Written by Kenny Bloggins
Sure, in the perennial binary opposition argument of Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, I fall vehemently in the camp of the former. But even outside that question, there's nothing particularly remarkable to me about The Stones that justify them as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. I dug a lot of the psych-influenced garage blues found on Between the Buttons-era singles and full-lengths, but these songs don't sound that different from the dozens of bands from throughout Europe and North America found on the Nuggets box sets. Exile on Main Street is a good album, but not top ten greatest of all time. It was an expansive album that simply encapsulated really well, with particular orchestral panache, where we were in the rock and roll paradigm in 1972.
Right around the time Exile was released, one of the the most under-celebrated rock bands of all time threw in the towel. Not well known by any stretch outside of their native England, they were called The Move. And for whatever reason, they didn't invade with the rest of Britain in the late '60s.
After the dissolution of The Move, the final line-up of Roy Wood, Bev Bevan, and Jeff Lynne would later find success going a more symphonic route with their new project, Electric Light Orchestra. But The Move bore little resemblance to the orchestral-pop leaning ELO. The Move amalgamated the soaring choruses and psychedelic tinge of first wave British Invasion bands like The Faces, with touches of Incredible String Band weirdo folk, and gritty, dirty American blues standards. Sound familiar? At their best, The Move, save for their clairvoyant predictions of prog and metal, were as good as or better than most of the British Invasion.
As an armchair rock and roll sociologist who didn't live in the late '60s, I can only hypothesize age old archetypes as to why The Move never found international success, while their contemporaries did. In the case of The Rolling Stones, they were young and handsome, touched by tabloid-grabbing tragedy (the untimely death of Brian Jones), and possessed the "bad boy" image that provided the ying to the playful Beatles yang. The Rolling Stones smoked in the bathroom in their cool leather jackets, The Move were the band geeks. For many in the Nuggets set, the blues were number one, and that's it. The Move took blues standards into new directions, and wore their nerdiness on their sleeves. They loved a wide swath of music, and incorporated all of it - ragtime, doo wop, rockabilly - into a nasty, boroque-style form of rock that, oddly, often felt grimier and punchier than even the most drugged-out of the British Invasion set. In that sense, it makes The Move feel even ballsier - they risked more.
Not to mention, while The Stones and their peers revamped older forms of rock and roll, The Move predicted others. In 1970, the band released "Brontosaurs" as a single from Looking On. What an appropriate name, as this song predated the heavy metal movement that would blow up a couple years later. Here's a jam heavier than lead, one that could probably still terrify parents. That raw, blues-informed, fuzzed out guitar line picks up so much low end, with such visceral chunkiness, you couldn't cut it with a knife. Keith Richards couldn't write this... he played it too safe.
"Cherry Blossom Clinic," from the 1967 eponymous album, also prophesized the coming Me decade, exploring glam sounds that would fit well on a Sparks or T Rex record.
The 10-minute "Fields of People," from the 1970 six-song Shazam, goes full prog, replete with sitar solos, Anglophilia, movement shifts, weird time signatures, and varying tempos.
When The Move was inspired by the here and now of their time, they synthesized the expansive trippy sounds of flower power better than most bands that were considered part of the scene proper. The title track to The Move's final record, Message From The Country, offers to me, as an enthusiast of late '60s and early '70s aesthetics, the ultimate marriage of blues, proto-metal, and psychedelia within a succinct, hooky five minute album opener... something The Rolling Stones spent years doing in the '60s but never realized within a single song. Hell, it even ends in a war march... paging Dr. Osbourne. "Message From the Country" is where flower power met fire power.
As with any argument extolling the virtues of one artist over another, none of this is to say that the Stones and their British Invasion contemporaries are wholly unworthy of their legacy and praise, despite my antagonistic opening to grab your attention. However, it's unfortunate to see a band like The Move, who possessed a similar approach yet executed it more creatively, often get relegated to the dustiest of used record bins. Hell, I didn't even find out about The Move until I saw Phantom Family Halo perform "Brontosaurs," found the version Tim Curry (of Rocky Horror) covered, and then and only then discovered The Move. This is problematic, because they belong in the same conversation as all the greats.