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The Last Thing on my Mind - the Move

Play loud as you can, it will reward you.

Canadian folksinger and writer of "Going to the Zoo" (see post before last) Tom Paxton's most famous song is "The Last Thing on My Mind" a romantic ballad. The Move were a UK rock / pop group that existed from 1965 until 1971. They had ten UK top twenty hits and had their third hit, "Flowers in the Rain" was the first record ever played on BBC's Radio One in 1967.

For many this last fact may need an explanation. Amazing though it may seem, up until this time UK radio consisted of a monopoly by the BBC comprising just three radio stations: the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme. Nowadays the Home Service is Radio 4 and the Third Programme Radio 3. The Light Programme was a weird mix of comedy shows, radio soaps and music. There were hardly any music shows for young people - I remember the highlights for anyone interested on rock / pop music were the very comfy and middle of the road Family Favourites and the Pick of the Pops chart show, both on Sundays. Consequently, the BBC lost out to a host of off-shore pirate radio stations such as Radios Caroline, Luxembourg and London. Radio One was their surrender, and an important admission within British society that there was such a thing as youth culture.

Curiously "Flowers in the Rain" caused a furore in its own right because its advertising campaign included a postcard that featured a picture of the then Prime Minister and his Political Secretary Marcia Williams in bed together. Suggestions that the pair had had an affair had been roundly quashed by the government, so the inscription on the back which stated: "“Despicable is the only way to describe Harold Wilson. But beautiful is the only word to describe The Move’s new record ‘Flowers In The Rain’." was inflammatory to say the least. The group pleaded that they were unaware of the publicity campaign, but they were the ones who wound up in the dock, having been sued for libel by Wilson, stumping up £3,000 in costs plus and having all royalties from the song paid to charities of Wilson's choice. While the affair did no harm to the credibility of the group - being seen to be anti-establishment was no bad thing in the heady sixties - and certainly provided excellent publicity for the single, over time it must have cost the Move, particularly songwriter Roy Wood, hundreds of thousands of pounds in royalties. Presumably, every time the song is played on a radio station, or on the Internet, or is downloaded, the money is still going to charity, despite doubts being raised about the judgement over the years.

In his memoir "Glimmers of Twilight" published in 2005, journalist and one-time Press Secretary to Wilson, Joe Haines, alleged that Wilson and Williams had indeed had an affair in the 1950's but when the BBC repeated these allegations in a 2006 tv docudrama, she successfully sued them for libel, receiving £75,000 damages and £200,000 costs.

As the Move's record was used to launch the BBC's fledgling pop radio station only 12 days before the court judgement in 1967, I like to think that even then the Beeb was showing some of the independence and bravery that in the past few years has put their very existence under threat (see last week's Panorama), even if it has cost them a pretty packet from time to time.

The Move haven't achieved a the kind of long-term status of many of their rock contemporaries such as the Who, the Kinks and the Small Faces, let alone the Stones and the Beatles. This is surprising considering the pedigree of the band - Roy Wood, Bev Bevan and Jeff Lynne going on to form ELO but this - the classic line-up featuring Wood's experimental adoption of different musical styles, Bevan's busy drumming, Rick Price's solid bass and Carl Wayne's wonderful, underrated singing - is due for a reappraisal.

Here "The Last Thing on My Mind", a gentle folk ditty, is transformed into a rock epic: Woods' guitar play flirts with with Indian musical motifs, finally plumping for West Coast reverb psychedelia, culminating in a guitar solo that the Byrds or Jefferson Airplane would have been proud of. And Mr Wayne delivers maybe the finest vocal lead ever to have come out of Birmingham.

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