Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fantastic!: The Move: "Flowers In The Rain"

Imagine it's the early morning of September 30, 1967. It's 7am; you are just waking up when you hear this.

A whole world - save for rebellious Radio Caroline - has ended. The future - as brought to you by George Martin himself - has begun. Before I get to the main song here, I'm going to pause a bit and remember my own reaction to hearing Martin's piece...I must have first heard it in 2007, when I was haphazardly planning, along with Marcello's help, the music for our wedding. I wanted it to be launched with something dramatic, of my year, but also something warm and cozy. Something to say: a whole new world has been achieved, something that was a mere notion has grown into this - true love and hence, marriage. And I cried when I first heard it, so of course it was the only choice...

The first song played on the station was this one; thunder booms give way to a chirpy song which is about flowers, trees...and escaping the commitments of the world by immersing yourself in nature, even to the point of sleeping outdoors. Lost in fantasy, taking a break to realign priorities - all done to a typical march-beat that sounds anything but dreamy. In the video you can see them in their psychedelic finery, eating apples and reading comic books - there is something deliberately regressive going on here, another facet of the rebellious/childish part of UK 'hippie' music (as opposed to the more confrontational US version).

Or perhaps this nyah-nyah I'm going to watch flowers business is more rebellious than it seems? Perhaps some notions of a greater society will occur as the day passes? It is a huge leap to go from this to the current occupations across the UK - the only thing they have in common is their refusal to go 'indoors' and 'behave' normally. (Well, these ideas have to start somewhere.) But the group's manager promoted the single with a controversial postcard illustrated with a drawing of a naked Harold Wilson (then the Prime Minister) linking him to his secretary. The band were sued and forced to give their royalties from the song to charity, which shows that maybe egging The Man plc on isn't always the best idea. (To this day the group don't make any money from the song, which considering Wilson died in 1995 is kind of unfair.)

This, if you were to believe in omens, was a mixed one at best for Radio 1, and The Move themselves got rid of their manager and were shy to do anything quite so bold promotionally again. This song did give a certain young producer fresh from NYC - Tony Visconti - experience in arranging however (he did the woodwind and strings). And thus we take a step from the mid-60s to the late 60s and the increasing strangeness on one side of pop, just as the other becomes more and more uniform*. This got stuck behind new heartthrobs The Bee Gees' "Massachusetts" - the second record played that morning - and while it found friends in the chart ("Homburg" by Procol Harum, "From The Underworld" by The Herd) it must have seemed something of an understandable disappointment to the group, who (like so many 60s groups of this time) mutated away until The Move had a parallel band, Electric Light Orchestra, as a Wood side project. Psychedelia turned out to be much harder for groups to adapt than you might think - The Who didn't really 'go' psychedelic beyond clothes; The Rolling Stones' late '67 album wasn't...very...good...[though it has its champions]; The Kinks were busy with writing about English life in its strange normalcy.

The genteel oddballness of UK psychedelia is undoubtedly because the UK wasn't involved in Vietnam, and thus the listeners did not have the ugly fact of the war beyond news reports - whereas it was the daily life of every American, because of the draft and so on. (If you didn't know someone who was over there, chances were good you knew someone who did, and draft dodgers were rampant, as well.)

So a song about kipping in the garden and evading the requirements of daily life was all that was required or needed; sooner rather than later, though, the true cost of being on the outside of society was going to make for some astonishing music, music that more than lives up to the golden promise of "Theme One." The village of A Teenage Opera, the disturbing tidiness of "Penny Lane" suddenly come to life on tv, as if its creator was also creating his own psychedelic masterpiece, trying like Wilson, Wirtz or Wood to keep a handle on it, lest it suddenly gets scattered and lost...what, was that the sound of thunder again?

*"King Midas In Reverse" by The Hollies is a good example of this; it was Graham Nash's last stab at making the band more hip, but they - and their producer - weren't interested in getting further out, and so Nash left them the following year for the welcoming hippie world of Laurel Canyon.


B Smith said...

You presumably posted this on Roy Wood's 65th birthday deliberately?

Lena said...

I only realized that I did while writing the posting - nice coincidence!