Birmingham in the Psychedelic ‘60s
The drummer with The Paradox was Rob Moore (who has always lived in the Sutton Coldfield area) who was only 15 at the time (in 1968).
He later went on to play with psychedelic-pop outfit World Of Oz (who were signed to Decca's experimental off-shoot label Deram 1968-1970).
Rob also played with a host of other bands (Kansas Hook etc) and was in DC Fontana for 18 months (he left a year ago as at his age it was hard to commit for time due to age getting the better of him etc).
He is a good friend of mine and continues to be a fervent supporter of DC Fontana.
To discover the origins of World Of Oz we first need to peer through the mists of time back to the “Beat Boom” that gripped Britain in the early and mid 1960s.
The epicentre of the pop music world has always been inside the confines of urban Greater London, arguably still so in the 21st century, but after the birth pangs of rock & roll in the 50s the “suits” of the industry seemed to finally wake up to the fact there was creative life north of Watford.
Early in 1963 The Beatles seemed to prise open the doors that were holding record company executives captive inside the confines of Greater London as the Fab Four so brilliantly spearheaded the so-called “Merseybeat” phenomenon.
And as the growing population of Britain’s drooling talent spotters started to pack their suitcases and head out of The Smoke in search of other potential gold mines, the UK’s other major cities caught the bug as thousands of teens made use of the recent invention of Hire Purchase and confidently set out to buy an instrument in a bid to become the next big thing.
Each city had its own maze of underground venues and its own local heroes to champion and the West Midlands conurbation was certainly not slow in coming forward, boasting one of the most prodigious breeding grounds for new music in the 1960s and giving birth to a multitude of talented musicians and bands who would one day become household names.
Whereas plenty of Midlanders would find fame (if not fortune!) in the Swinging Sixties, many would find global recognition later on in the 70s but first spent the 60s paying their dues and honing their talents and having an absolute ball!
And the West Midlands was literally teeming with beat groups who seemed to spring up in every suburb of Birmingham and throughout the Black Country, spurred on by the explosion of interest in rhythm and blues and soul music in particular.
Among these “BrumBeat” bands were the likes of the Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, The Move, The Rockin’ Berries and The Idle Race who eventually metamorphosed into the Electric Light Orchestra.
That’s not to forget The ‘N’ Betweens who would eventually change their name to Ambrose Slade and then simply Slade, and other bands like The Uglys whose front-man Steve Gibbons was about to find international recognition in the following decade. There were many others that provided household names including Band Of Joy who comprised of future Led Zeppelin mega-stars Robert Plant and John Bonham and of course a certain band called Earth from the Midlands then changed their name to Black Sabbath….
I could go on for ages and there are many other people more qualified than myself to write in great depth about the vibrant Midlands rock scene in the 60s so there’s no need for me to generalise further on the subject (for more information why not visit www.brumbeat.net ?).
So we will stick to the story of World Of Oz which really begins at the peak of “Beatlemania” during in the years of 1964 and 1965 which, importantly, was also at the height of the mod youth culture.
Around this time The Who were assaulting the pop charts with a dynamic new sound that married American soul and R&B sounds with a raw rock style heavily borrowed from fellow UK act The Kinks and as with “mod” itself, this was a fast-moving and imaginative scene that seemed to change every half hour.
The Beatles were in the throes of starting their revolutionary expansion of musical horizons and pop music, fashion and popular culture reflected this by moving and evolving at a scorching hot pace, even mirroring the amphetamine drugs that were so prevalent at the time.
It was during these thrilling, heady times that various Brummie groups would rise and then make way for World Of Oz.
And we begin our historical search for Oz at a small suburban Brummie youth club on the outskirts of the city back in 1964.
A fledgling young band of schoolboy teens calling themselves Capital Systems hung out together at Yenton Boys Club in the Erdington area of north Birmingham with a line up consisting of young teenager Rob Moore (drums), Bob Catley (ex-Smokestacks and on lead vocals), Paul Whitehouse (bass, vocals), Dave Bailey (guitar, organ) and Paul Sergeant (lead guitar).
In its early days the group played regularly at The Plaza in Old Hill and the Plaza at Handsworth which were run by the Regans supporting a whole host of big name attractions including The Kinks, The Move, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch, Clarence “Frogman” Henry and another local Birmingham band Way Of Life who were a mod-styled group playing a staple diet of Motown and Atlantic soul tunes and who featured future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and bass guitarist Tony Clarkson.
Also in Way Of Life were brothers Reg & Chris Jones together with Mick “Sprike” Hopkins.
Moore admired Bonham's style of drumming and his obsession with mod and soul styles - the two sticksmen became quite chatty and friendly during this period of time.
The future Oz drummer Moore revealed: “Very few people know this but Bonham actually sang lead vocals on their live cover version of The Chiffons’ old soul song “Oh My Lover” with Way Of Life – he used to get off his drum kit and come to the front of the stage and it was sung as a four-part acapella which was really interesting and he sang it really well.
“I didn’t have much to do with Tony Clarkson at the time although I remembered he used a Danelectro bass but I had more in common with Bonham because we were both drummers and I loved the way he played - even back then when they were playing all that soul and Motown style stuff which they did brilliantly so we got on well together.
“Tony and I would always say hello and “how are you?” but that was about it at that time – neither of us knew we’d end up together in a band a year or so later.”
Meanwhile, back in 1965 Brummie drummer Dave Reay joined the second line up of what was already a well known Midlands beat group, Danny King And The Mayfair Set who had changed their name from Danny King And The Royals and had previously released two singles on the Columbia record label including “Amen (My Teenage Prayer)”.
Also in the Mayfair Set line up at the time was guitarist Dave Morgan together with bass player Denny Ball and keyboard player Roger Harris as well as group leader King himself.
Then in 1966 King quit the group who decided to shorten their name to The Mayfair Set and the leader’s replacement was guitarist and singer Christopher Evans while Dave Morgan moved to play with The Uglys and be replaced by Jim Murphy.
As things turned out the Mayfair Set were an in-demand group and when they headed out from the Bull Ring on tour in ’66 they were not to return to Britain’s “Second City” for a whole year as their tough schedule of live gigs saw them out in West Germany for the duration.
Among the venues the group played were Frankfurt’s K52 Club and the Pallette Bar in Fulda while they were also a popular regular attraction at the various British and American air forces that were dotted across Germany at the height of the Cold War.
Also working throughout Germany at the same time was a band called The Pieces Of Mind who were regulars throughout the seedy bars and nightclubs in Hamburg and who would appear at venues like The Star Club and The Top Ten on the infamous Reeperbahn where, a few years earlier The Beatles had cut their musical teeth.
The organ player in The Pieces Of Mind was David Kubinec, affectionately known by his friends as simply “Kubie.”
The intensity of playing so many shows and being thrown together on foreign soil seriously tightened most beat groups and this included both the Mayfair Set and Pieces Of Mind.
But the by-product of such a lifestyle was stress and tension which seeped seamlessly into the Mayfair Set ranks which led, somewhat inevitably, to the Brum band calling it a day when they returned to the UK in September 1967 to find Birmingham in the grip of the Summer Of Love.
Ball left the Mayfair Set to join Chicago Hush while Evans and Reay decided to stick together and to launch a brand new project which would wholeheartedly embrace the flourishing psychedelic scene that was now rivalling the Brits’ love of soul and R&B.
Around the same time Way Of Life split with Bonham teaming up with Robert Plant in Band Of Joy although he also sat in on various other local drumming gigs and, as it is well documented, Bonham played drums in the touring band of American singer Tim Rose during ’68 which gave him a regular wage.
Meanwhile, future Oz bassist Tony Clarkson and “Sprike” Hopkins stayed together after Way Of Life to form a new band called The Wages Of Sin together with drummer Johnny Skidmore and two Canadian brothers Eddie Pilling (lead vocals) and Brian Pilling (guitar).
The Wages Of Sin then changed their name to Yellow Rainbow and in 1967 they became the backing group to the famous chart-hitting singer-songwriter Cat Stevens and were busy working in the UK and abroad both live on stage and also doing TV work.
Capital Systems had renamed themselves The Paradox in 1967 and had recorded a number of demos at the Grosvenor Studios in Handsworth before being given the track “Mary Colinto” by Dave Morgan who had also managed to get The Uglys to record their own version of it.
During late '67 and early '68 The Paradox recorded more demos including tunes like "Somebody Save Me", "Like The Day Goes"and the truly brilliant "What's The Rush, Dilbury?."
People in the music business seemed to originally take to the Paradox and Pye Records were initially keen on them.
However, Pye opted to give the Paradox the wide berth during 1968 resulting in their optimism turning to pessimism and with no recording deal forthcoming, Moore began to look around elsewhere.
During this time Moore became friendly with Tamworth based Charlie Harrison, a superb bass guitarist and musician from Fazeley who was a well known face on the local music scene and was blessed with oodles of natural flair.
[Note: Update on Kansas Hook. I was the bass player that replaced Charlie Harrison and played on Mr. Universe and Nervous Shakin' - we were signed to Decca at the time - Julian Burrowes).
Indeed, Harrison joined a later version of the Paradox after Moore had left the band.
Meanwhile, by late 1967 with the Summer Of Love fast fading from memory, newspaper adverts were placed by Evans and Reay who were keen to recruit new members to form a band that could not only record some of Evans’ fledgling tunes of great ambition but also be roadworthy musicians who could take the band back on to the road.
In January 1968 the un-named duo auditioned a number of musicians for their new group and decided to recruit local bass guitarist Clarkson after he had left Yellow Rainbow and also the experienced Kubinec who had been through similar experiences to Evans and Reay out in Europe with Pieces Of Mind.
The band had not been together for long when they decided to take the plunge and relocate in London realising they stood a far greater chance to get their pop manifesto accepted if they could be in the faces of those executives who made the big decisions.
They took residence at a highly prestigious luxury apartment in Mayfair’s Park Lane which was only stone’s throw from the hubbub of Swinging London’s cauldron of culture and business.
But instead of recording demos and sending them out to music publishers and record labels Evans, Kubinec, Clarkson and Reay took a more direct route, turning up at various offices with a 12-string guitar and singing live a handful of songs they had already written together.
At this stage it would seem that several publishers showed great interest in this new band and some even offered the World Of Oz contracts but the Brummie band turned down most and opted to plump for a deal that was on the table from Sparta Music, a firm that was owned and run by Hal Shaper, who was a much respected music business personality in London who boasted a dazzling array of contacts.
One of the first tasks Shaper did was to arrange a meeting between Oz and and Barry Class because Shaper knew the group would need strong management even before attempting to secure a record contract for the band whose early song-writing promise seemed to be bearing fruit.
Class, who was at the time managing darlings of the pop charts The Foundations (who had huge hits with “Baby Now That I’ve Found You” and “Build Me Up Buttercup”), fell in love with the grandiose psychedelic pop ambitions of Oz and instantly felt they had a blueprint for enormous commercial success.
They had already written what was to become their first single, “The Muffin Man” which was a highly infectious pop song that had an instant hook line and it was this song that seemed to convince everyone that Oz approached that they were definitely “hot.”
Class and Shaper chose wisely their next move and approached Wayne Bickerton who was at the time the recording head honcho at Decca’s latest leftfield experimental pop label Deram and who was keen on pumping the UK charts full of interesting, esoteric and experimental sonic goodies.
They had already notched up hits with the likes of The Move, Amen Corner, The Flowerpot Men, drummer Dave Reay’s old musical colleague Cat Stevens and Procul Harum as well as the newly re-invented Moody Blues who had abandoned their R&B roots, taking psychedelia and raga-rock to their hearts.
World Of Oz, with their colourful, post-flower power psychedelic image and catchy, ambitious, yet twisted pop tunes, fitted nicely into the Deram philosophy and Bickerton was highly enamoured with what he heard at his office on the Albert Embankment during the early part of 1968.
So much so that Bickerton wanted to produce Oz himself at the Decca Studios while he included recording engineer Derek Varnals and Musical Director Mike Vickers, the former Manfred Mann pop star turned music arranger in his team that were designed to create a new international recording sensation.
At the time press releases started to filter down to music journalists promising unbelievably exciting music from this new unknown band and at the business end of the deal, Oz settled down to their début recording session at Decca on April 07, 1968.
Kubinec remembered: “It was an exciting experience and my first memory is of hearing a 33-piece orchestra playing “The Muffin Man” as we walked through the door into the studio!”
At the first session the band recorded four tracks – the aforementioned “Muffin Man”, “Jack”, “Peter’s Birthday (Black And White Rainbow)” and “King Croesus.”
Kubinec added: “We took the organ intro for “King Croesus” from another song I had written called “The Laughing Man” and I threw the fairground organ intro to “Peter’s Birthday” just for a laugh.”
In typical 60s style everything moved at supersonic speed with Deram issuing “The Muffin Man” backed by “Peter’s Birthday (Black And White Rainbows)” as the group’s début single on May 03, 1968 (catalogue number DM 187).
All seemed to be looking good for the record with its nursery rhyme type melody being extremely radio friendly while the production was a first class and on-the-money effort that should have guaranteed it instant success.
Oz baptised their audience with “Muffin Man,” a song that begins with the olde worlde sound of hooves-on-cobbled-stone-streets followed by a couple of bars of strings that make way for its catchy chorus, delightfully underpinned by flutes, strings and brass that gave an uplifting pop experience.
It married classical influences with more than enough swinging 60s pop sensibilities to have had the “Top Of The Pops” audience of teeny boppers swaying together and shouting out the chorus in unison.
“Muffin Man” was two and a half minutes of classic, catchy radio-friendly psychedelic pop flavoured with enough palatable bubblegum to see it justly nestle in the top 10 with consummate ease.
The flip side, “Peter’s Birthday (Black And White Rainbows)” was a far hipper tune being archetypical home-grown British psychedelia at its very best, with sinister shades of the blackest black permeating LSD-doused paisley-pop.
The introduction saw Kubinec play a fairground organ version of Emil Waldteuffel’s “Skater’s Waltz” (NB: this was a trick duplicated on piano by psychedelic freakbeaters The Plague on their in-demand B-side track “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”…interestingly this was also released in 1968 and came out on Decca!) and then the songs into a simply superb slice of psych.
And the buying public were given their first chance to sample singer Chris Evans’ brilliant off-kilter lyrics with “Peter”….on face value the song seems to be a pleasant-enough tale of a young boy’s innocent birthday party but Evans’ warped lyrical style slowly seeps into the groove as if by osmosis with the subject matter metamorphosing into the story of violent suicidal death….
“It was little Peter’s Birthday and all his friends were there
His mother gave them lots to eat and there was lots to spare.
They drank his health in orangeade and wished him all the best
They didn’t know that night that Peter was to have no rest…
“Black and white rainbows took him away
To a place where liquorice allsorts were made every day.
“Black and white rainbows are only part of his dream
But Peter thought that ???? allsorts making machine.
“Please don’t cut me up please!
Please don’t cut me up p-l-e-a-s-e!
“His mother rushed into the bedroom awaken by his cries
When she got there she couldn’t readily believe her eyes
On his bed across the window fitted by a drill
And Peter, with his face against it, lay upon the sill…
“Black and white rainbows took him away
To a place where liquorice allsorts were made every day.
“Black and white rainbows are only part of his dream
But Peter thought that ???? an allsorts making machine.
“Please don’t cut me up please!
Please don’t cut me up p-l-e-a-s-e!”
The macabre twist in the tale is emphasised musically too as the up-lifting poppy verse climaxes with some Bach-like flurries on brass and woodwind before the whole tempo slows, the music switches to minor key and a blacker mood shrouds the tune.
“Peter” ends with a reprise of the Waldteuffel fairground theme and the listener is left totally disorientated by the potent mixture of polarising extremes: childhood innocence and bloody violence.
It was a terrific début record by anyone’s standards and should have blazed a trail for pop stardom.
However, pop music can rarely be relied upon to deliver justice to deserving artists and although the good ship Oz had set sail in calm waters with an opening salvo that should have been the defining major league hit that most critics and so-called experts had predicted, it inexplicably ran aground on the chart’s jagged sea-bed outside the top 40.
The record received rave press reviews while tipsters predicted a future almost as bright as the Decca marketing hype machine was prophesising.
But UK chart success mysteriously passed “Muffin Man” by although the quartet’s natural disappointment was off-set when in other territories Oz scored highly in the charts stakes – for example, in Holland it reached number 6 in June and over the pond in the States there was a very positive reaction from radio, press and punters alike when released by Deram U.S.A..
Kubinec: “The powers that be were convinced “Muffin Man” was going to be a hit as indeed it was all over the world except for the UK and the USA.
“The reason for this was that the week after it was released our manager Barry Class went to America with his other band The Foundations and left us in the hands of Michael Levi whose first action was to cut our publicity budget (i.e. backhanders to radio DJs) in half with the result that instead of getting us on to “Top Of The Pops”, The Marmalade did and the rest is history.”
Nevertheless, its success in other countries, and particularly in continental Europe, gave the band great encouragement and lifted their spirits despite the lack of Britpop success resulting in a flood of offers for live work as well as other publicity appearances.
Kubinec remembers the band were hurriedly despatched to the Low Countries and they filmed interviews for Dutch TV as well as appearing on Radio Veronica shortly after the initial single release.
He added: “I know we flew to Amsterdam because the lead singer of Golden Earrings body-guarded me around town. I think the rest of the band went to the hotel.
“That means we had to have done something in Amsterdam though I can’t remember what! I’ve an idea we also recorded “Muffin Man” for “Beat Club” the next day in Bremen in Germany, driving in a Limo from Amsterdam and then the band went straight back to England.
“Me being me, I went to Hamburg for the weekend and I actually saw the group broadcast live as it came on to German TV on the Thursday or Friday round a young lady’s flat.”
This recording was later made available on the “Beat Club” live in 1969 DVD but was definitely filmed and broadcast in 1968 and featured the original World Of Oz line up.
Back in the UK the band went back into the studio to commit more self-penned numbers to tape and on June 4 and June 12 they recorded “Beside The Fire” and a tune called “The Garden Of Five Flowers” which has never seen the light of day and remains unreleased.
Another session on June 24 yielded versions of “The Hum Gum Tree” which Kubinec had largely written and also the poppy “Mandy Ann” but both versions were rejected as was the earlier recording of “Beside The Fire.”
However “Hum Gum Tree”, “Mandy-Ann” and “Beside The Fire” were successfully recorded with great aplomb on July 4, 1968 with Bickerton and Vickers still at the helm but despite this flurry of creativity and genuine optimism for the future abounding, Oz simply sliced itself in half!
Kubinec explained: “Dave Reay engineered a group split and I left Oz in the middle of recording the album and Geoff Nicholls took my place. Ironically, I rejoined The Pieces and we stood in for Oz in 1969 in the Star Club in Hamburg.
“Nobody minded! The Pieces were hugely popular in northern Germany but unfortunately we didn’t make a record – we were just teenagers out for a good time and I remember rejecting offers of recording contracts with an unemployed Ritchie Blackmore coming round to watch us regularly.”
While Kubinec returned to Germany, Reay decided his future lay in the business end of the industry and so decided to hang up his sticks to go into pop music management. Indeed, Reay followed his split from Oz by taking a new British rock band under his wing.
The heavy rocking May Blitz were getting together as the first version of Oz imploded, with ex-Jeff Beck Group man Tony Newman teaming up with Canadians musicians James Black and Reid Hudson.
Reay approached them to become their manager and helped the group with an initially hectic touring schedule throughout 1969 when they were regulars on the British college circuit and he was still helping out when the band signed to Vertigo early in 1970.
But despite an eponymous album the same year followed by “The 2nd Of May” album in 1971 the group flopped badly.
While Dave Reay decided his future lay in the wheeling and dealing of group management, back in the World Of Oz the dust was beginning to settle from this unexpected break up and a second line up of the band had been given birth.
Reay’s replacement was Rob Moore who had recently left the band The Paradox and he renewed his friendship with bassist Tony Clarkson by stepping into the Oz hot seat.
Although Moore was the “baby” of the group at the tender age of just 17, the new World Of Oz retained its creative tour de force in the shape of singer-songwriter Evans while also having a bunch of talented road-hardened musicians in Evans, Clarkson and Geoff Nicholls which meant they would be very strong on stage as well as in the studio.
Despite these fairly major changes in line-up, Deram remained very happy with their psychedelic Brummies and were keen to maintain the early momentum that Oz had gained so they assigned “King Croesus” as the next single with “Jack” as the B side, released in the UK on August 16, 1968 (DM 205).
The A side had been augmented by some delicious woodwind and a moving orchestral section which gave it a delicious classical feel and was a delicious thing bequeathed them by the out-going Kubinec.
Lyrically, “King Croesus” was inspired by a statue of the last King Of Lydia who was overthrown in 546BC by Cyrus The Great, and the tune was again given glowing reviews by the music press and radio DJs.
The song proved to be another Dutch hit, staying in their chart for eight weeks and peaking at number 9. It came out a fortnight earlier in the States and dented the top 100. On November 9, 1968 “Croesus” dented the Cashbox ratings for the first of a three week run and it peaked at 94 while the American Billboard “Bubbling Under” chart had it at 126 for a week starting on November 30.
Again major commercial success eluded Oz in Britain but the momentum was building and there was now a great demand for punters to see them live on stage – a tricky prospect considering the nature of their beautifully sculpted and often orchestrated recorded work that was being cooked up in the Decca Studios.
But while the band continued recording what would become their début album, Oz also began rehearsing hard at developing its own live sound.
Moore remembered the band threw in a few cover versions as well as the material they were recording at Decca.
He said: “We did a great version of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” which we played in half time so it wasn’t at all like the original and it sounded great and was really interesting. Likewise, we also played the Beatles’ “Revolution” and neither had anything to do with what we were recording in the studio but we were a good live band and it sounded great.”
The band were in the enviable position of picking and choosing which gigs to accept but they played with a whole host of interesting acts including the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Mike Stuart Span and many others.
At the same time out in the States the American arm of Deram released “Beside The Fire” and “Mandy Ann” (45-85043) but this time around there was little or no interest in the record stateside.
Which is a shame! The A side began with a plaintive vocal from Evans backed with Kubinec’s Hammond and this mid-tempo tune gradually builds with great use of a large horn section and although it wasn’t the most immediate and radio-friendly tune around at that time there was enough of a hook to engender some airwave interest.
Oz returned to Decca’s studios on November 4 and 5, 1968 to record a further sextet of songs to add to those already recorded by the earlier line up.
Now bolstered by Nicholls and Moore the group laid down “Willow’s Harp”, “Like A Tear”, “We’ve All Seen The Queen”, “With A Little Help”, “Bring The Ring” and “Jackie” (which, incidentally, was not the song of the same name written by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel and which had become a huge international hit for Scott Walker also in 1968)
This time John Cameron had the job of Musical Director although later on it was erroneously documented that Mike Vickers had been at the helm for “Bring The Ring.”
The six songs were an excellent addition to the Oz arsenal and helped create enough material to put together the proposed first album which was scheduled to hit the British music stores in February 1969. Deram called upon pop mogul Jonathan King to write some pretentious sleeve notes to accompany the album while a colourful sleeve taking on the “Wizard Of Oz” theme to a new level was begun .
The record was released on target in February 1969 (DML 1034 in the UK and DES 18022 in America) to more rave reviews from a music press who were as nonplussed as the group itself why the Great British buying public were still largely turning a blind eye to the Brummie wizards of Oz and their psyched-out sonic adventure of pop surrealism.
On February 7, 1969 Deram also put out the brilliant single “Willow’s Harp” coupled with “Like A Tear” (DM 233). Possibly the most psychedelic record the group had released to date, in some respects the sound was now a little dated coming two and a half years after the Beatles had given the world their masterpiece “Revolver” and 18 months after “Sgt. Pepper” astonished the global music community.
But nevertheless what a release!
Less poppy than their previous releases, “Willow’s Harp” began with a gorgeously dramatic orchestral beginning interspersed with some oriental-inspired wah-wah guitar and plenty of flowery percussion. The heavily orchestrated sound that graces most Oz recordings is still there – including timpani, horns, woodwind and strings but there was a darker feel.
The flip side “Like A Tear” was simply incredible and is simply one of the best examples of British psychedelia ever recorded.
A brilliant understated droning sitar-like electric wah-wah guitar burned through the listener’s conscience like a supernova while Moore’s pounding drums were replaced with tabla to give the whole track an esoteric Indian sub-continent feel.
This was heightened by the delicate use of flute and added into the mix was some beautiful acoustic guitar and high-pitched Syd Barrett-esque backing vocals which gave yet more eerie vibes.
But when the song reaches its chorus, the beautiful melody, which is superbly underpinned by a string quartet that never ever shoves its way clumsily to the fore, reveals the real magic of Oz as the group shines…and shines.
Although stuck away as this early 1969 B side, this song has remained a cult favourite among followers of psychedelic music over the years and is still widely regarded today as an outstanding example of the genre even though it was released in the fading sunset of the psychedelia era.
Yet again the record failed to dent the British charts but it registered in Holland.
Deram then decided to release “The Hum-Gum Tree” and “Beside The Fire” as the fourth World Of Oz single for May, 1969 (DEM 255) and although copies were pressed and released, according to the Decca files this record was unofficially released in Britain.
Indeed the catalogue number 255 was an unused number in the Deram sequence but the record did see the light in other territories and was another terrific psychedelic record from a terrific psychedelic band that deserved more than it achieved commercially.
“The Hum Gum Tree” begins with a suitably strange intro that is dusted in phased effects before a primal rock beat launches the song only to dissolve into the saccharine psych-pop of a deliciously catchy verse and chorus that was hooky enough to warrant radio airplay.
Yet again Evans’ menacing lyrics retain elements of the sinister.
I love you, you love me, we love under the Hum-Gum Tree
Momma come, daddy say “where have you two been today?”
“We’ve been here, we’ve been there, we’ve been nearly everywhere!
Doesn’t matter what we’ve done, ‘cause we’ve had a lot of fun!”
Lying on a long, grass lawn
watching nature being born.
Rolling merrily in the hay
wondering what games to play…
Dum-dum then come with me
To my den in the Hum-Gum Tree
Dum-dum lots to see
In my den in the Hum-Gum Tree!
Children, children what you do
What will ever become of you?
Tho I’ve stories for your good
Never go up in the wood!
“We don’t care! we don’t care! If we want to we’ll go there!
Surely we are old enough to know all about that stuff!”
You can’t stop us growing old!
Practising what we’ve been told!
And the things that we find out
In the end we’ll know about….
Meanwhile, the sleeve notes by Jonathan King for the Oz album read as follows:
“It’s a beautiful country, the World Of Oz: meadows and fields of green luxuriance, cities and towns – cobbled and quaint, happy under the magic spell of the muffin man. Everywhere you go – the chimes of music.
Gentle rhythms, plaintive oboes choralling the colours of the rainbow, wheeling strings in the bright blue skies. The marrying of vibes and woodwind, celli and electric bass. Sensitive, pure, clean – like the brook down beneath the castle walls, bubbling words of love in the sun.
A group of minstrels wanders the streets of the city, in the shadow of the great cathedral. They make the sounds – they pattern the chords and lyrics – they sing of Jackie and Mandy Ann and Jack. They pound deep drums from their deepest souls as they observe the Hum Gum Tree – that dreaded dark forest that adults warn their children not to play in, though all the kids seem to go there, and never seem much the worse for it.
Taking their instruments of simple complexity they tell the tale of King Croesus, an ancient ruler in the Kingdom of Oz. Surely you must have heard of him> Sing along, sing along – with a little help. Welcome to the World Of Oz!
You’ve all seen the queen – now you’re invited to see this. And hear. What hearing! Will your ears believe? Turn up loud – the entire spectrum of sound – high and low – deep and wide – painted and proportioned by John, Mike, Derek and Wayne, the royal tutors of Oz who train and guide the musicians.
Stories and ballads through the purple light of sunset, chanted harmonies from the towers of worship. It is a very beautiful country, the World Of Oz. A Musical country of variety and excitement.
You really must visit and hear the melodies they play. No comparisons to make – unusual stimulating and very, very big. Happy – yes, but not always. Sad – sometimes.
A tone-perfect voice sparkling with the enthusiasm that radiates from a young skin and a bursting heart.
There are bluebirds in the land of Oz, and unicorns. Imaginary creatures come leaping to life but venture into alleyways of the town and you will see humanity mirrored – apt and fair through the windows in the World Of Oz.
It is a long but rewarding journey to the World Of Oz. You will arrive at its gates and discard your burden.
Step light-footed onto the grass inside. Everything is nature – all is fresh and good. Walk, and listen to the minstrels. Sing if you like, watch your happiest dreams gambol in front of you. Love is with you, everybody smiles and steps with light, bare feet – cool in the dew. Willow’s harp plays and you are you.
Who knows what you may find in the World Of Oz…”
Sadly, the lack of success in the UK for Oz prompted the band to partially disintegrate but Evans and Moore decided to continue and created a new group calling it KANSAS HOOK.
Tamworth based bass guitarist Charlie Harrison left Moore's previous group The Paradox to team up with the new-look Kansas Hook who carried on from where Oz left off with a similar sounding trippy pop feel.
Dave Bailey played Hammond organ, piano and keyboards while Richard Cole played guitar in the new band.
As Evans had been the chief songwriter and lead vocalist with Oz there were plenty of offers for gigs and recording and the band's first single was the truly brilliant "Echo Park" which came out on the Uni label in 1970 coupled with the equally stunning "Manhattan Woman."
The A-side begins with a meloncholic electric sitar riff and the tune builds gradually with beautiful orchestration into a powerfully-sung pop classic- truly gorgeous.
Parts of the 1812 Overture were incorprated into the outro on this song which picke dup rave reviews on Radio One and other stations but the song failed to chart.
The group recorded a number of other stunning tunes including the likes of the trippy "Soul Cake", "Eastern Star, Western Sun" & "Dance In The Smoke" during 1970 as the group worked hard but for seemingly no success.
The following year saw the band given the chance to work as the backing group for rock & roll legend Gene Vincent and after a few rehearsals Hansas Hook and the ailing American superstar went to the radio studios in Maida Vale, London to record a Radio London session.
Recorded on October 01, 1971 for the Johny Walker Show the group laid down the following tunes:
Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Roll Over Beethoven
The last song had not even been rehearsed by the group who just played it and hoped for the best but the session was well received.
Sadly this turned out to be a famous session for all the wrong reasons as Vincent died 11 days later, leaving it as the rock & roller's final output.
Hook continued on writing, recording and releasing their own material including "American Jam", the Move-like "Tara Tiger Girl", "Nature's Child" & "Mister Universe" before Evans quit the band to join the new version of 60s pop chart hitters The Casuals.
I have some extra info on The Wages of Sin and Tony Clarkson (born Anthony Clarkson, 15.7.1945, in Kingstanding? Birmingham, Warwickshire), who was in a number of bands including The Guitars Incorporated (aka The GIs), 1962 - 1963, The Wilde Cherry, 1963 - Jan 1965, The Nicky James Movement, Jan - Nov 1965, The Way Of Life, Jan - Jul 1966, The Hooties, Jul - Nov 1966, The Wages of Sin, Nov 1966 - Feb 1968, Yellow River, Zeus, The World Of Oz).
Clarkson started out in The Guitars Incorporated (aka The GIs) in 1962.
In 1963 Clarkson joined The Wild Cherries, the line-up being Nicky James on lead Vocals (born Michael Clifford Nicholls, 4.1943, in Tipton, Staffordshire d. 15.10.2007); Clarkson on Rhythm Guitar; Sprike Hopkins on Lead Guitar (born Michael Hopkins, 1.3.1946, in Great Barr, Birmingham, Warwickshire); Tony Withers on Guitar and Alan Bennett on Drums.
Sprike Hopkins started out in Cliff Angel and the Vertues, formed in 1959, in Birmingham, with a line-up of Cliff Angel (Mickey Gibbs) on Lead Vocals, Guitar (Hofner Committee); Hopkins on Lead Guitar; John Watson on Rhythm Guitar (born in 1942? in Great Barr, Birmingham, Warwickshire) and Alan Bennett on Drums.
At 14 Mickey Gibbs had played a gig at the Birchfield Road School with Gibbs on Guitar, Vocals; Mike Cassell; John Matthews; A N Other on Bass and John Wilson on Rhythm Guitar (a friend of Gibbs brother). Gibbs and Watson who had first played together at a Youth Club in Perry Barr, Birmingham, stayed together adding Sprike Hopkins on Lead Guitar; Alan Bennett on Drums and A N Other on Bass.
Cliff Angel and the Vertues played their first gig at the Say Mama Club, Manley Hall in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire (first of many), with Angel (Mickey Gibbs) on Lead Vocals; Hopkins on Lead Guitar; Watson on Rhythm Guitar and Bennett on Drums. When the band went on stage they had no name, but Ken Smith who ran the club came up with the name just before they went on stage! The band had approached Smith for a gig and he had said yes. He also managed the group.
The band soon changed their name (1959) to Gerry Levene and the Avengers with a line-up of Gerry Levene on Lead Vocals (born Michael John Gibbs, 18.2.1944, in Walsall Road, Great Barr, Birmingham, Warwickshire); Hopkins on Lead Guitar; Watson on Rhythm Guitar and Bennett on Drums. Bennett's father had a van, so he became the band chauffeur.
When Bennett went on holiday the band brought in Graeme Edge (form Coventry Road, Small Heath, Birmingham) (born Graeme Charles Edge, 30.3.1941, in Rochester, Staffordshire) (ex The Silhouettes, The Blue Rhythm Band), to deputise while Bennett was away. It worked so well that when Bennett returned from holiday he found he had been replaced by Edge. The band needed a bass player and so put an advertisement in the Birmingham Mail and it was answered by Jim Onslow (born James Richard Onslow, 18.7.1944, at Austley Cottage, Wooton Wawen, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire) (from Park Hill Road, Harborne, Birmingham) (ex Warstock, Birmingham group, Bobby Earl and the Counts, 'Earl' being one Reg Jones). Watson left in 1960 and was replaced by Roy Wood on Lead Guitar (born Roy Adrian Wood, 8.11.1946, in Kitts Green, Birmingham) (ex The Falcons).
In 1962 Gerry Levene and the Avengers played a number of gigs which were, Sat 30 Mar 1962, at the Gaumont, Worcester, Worcestershire (morning gig), at the West End, Suffolk Street, Birmingham (lunchtime), at the Old Hill Plaza, at the Wheatseaf, Sheldon (private function) and the Moat House, back of the Bull Ring all in one day. Sun 31 Mar 1962, at the Star Ballroom, Burton, at Tamworth Assembly, Rooms. Mon 1 Apr 1962, at the Hall Green Tech. Tues 2 April 1962, at the Queen's Head, Erdington, Birmingham.
The band were signed to Decca Records, having auditioned for them and EMI on the same day at the Plaza in Handsworth, Birmingham. They released one single 'Dr Feelgood' / 'It' Driving Me Wild' (1964). When Wood left he was replaced by Peter Cook on Organ, a blind keyboard player from West Browwich, Staffordshire. When the band split in Late Mar 1964, Hopkins and Onlow went to The Diplomats, while Wood went on to a number of bands, The Falcons, Nicky James and the Lawmen, Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders and became famous in The Move. Levene was later in The M & B Five, The Crossbones, Hinge, Cirkus and The Rockin’ Rockets.
The Wild Cherries started out in 1960 as Ronnie and the Renegades with Smith on Lead Vocals; Phil Ackrill on Rhythm Guitar (born Philip Ackrill, 7.3.1945, at 3 Trenvile Avenue, Fulham Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham) and Bev Bevan on Drums (born Beverley Bevan, 24.11.1944, at 803 Stratford Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham), all pupils at Moseley Grammar School where the band was formed. The band rehearsed above Bevan's mother's shop at 803 Stratford Road and played their first gig at the Las Vegas Coffee Bar, in Summer Row, Sparkhill. They became Ronny and the Senators in 1961, playing their first gig at the Hall Green Youth Club. The band were later joined in by Tony Lewis on Bass and Tony 'Wiz' Withers on Electric Guitar (ex The Buccaneers, The Hepcats). Bevan's old school friend Bob Davies (born Robert Norman Davies, 14.3.1945, in Shaftmoor Lane, Acocks Green, Birmingham), helped out as roadie and played occasional gigs on lead vocals, later changed his name to Jasper Carrot and became a famous comedian / actor / TV presenter. In Earl 1962 Ackerill and Bevan left to join Denny Laine and the Diplomats and were replaced by John Starkey on Guitar and Alan Bennett on Drums (ex Cliff Angel and the Vertues, Gerry Levene and the Avengers). The band now played every Saturday at the Las Vegas Coffee Bar.
Nicky James (ex Nicky James with Denny Laine and the Diplomats) joined the band in 1963 as lead vocalist. The band changed their name to Nicky James with Ronny and the Senators in 1963. Ronnie Smith then left the group just before the band got an offer to tour as support to Tom Jones. Jones' backing band was also called The Senators so James changed his Senators name to The Wild Cherries, the line-up being James on lead Vocals; Clarkson on Rhythm Guitar; Sprike Hopkins on Lead Guitar; Tony Withers on Guitar and Alan Bennett on Drums. The band were an absolute sensation, but soon thrown off the tour as Nicky James had so much sex appeal that it was hard for Tom Jones to follow James's performance. So The Wild Cherries were pulled from the tour. Later the band added Bob Watkins on Lead Guitar and not long after that Clarkson and Bennett left in 1963.
Clarkson then joined a number of bands before joining five piece The Nicky James Movement in Jan 1965, who included James on Lead Vocals; Clarkson on Rhythm Guitar and John Bonham on Drums (born John Henry Bonham Jr, 31.5.1948, in Hunt End, near Redditch, Warwickshire died 25.9.1980, in Windsor, Berkshire) (ex The Blue Star Trio, 1963, Gerry Levene and the Avengers, 1963, The Senators, 1964, Terry Webb and the Spiders, 1964 - 1965, Pat Wayne and the Beachcombers, 1965), who joined in 1965. At various times the band included lead guitarist Roy Wood; drummer Bev Bevan and pionist Mike Pinder (born Michael Thomas Pinder, 27.12.1941, in Wheelwright Road, Erdington, Birmingham) (ex El Riot and the Rebels, The Krew Cats, later in The Soul Preachers, The M and B 5, The Moody Blues 5 (Five), The Moody Blues).
When Gerry Levene and the Avengers split in Late Mar 1964, Sprike Hopkins and Jim Onlow went to The Diplomates, whose line-up was Jim Onslow on Bass (born James Richard Onslow, 18.7.1944, at Austley Cottage, Wooton Wawen, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire); Sprike Hopkins on Lead Guitar (born Michael Hopkins, 1.3.1946, in Great Barr, Birmingham); Bev Bevan on Drums (born Beverley Bevan, 24.11.1944, at 803 Stratford Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham) and Steve Horton on Rhythm Guitar (born 25.6.1945, at 153 Robin Hood Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham). They played their firs gig on 25 Mar 1964 at the Station Hotel in Selly Oak, Birmingham and played 56 shows in Apr & May. The Diplomats played their last gig on 31 Dec 1964 at Walsall Town Hall.
The Diplomats had formed in Earl 1962 as Denny Laine and the Diplomats with Denny Laine on Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals; Phil Ackrill on Rhythm Guitar, Vocals; Bev Bevan on Drums; Dave 'Wongy' Wheeland bass and Steve Horton on Bass (ex Sheldon outfit Clive and the Dominators).
So when Laine was still Brian Hines, had started out in Summer 1959 in The Buccaneers from Acocks Green, Birmingham, who included Tony Withers on Guitar. Hines and Withers became The Hepcats, who performed at the Valley Pub in Yardley Wood, Birmingham. When they split up Withers joined Ronny and the Renegades, while Hines joined Pat Wayne and the Deltas who needed a bass player for a few weeks. This band rehearsed at The Billesley Community Centre. Hines played bass and sang lead.
Then Hines changed his name to Johnny Dean and formed Johnny Dean and the Dominators , with a line-up of Dean (Denny Laine) on Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals (born Brian Frederick Arthur Hines, 29.10.1944, at 74 Holcombe Road, Tyseley, Birmingham); Tim Bellamy on Drums (a friend of Hines from Arnold Grove, Sparkhill); Tony Elson on Guitar (another mate) and Dave 'Wongy' Wheeland on Bass (from Grove Road, Sparkhill). The band played regularly at the Mermaid Pub, Stratford Road, Tynsley, Birmingham and the Say Mama, Maney Hall in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. They also played at the Springfield Ballroom, Springhill, Birmingham.
In Earl 1962 Phil Ackrill and Bev Bevan left Ronny and the Senators and joined up with Johnny Dean (Brian Hines) and Dave 'Wongy' Wheeland to form Denny Laine and the Diplomates. Ackrill and Bevan had been so see Denny Laine's old band the Dominators at an Irish Social Club in Digbeth, Birmingham. When Ackrill and Bevan walked home after the gig with Laine up Stratford Road, Birmingham they decided to form a band and had found it's name, Denny Laine and the Diplomats, with Laine on Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals; Ackrill on Rhythm Guitar; Bevan on Drums and the Diplomats Dave Wheeland on Bass. The first thing the band did was to buy a Bedford Van form a chap on Ladypool Road, Birmingham, Stan the Van. One of their first gigs was at the Say Mama, Maney Hall in Sutton Coldfield.
Wheeland did not stay long and sometime in 1962 he left to be replaced by Steve Horton (ex Sheldon outfit Clive and the Dominators). The band then dyed their hair blond and changed their names to pass themselves off as cousins. Horton became Sonny Laine, a cousin to Denny, while Ackrill and Bevan changed their surnames to Ralston. The band who were now fully pro appeared regularly every Monday at the Solihull Civic Hall, every Tuesday at Tyburn House, Erdington, Birmingham, at the Star Ballroom over the top of Burton's in Stratford Road, Birmingham, the Adelphi, New Street, West Bromwich and the Springfield, Sparkhill, Birmingham. Also Bevan and Ackrill's mate Bob Davies (Jasper Carrott) would sometimes sing with the band.
In Spring 1963 (on Good Friday, Apr? 1963) the band were playing a gig at the Scunthorpe Baths and in the audience was Nicky James a good looking chap from Tipton who asked if he could get up on stage and sing with the band. The band did not usually allow other people to sing in the band, but he had some heavy looking mates so Denny Laine said yes. Steve Ackrill and Horton were not happy about a complete stranger joing the band, but they went along with Laine who had assumed leadership of the group. Also they herd him singer a Elvis Presley number 'One Night With You' and he was sensational, sounded really like him. He went with the band to collect what little stuff he had and Laine took him home to live with his family. His mother said no and he had to sleep in the van! The band changed their name to Nicky James with Denny Laine and the Diplomats. There is also another story that when they got to Scunthorpe Baths the promoter informed them that Nicky James was join them on stage for the second set. Laine said no, but as James had been put on the posters, in the end Laine said yes and as he sang so well, he asked him to join the group.
In Earl 1963 at a gig at the Springfield Ballroom in Birmingham in the audience was famous producer Tony Hatch of Pye Records who had come to see Nicky James. he had made the journey up as he had herd he was a great singer. Anyway Hatch was impressed enough to invite the band to his London recording studio to record a Laine song 'Forever And A Day.' The band was not given a contract and later in 1963 James left and the band carried on as four piece and for a short time backed Buddy Ash, a local singer.
Denny Laine and the Diplomates played their last gig together on 24 Mar 1964 at Birmingham Town Hall. Laine then left and joined a number of bands, The Soul Preachers, The M and B 5, The Moody Blues 5 (Five), The Moody Blues, Denny Laine’s Electric String Band and Balls. The Others carried on and played their last gig on 31 Dec 1964 at Walsall Town Hall.
Tony Clarkson's next band was The Way of Life formed in Jan 1966 with Reg Jones on Lead Vocals (ex The Chantelles, The Chucks); Chris Jones on Guitar (brother of Reg Jones) (ex The Chucks); Sprike Hopkins on Guitar and Tony Clarkson on Bass. Their first gig was on a Sunday night at the Cedars Club, Birmingham. John Bonham showed up demanding to be their drummer and told the other applicants to go. Anyway Bonham auditioned at the club, was successful and played that night. He spent a total of 18 months in the band. He did take a break and spent a little time in the band again in 1967. The band got a regular gig at the Cedas Club and once supported The Kinks at the Plaza, Handsworth, Birmingham. In all the band only played 20 gigs. Sometimes the band had two drummers Bonham and a chap fom Kingstanding called Alan 'Bugsy' Eastwood (ex The Brumbeats, later to join The Exception with Dave Pegg and John Hill in Jan 1967), they both played the night The Way Of Life supported The Kinks. When Clarkson left the band in Jul 1966, he was replaced by Danny King on Bass, Vocals (ex Danny King and the Dukes, Danny King and the Royals, Danny King and the Mayfair Set - Jan 1966, Locomotive, 1966). A later member was Dave Pegg on Bass (born David Pegg, 2.11.1947, in Acocks Green, Birmingham) (ex The Crawdaddys, The Roy Everett Blues Band, of Fairport Convention fame).
In Jul 1966 Clarkson joined a band called The Hooties with Roger Hill. Clarkson left this band in c Nov 1966 and in Jan 1967 The Hooties became The Exception in Jan 1967, with Dave Pegg on Bass, Vocals Alan 'Bugsy' Eastwood on Drums, Vocals (ex The Brumbeats, Way of Life); John Rowlands on Bass, Vocals; Roger Hill on Guitar, Vocals (ex The Brumbeats) and Malcolm Garner on Guitar, Vocals. The band rehearsed at the Prince Rupert Pub in Nechells, Birmingham.
Then in c Nov 1967 Clarkson formed The Wages of Sin, with Eddie Pilling on Lead Vocals (born Edward Pilling, 13.1.1948, in Kingstanding? Birmingham); Brian Pilling on Rhythm Guitar (born 28.12.1949, in Kingstanding? Birmingham); Sprike Hopkins on Lead Guitar (born (born Michael Hopkins, 1.3.1946, in Great Barr, Birmingham); Clarkson on Bass and Johnny Skidmore on Drums.
Thanks to: John Warburg