Wizzard was an English rock band, formed in 1972 by onetime Move and Electric Light Orchestra frontman Roy Wood. They released four singles on Harvest, culminating with the 1973 album Wizzard Brew. Three singles on Warner surrounded the 1974 retro-rock concept album Introducing Eddy & The Falcons. On the ELO-vine imprint Jet, Wizzard issued a pair of 1975/76 singles, including one that leaked a track from a shelved 1976 album, Main Street, released in 2000 by archivists Edsel.
Members: Roy Wood (vocals, guitar), Rick Price (bass), Bill Hunt (piano, trumpet, 1972-73), Hugh McDowell (cello, 1972-73), Nick Pentelow (saxophone), Mike Burney (saxophone), Keith Smart (drums), Charlie Grima (drums), Bob Brady (keyboards, 1973-75)
Wood first surfaced in the Birmingham beat scene in the mid-1960s as a member of Mike Sheridan & the Nightriders. He then jumped ship to Brumbeat rivals Carly Wayne & the Vikings, which morphed into The Move. (Meanwhile, Sheridan left the Nightriders, which hired guitarist–singer Jeff Lynne and became The Idle Race).
The Move charted with the 1966–68 hits “Night of Fear,” “Flowers In the Rain,” “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” “Hear We Go Round the Lemon Tree,” “Fire Brigade,” “Blackberry Way,” and “Wild Tiger Woman” — all Wood compositions; most found on their first album Move. In 1968, co-founder Ace Kefford cleared out for ex-Sight & Sound bassist Rick Price, who played on their 1969 hit “Curly” and second album Shazam. Lynne replaced Wayne for their 1970 hit “Brontosaurus” and third album Looking On. Meanwhile, Wood used his collection of odd instruments (cello, bassoon, mandolin, cittern, bouzouki) on self-recorded tracks (later released as his debut solo album Boulders).
Wood enticed Lynne with a concept dubbed Electric Light Orchestra: a rock band centered on string and wind instruments. They recorded the first ELO album with Move drummer Bev Bevan. To fund the project, the trio made one further Move album, Message from the Country, and charted with the 1971/72 singles “Tonight,” “Chinatown,” and “California Man.” Price, who wasn’t notified, left The Move and formed Mongrel.
In December 1971, they released Electric Light Orchestra, a mix of baroque, psychedelic, and avant-garde chamber styles. They toured with an integrated string section that included cellist Hugh McDowell and French horn player Bill Hunt, formerly of Breakthru and Hannibal. The mix of electric and classical string instruments proved troublesome in live settings. As the enlarged band commenced sessions for ELO 2, tensions mounted between Wood and Move–ELO manager Don Arden, a heavy-handed businessman. After completing two new songs, “In Old England Town” and “From the Sun to the World,” Wood left ELO in Lynne’s hands.
Wood dropped in on Mongrel, who were finishing their album Get Your Teeth Into This, released in 1973 on Polydor. Mongrel included drummer Keith Smart and percussionist Charlie Grima.
Smart played in The Lemon Tree, a Move-inspired pop-psych band that issued two 1968 Parlophone singles co-produced by Move guitarist Trevor Burton, including one side (“William Chalker’s Time Machine”) written by Kefford. Burton and Smart joined The Ugly’s, a popular Brumbeat act with guitarist Steven Gibbons and (future ELO) keyboardist Richard Tandy. The final lineup morphed into Balls, which filtered through multiple drummers (Smart, Alan White, Spooky Tooth‘s Mike Kellie) and frontmen (Jackie Lomax, ex-Moody Blues singer Denny Laine) before the lineup of Burton, Gibbons, Kellie, and Laine issued the 1971 single “Fight for My Country” (b/w “Janie Slow Down”) on the uncannily named Wizard label. Gibbons then formed his own band with the final Idle Race lineup.
Grima hailed from the Brummie folk-psych band The Ghost, which issued the 1970 album When You’re Dead – One Second on Gemini.
Wood invited Price, Smart, and Grima into a new band with Hunt and McDowell. Wizzard settled as an octet with reedists Mike Burney and Nick Pentelow, who both played saxophone, clarinet, and flute. Despite his conflicts with Wood, Arden managed the band alongside ELO.
1972: First Shows, Single
On August 5, 1972, Wizzard made their live debut as part of the London Rock and Roll Show at Wembley Stadium. Noted as a pivotal event in the fifties rock revival, it featured sets by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley & The Comets, Bo Diddley, Screaming Lord Sutch, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Heinz, Emile Ford & the Checkmates, Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry’s younger sister), and current star Gary Glitter (himself an early rock singer under his original stage name, Paul Raven).
(Haberdasher Malcolm McLaren, who ran the Teddy Boy boutique Let It Rock on King’s Road, printed up 500 t-shirts to sell at the event, emblazoned with the phrase Vive Le Rock. Though the quantity went largely unsold, the shirt was later seen on members of the second band he managed, the Sex Pistols.)
The following weekend, Wizzard played their second show at the 1972 Reading Festival. The three-day event featured sets by Curved Air, Edgar Broughton Band, Faces, Focus, Genesis, If, Jericho, Jonathan Kelly, Linda Lewis, Man, and Nazareth. The second evening (Saturday the 12th) marked an early live appearance by the second configuration of Electric Light Orchestra, a septet with bassist Mike de Albuquerque that completed ELO 2 and half of On the Third Day (both released in 1973). Wizzard performed on the evening of Sunday, which also featured Gillian McPherson, Matching Mole, Quintessence, Stackridge, Status Quo, Stray, String Driven Thing, Sutherland Brothers, Ten Years After, and Vinegar Joe.
Wizzard issued their first single, “Ball Park Incident,” in November 1972 on Harvest. It’s a medium-uptempo neo-fifties rocker with shouted vocals, swinging brass, booming drums, and an overall loudness (a product of Wood’s use of ring modulation). Hunt wrote the instrumental b-side, “The Carlsberg Special” (subtitled “Piano’s Demolished Phone 021 373 4472”), a harpsichord cadenza overlaid with sax, flute, and cymbals — interrupted by a loco-drum sequence of wet bass, saloon piano, and noodling sitar. The single reached No. 6 in the UK and No. 8 in Ireland.
1973: Wizzard Brew
Wizzard released their debut album, Wizzard Brew, in March 1973 on Harvest. It features three Wood originals: two blasting neo-fifties rockers (“You Can Dance the Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Gotta Crush (About You)”), three thundering jams with lengthy instrumental passages (“Meet Me at the Jailhouse,” “Buffalo Station – Get On Down to Memphis,” “Wear a Fast Gun”), and one circus jamboree (“Jolly Cup of Tea”). Wood composed the album, which features him on contrabass, sitar, cello, bassoon, tuba, and baritone saxophone. Backing vocals are credited to the ‘Cowbag Choir.’
Sessions took place in winter 1972–73 at EMI and Phonogram Studios, London. Wood produced Wizzard Brew with engineers Alan Parsons (EMI) and Peter Olliff (Phonogram). Parsons, a late-period Beatles soundman (Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road), also engineered Boulders plus 1973 albums by Wings and Pink Floyd (The Dark Side of the Moon). He would soon become one of the decade’s chief architects of lavish production pop (Al Stewart, Ambrosia, Cockney Rebel, John Miles, Pilot). Olliff engineered numerous pop and jazz albums on Philips and Fontana, including titles by Dusty Springfield (Dusty… Definitely), Kaleidoscope, Ray Warleigh, and Scott Walker (Scott), plus the 1970 Vertigo debut by Uriah Heep. In 1973, he also engineered albums by Roxy Music (Stranded) and the solo debut of French actress–singer Jane Birkin.
Wizzard Brew is housed in a single-sleeve with a cover painting by Roger Alexander. It depicts Wood as a mad scientist emptying a beaker into a pot labelled (in blackletter font) WIZZARD BREW. The other members appear as miniatures in various guises, including caped evacuees (Hunt, McDowell) and disembodied heads (Price with musical note limbs). Wood’s guinea pigs are Smart (trapped in a bottle labelled “Instant Beat”) and Grima (peaking from the pot). Burney and Pentelow appear as a small gold bust sculpture engraved with the words “Solid Brass.” Wood puts a thumb-hold on Hunt’s white cape. Original copies have an inner-sleeve with monochrome member pics and handwritten lyrics on a complementary orange–blue scheme.
In North America, the album appeared on United Artists as Wizzard’s Brew (possessive punctuation). This version has a vertical gatefold designed by Lloyd Ziff with photography by and typography by . This image (in the flesh) depicts Wood as a giant wizard in a layered robe (red–blue zigzags) with the other members grouped at the base. The inner-gate includes a bio on Wood and descriptions of the album’s songs. ‘s photography also appears on early seventies Blue Note titles by Bobby Hutcherson, Grant Green, Ronnie Foster, and the US version of ELO 2 (titled Electric Light Orchestra II).
- Wizzard Brew (1973)
- Introducing Eddy & The Falcons (1974)
- Main Street (2000, recorded 1976 • Roy Wood & Wizzard)
- “Ball Park Incident” / “The Carlsberg Special” (1972)
- “See My Baby Jive” / “Bend Over Beethoven” (1973)
- “Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)” / “You Got the Jump on Me” (1973)
- “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” / “Rob Roy’s Nightmare” (1973)
- “Rock ‘n’ Roll Winter” / “Dream of Unwin” (1974)
- “This Is the Story of My Love” / “Mixture” (1974)
- “Are You Ready to Rock” / “Marathon Man” (1974)
- “Rattlesnake Roll” / “Can’t Help My Feelings” (1975)
- “Indiana Rainbow” / “The Thing Is This (This Is the Thing)” (1976)
- “See My Baby Jive” / “Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) / Ball Park Incident” (1976)
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