The Move – When Alice Comes Back to the Farm
SP, 1970, Fly
The Move (1965 – 72) were a pretty big band in Britain in the late 60s, with nine top 20 singles in five years. For that reason I’m somewhat ashamed to say that these are the first songs of theirs I’ve ever (knowingly) listened to. And given that, its also not surprising that before writing this, I knew very little about them – other than they later morphed into ELO (boo!), which Roy Wood quickly got tired of (who can blame him?), and went off to form Wizzard (yay!).
When Alice Comes Back to the Farm, released in 1970, was The Move’s fourth last single and taken from the Looking On album. The A-side, penned by Wood, is a heavy blues-rocker, almost approaching an early heavy metal or glam rock sound, though there is a nice twinkley rock ‘n’ roll piano thing going on in the background which lightens the tone a bit. And the heavy cello breaks are pretty amazing.
According to wikipedia, this single never made it into the charts “largely due to lack of airplay by BBC radio stations. The song allegedly [makes] mild references to cannabis – “Alice”, “time for tearing out the weeds” and the last line “don’t get around much anymore”, which is a description of the singer’s condition”.
With regard to the B-side, What?, three words and two exclamation marks should suffice – “Oh no! Prog!“.
Which is not surprising really, given that it was written by Jeff Lynne (I should have expected it when I saw his name), and that (I’m led to believe) The Move’s final two albums were basically fundraising operations for the first ELO album… shudder. I should state my bias (though its probably abundantly clear): I have a very low tolerance for prog. These days I can stomach a lot more than I used to be able to, but still it makes me feel slightly wrong about myself.
This is almost seven minutes long, the lyrics seem to be a nonsense (e.g. “the overture is burning on the faces of the people in the churches of the land”), and it meanders all over the place. That said, the more I listen to it (I’m on about listen six), the more it grows on me. Well parts of it do – which is probably one of the reasons I dislike prog so, I get the feeling that inside many prog songs, there’s a decent track drowning in the deluge of pompous self indulgence. And this song is a case in point – the good parts are great, in fact the riff sounds like Super Furry Animals ripped it off for Blerwytirhwng? (Where are you Between?). Another bit sounds like its trying to be I Am The Walrus , and there even seems to be a male choir in there. By no means the worst prog song I’ve ever heard, but overall fails to hit the mark. Shame really, cos the riff is excellent.
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