Monday, 17 March 2008

THE MOVE: Cherry Blossom Clinic

The Move were always too awkward for their time, even when their time was one of the most awkward; onstage extremism which attempted to outdo the Who, but the lead singer leaned more towards cabaret, and extravagant fantasies of drug-eroded autodestruction composed by the only member of the group who was a Rechabite, a total abstainer. Straddling the gap, and opening new chasms as they stamped their way past, between sixties Brumbeat and seventies Brummetal, Bev Bevan's foursquare brute force drumming actually makes perfect sense in this context; "Night Of Fear" is clearly ready to burst out of its post-Cavern corset (and its B-side, "Disturbance" goes gruesomely further). Everything is too top heavy for visions of light utopias.

Thus "Cherry Blossom Clinic," the clear masterpiece on their eponymous debut album which, true to their awkwardity, didn't appear until the spring of '68 (i.e. far too late) and the true beginning of ELO and Roy Wood's expansiveness. It shuttles violently between relatively straightforward verses - structurally the exact martial midpoint between "Flowers In The Rain" and "Blackberry Way" - where Carl Wayne describes the cold realities of being sectioned ("I was gonna be kept in a bed owing to my state of mind," go the curiously chaste lyrics, "and then I found out that the authorities had said, um, that I'd gotta have special food fed to me for my thoughts, um, and I think it's because, er, because I was going off my...HEAD!") and fantasy bridges and choruses where the shrill lightness of Wood's voice takes over as he tells of 20,000 butterflies, asking the Queen to tea, even as his reverie is interrupted by Bevan's five stroke hammering descents of drums as though the patient is being pushed down several flights of stairs, before paranoid Psycho strings slash their way into the bright piccolo trumpet fanfares, trying hard not to turn into screams.

This cherry blossom dream offers no escape; witness the ECT icepick of high strings which slices in after Wood's "trying hard to meditate." Callous friends and suffocating blankets are kept as much at bay as possible as the schizophrenic tries to preserve what's left of his vision(s) as brass and strings - expertly marshalled by arranger Tony Visconti - coalesce into ruined puddles of poison even as he hails the sun shining "like a tea tray in the sky" before he cheerfully concludes "Probably feel better when I'm dead"; all to a smart bubblegum tune being forced into drowning by piercing cries of wounded eagles, carousels mutating into daggers, barely exceeding two and a half minutes but slicing deeper in its own callous manner than "Walrus." The Move thrashed their psychedelic vistas against a Brummie brick wall of hardness, and conformity, and commitments in a mess. Half a decade later, ELO's "10538 Overture" would describe how the same refugee attempts to make his escape. Then think of another pop record Visconti helped bring into being yet a half decade later, full of pale blinds and electric blue...and wonder into how many pieces Jimmy's scooter actually splintered...