Almost from the day Wizzard was formed we were never off the television. We had outrageous costumes, we had road managers dressed as gorillas and even Mike Sheridan made an appearance as a second Roy Wood. Every time we got a 'Top of The Pops' we felt obliged to come up with even more outrageous outfits. Well we did have Sweet and Mud to contend with.
With the release of 'Ball Park Incident' a UK tour was the next step. We would need a p.a. system, a regular sound-man, a road crew. It's a bit of a blur but we went through lots of road crew, Pete Shepherd and Richard Battle lasted the longest as far as I can remember. Both of the above were gorillas at one time or another.
I can't remember why but we decided to buy, rather than rent a p.a. system. Trevor Smith had a mate who built mixers. We ordered a forty-channel custom built jobby. We struggled with this thing for about two weeks before we opened it up to find the inputs wired to the outputs, bypassing all the channel controls except the fader volume. Lesson learned, we rented from then on.
We recorded loads of great tracks. 'Wizzard Brew' was a bit outside the rules, but 'Eddie And The Falcons' was excellent. Thanks to Roy's writing and production all the singles were outstanding, and although it sounds corny, when we were mixing 'See My Baby Jive', we did know it was a hit.
It was a blazing hot summers day when we recorded the Kerr-ching for the opening of 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday'. The idea of a "Christmas Single" was brand new in 1973. Previous December hits had been things like 'Two Little Boys' by Rolf Harris and 'Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west)' by Benny Hill. When Roy first suggested a song specifically aimed at the Christmas market, we all thought it was a great and revolutionary new idea. We didn't have any idea that Noddy and Slade had got one lined up too.
There is no doubt that Roy Wood is one of the nicest, kindest, most generous men on the planet. There is no doubt that he is one of the most talented and under-rated songwriters ever, but his attitude to money in 1973 made me look like Donald Trump and Bill Gates rolled into one. When we finished recording 'Angel Fingers' it was rumoured that we had spent more time in the studio than Paul McCartney had with the whole of the 'Band On The Run' album. Whether it was true or not, this meant that most of the record company's money was spent in studio time and that the members of the band had to rely on live touring work for their income. A couple of tours in the UK and one tour of the USA were not enough to ensure regular wages for the band. One by one the band members found other, more lucrative, things to occupy their time.
We had done a reasonably successful tour of the USA, but we had failed to capitalise on it. There was certainly more money involved than there was for the Move tour, but although the record company had changed, the record company attitude had not. There is a lot of bullshit in the record business, but despite the record company's apparent inability to promote our records, we and especially Roy seemed to get a truly warm reception wherever we went. If Wizzard or indeed just Roy had stayed in the States for a few months, I'm sure it would have been a different story.
About two months before the American tour, Roy and I were invited out to do a short promotional tour of the radio stations around Los Angeles. We were wined and dined by Warner Brothers Records who seemed, at the time, to be ready to pull out all the stops to promote this new UK talent. We had chauffeurs. We had guides. We had tickets to Disneyland and to a Carol King concert. They arranged a meeting with Elvis, which kept getting postponed and was finally cancelled altogether. They did get us a meeting with Brian Wilson and being a complete Beach Boys anorak, I couldn't wait.
When the day finally came, I wished I had waited. A limo took us to his house where a woman that we assumed was his housekeeper invited us in. We had already sent over a copy of 'Forever' for Brian to listen to and the young Wilson girls sang it to us as we drove through the gates. Roy had written and sung it in the style of The Beach Boys and we thought that the production had captured the sound that they were creating at the time. It wasn't a piss take, it was a tribute. We sat in Brian's music room for about half an hour, imagining that he may have created Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations sitting at that piano, before we were invited into what looked like a garage with a bed in it.
We were altogether unprepared for what followed. He was very poorly. Bloated by drugs and food, he was alarmingly overweight and totally bed- ridden. He was lying on his back and it was all he could do to turn his head to look at us. Think Elvis and double it. It was a saddening and shocking sight. All of L.A. knew about Brian's lifestyle and the minders from Warner Brothers Records had assumed that we did too. We didn't.
To see the genius that had created such great work in such a pitiful mess was a life-changing event. The gift that we had sent to him, clearly hadn't helped his mental state either. He was convinced that the vocal had been done by his brother Carl and from the all too brief conversation that followed, it was obvious that the playing of our record had only served to increase his paranoia.
As I left I was sure I had just spoken to a dead man. Happily I was wrong. Although it took him twenty years, he appears to have crawled out of the hell that he had created for himself. OK Warner Brothers, now I'd like to meet him.
By the beginning of 1975 Roy was concentrating on his own material and Wizzard was more or less finished as a going concern. A second tour of the USA had fallen through because the band members, including myself, had wanted more money. We felt we'd done the first tour on the cheap and that feeling, along with the big spending on the recordings, made us believe that someone was taking advantage. Looking back, I'd say that we could easily have negotiated a deal, but tempers were frayed and it all got a bit silly.
I stayed on for a few months. Mike Burney was around too. I was helping Roy in the office and the studio with his own project, and even living in a flat over the office, two hundred miles from my family. The lack of live work meant that I had no real income. Suddenly, I was aware that I was turning into a secretary and I didn't like it much. Mike Sheridan felt so sorry for me that he created a job. The Nightriders gained a pedal steel guitarist for a few months and I got to know the wife again.