now sadly defunct) Classic Rock Society, BBC online, Albion Online (exploring English culture), various progressive rock websites over the past 20 years and also for We Are Cult. I'm a fan of cult TV and a huge Doctor Who fan and, whilst I spend a lot of time writing about Prog rock, my tastes are far wider and deeper than that and I have everything from Abba to Zappa (and all points in between!) in my record collection. I also do the social media for the Bad Elephant Music record label and enjoy reading in my spare time!
KJS: Is this your first book?
JRT: It is! I've contributed over the years to anthologies including poetry and short stories, as well as to non-fiction anthologies about Doctor Who, Cult TV & David Bowie but this is the first time that I've ever flown solo.
KJS: What sparked your interest in Roy Wood?
JRT: It started, as with most people, by diving into their parents record collection. The first musical band that I got heavily into was The Beatles, which led me on to Jeff Lynne and ELO, and then through collecting ELO and related albums I discovered Roy Wood, Wizzard and the Move, and of course, like a lot of people, I was astonished by the sound of that debut ELO album which sounded like nothing else I'd ever heard at the time.
KJS: How did you approach writing "Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard"?
JRT: I started by putting the albums and singles into chronological order before I even started writing about them, so I had a timeline and structure to work to and, of course, I then listened to the albums in chronological order to get a feel as to how the book was going to develop following how Roy's career developed. As we all know, some of Roy's work is still unavailable on CD and when I was writing it, I was lucky that Esoteric had just finished their remastering of the entire Move back catalogue complete with additional bonus tracks, some of which were covered more in depth than others. At the time of writing Introducing Eddy & The Falcons, Mustard, Main Street, Super Active Wizzo and Starting Up were unavailable (luckily I had copies of Eddy, Mustard & Main St. – the 1999 Edsel editions and Starting Up) and Boulders, Wizzard Brew and On The Road Again were only available in the Original Album Series. As I already had Boulders, Wizzard Brew (the 2005 remaster), Message From The Country and The Electric Light Orchestra, it seemed pointless to pay £14 for the box to get On The Road Again – when I could pick up a copy of the Wounded Bird CD edition for just £6. For the rest of the material, YouTube and various compilation albums helped filled the gaps, as did Discogs again for Super Active Wizzo on vinyl! Luckily, since then Esoteric Records have remastered and reissued Mustard, Eddy & The Falcons and Main Street (with the same track listing as the Edsel editions) so when people read the book, there's more out there for them to get. I hope Esoteric continue and mop up Wizzo, Starting Up & On The Road Again – complete with the singles released during that period. As for the actual writing of the book, I took two weeks off work, and treated the writing as if it were my day job – I would start at nine in the morning, break for lunch and finish at five. I found that the easiest way to approach it and I dealt with it album by album as close to chronologically as possible. Of course some albums had to wait due to waiting for them to be delivered, but overall it was written from start to finish as close to release order as possible.
KJS: We recommended the book to elobf patrons almost two years ago back in December 2018. Why has the book taken so long to arrive?
JRT: It is my first book, and so I have gone from writing pieces no more than 500-2,000 words to putting down a piece of work of around 60,000 words so it did need editing and tidying up by Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond – who has done a great job on it! The manuscript I submitted probably needed tidying up before submission. That, I guess, was naivety on my part – but all the pieces were there, just not necessarily in the right order. In the interim, of course, there have been three reissues of core Woody albums – so I was able to add a few amendments about those, and The Idle Race debut album got a double disc set reissue with the mono album on CD for the first time, so it gave me opportunity and time to revisit that as well. I hope the readers think it was worth the wait!
KJS: What can readers expect to find in the book?
JRT: It's not a biography as such, so don't expect any revelations! However it is, as far as I'm aware, the first book that covers all aspects of Roy's musical releases in one place – including the ELO debut as well – and as so much of Roy's later career is unavailable (which is absolutely criminal to my mind). I hope it shines a light into areas that don't normally get covered. Plus, of course, in the appendix you'll find a complete overview album by album of The Idle Race – which hasn't been done anywhere before. I think The Idle Race are such an important aspect of The Move/ELO story that they had to be included as they demonstrate how Jeff's songwriting influenced the latter day Move and why Roy felt Jeff was the perfect foil for launching the ELO concept.
KJS: Were there any particular difficulties with your research?
JRT: The lack of availability of the latter day albums was frustrating, as trying to get hold of Super Active Wizzo on second hand CD is a nightmare. I did approach Roy through mutual friends to see if he'd like to be interviewed but sadly it didn't happen. It would have been nice to have his perspective. However, I know he's keen on his privacy which I fully respect and hope I've done his work justice.
KJS: Did you uncover any surprises along the way?
JRT: Not too many surprises, although when you look at Roy's lyrics and songs throughout his career, Rain appears as a lyrical theme throughout from Flowers In The Rain, of course, to The Rain Came Down On Everything from Mustard, Way Beyond The Rain from On The Road Again and Raining In The City from Starting Up.
KJS: What are your hopes for "Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard"?
JRT: I hope people enjoy the book and that it is received in the way it's intended, as a critical appreciation of the great man.
KJS: Have you any further writing adventures planned?
JRT: I'm still contributing album reviews to several websites and I've had an idea for something totally different but it's only in the genesis stage at the moment so I would say "Watch this space!"
KJS: What are your three fave Woody tunes and why?
JRT: What a question! #1: Feel Too Good (from Looking On) – Looking On is my favourite Move album, I just love the big sounds they get on here, and Feel Too Good has everything (and the kitchen sink). That pounding beat on the drums played by Jeff Lynne, Roy's full-on rock vocals which blend nicely with the soulful sound of PP Arnold and Doris Troy. It's a full-on stomp rocker and leaves you with a great big smile on your face. #2: Way Beyond The Rain (from On The Road Again) is another lush Woody ballad, with some sublime strings that echo his emotive lyrics. His heartfelt performance is fantastic and it astonishes me that more people aren't aware of this song. It's fantastic! #3: Meet Me At The Jailhouse (Wizzard Brew) is again an absolute belter of a Woody number that bounces around so many genres that you lose track and, to me, it just sums up Roy Wood! There are so many brilliant ideas here that show – freed from the constraints of an Electric Light Orchestra – that Roy could write and perform whatever he liked. He did and this was the result.
KJS: How can folks order "Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard"?
JRT: It's available from Amazon, WHSmith online and it'll also be available from Burning Shed who are the home of the Sonicbond shop.
Click on the links below for info and/or to buy "Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard" thus:
elo beatles forever (elobf) recommends "Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard" by James R Turner to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, The Move, Wizzard, The Idle Race, 'Brum Beat', The Beatles and related artistes.
Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 10-Dec-2020