The last song before our next recap, and a late contender for one of the very best of the past bunch…?
See My Baby Jive, by Wizzard (their 1st of two #1s)
4 weeks, from 13th May – 10th June 1973
This record sets its stall out early. Remember when we thought The Sweet introing with an air-raid siren was ballsy? Well how about a Spitfire doing a fly-past, followed by some anti-aircraft fire? But this song is so good, you’ve somehow forgotten about the outrageous intro within ten seconds of the first verse. The guns turn into cascading drums, and a wall of sound comes in and kicks you up the backside.
Look out, Look out, Your momma would shout, You might as well go home… She said, My bed, Gets into your hair, So give me back my comb… Yeah… Me neither. These are definitely lyrics that need Googling. But as with most of the great glam singles from this era, the words don’t really matter. They’re about dancing, about making sweet music while strutting around in mascara and a feather boa. About how well your baby can move. See my baby jive, See my baby jive, She hangs on to me and she really goes, Woah, woah, woah…
That woah, woah, woah is perhaps the most gloriously uplifting, catchy moment that we’ve heard so far in any of the previous three hundred and twenty-nine number one records. It’s wonderful. It’s Prozac for the ears. In fact, the entire five minutes of ‘See My Baby Jive’ is pop perfection: a huge slice of glam, mixed with splashes of fifties malt shop and doo-wop, with a big knob of Phil Spector-esque production. Wizzard were an eight-man band, complete with cellists, saxophonists, clarinettists, French hornists, synthesisers, and more, all crammed into this one song, with a crazy genius at the helm.
Roy Wood has had one previous number one – The Move’s ‘Blackberry Way’ – and since then he’s founded Electric Light Orchestra. But it was with Wizzard that he really let loose, and showed just what he was capable of. And not many would be capable of taking all the different elements chucked into the mix on ‘See My Baby Jive’, and turning it into a hit.
The solo starts off classical, and finishes as jazz. The outro sounds like The Beach Boys are getting in on the act somewhere off in the background. (This record has too many references, too many Easter eggs, to keep track of. Five minutes long it may be, but it never drags.) All the while you can picture all the boys in town rushing down the street, just to see his baby jive. She’s an addictive woman, summed up in the brilliant line – one of the few that stand out against the chaos – You, You make things that get along, Turn out, So wrong…
Wizzard had had one previous hit, the almost as good – and just as loopy – ‘Ball Park Incident’ which made #6, and they will go on to have one further, brilliant chart-topper (and release a Christmas song that some of you may have heard, once or twice) before 1973 is out. But I’m not sure they ever topped ‘See My Baby Jive’. And I don’t think I’ve ever not loved this song. It was a regular feature of our ‘long family car journey’ tapes and CDs. (On many a trip did I sit in the back seat, waiting for the anti-aircraft fire to ring out…)
I don’t normally mention the ‘B’-sides to the #1 singles I cover, but how could I resist when I discovered that the flip-side to this single was called ‘Bend Over Beethoven’! Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as outrageous as its title implies… Anyway, like I said at the top, a recap is up next, in which the other recent chart-toppers will have to go some to stop me naming ‘See My Baby Jive’ as the very best.