the times, 3rd september 2004
Frontman of the
Move who turned out scintillating pop tunes while smashing equipment and went on
to lead the Hollies.
Carl Wayne was the lead singer of the Move, the Birmingham band of the Sixties whose tightly crafted pop melodies often stood at odds to the aggressive stage image chosen by their first manager. Concerts featuring the Move could often give rise to the unlikeliest of spectacles, such as Wayne laying into a stack of televisions with an axe after a setlist that included such quasi-psychedelic gems as I Can Hear the Grass Grow and Flowers in the Rain, or a band member throwing glasses at the audience during the melodic, chart-topping Blackberry Way.
Flowers in the Rain had the honour of being the first song played on BBC Radio 1, and the Move eventually mutated into Jeff Lynne's prog flagship the Electric Light Orchestra and the particoloured minstrelsy of Roy Wood's Wizzard. But by that time Wayne had embarked on a diverse musical career that involved him, variously, in singing jingles for Tetley and Martini, enjoying a six-year run in Willy Russell's hit musical Blood Brothers, recording the greatest hits of Andrew Lloyd Webber and finally taking over from Allan Clarke as the lead singer of the Hollies.
Wayne was born Colin David Tooley in Birmingham in 1943, and changed his name to the snappier Carl Wayne when he took over as the vocalist for the forgettable group the Vikings in the mid-Sixties. The Move was formed after a late-night jam session at the Cedar Club in Birmingham in 1965; Wayne, Ace Kefford and Bev Bevan (three fifths of the Vikings) joined Roy Wood (of the Nightriders) and Trevor Burton (of Danny King & the Mayfair Set) to make a new band. Taking inspiration from Motown and soul, the Move (so called for the move that the group's members had all made to join) excelled in four-part vocal harmony and began to take gigs around the city. But it was with the arrival of Tony Secunda, the manager of the Moody Blues, that the band's reputation began to grow.
A skillful publicist who believed that any coverage was good coverage, Secunda booked the band into the Marquee in Soho and encouraged them to develop the maniacal, aggressive stage personality of that venue's previous incumbents, The Who. Dressed as gangsters, with a new West Coast sound bolstered by a publicity shot of them signing a contract on the back of a topless model, the Move released their first single to a riot of acclaim. This was Night of Fear, which melded a riff ripped wholesale from the 1812 overture with lyrics that encouraged the News of the World to inveigh against young bands and drug use. Typically of the contrasts that would come to define the group, it was also a near-masterpiece of pop prettiness.
One Move concert was apparently distinguished by Wayne's setting fire to the stage during the song Fire Brigade ("Get the fire brigade, get the fire brigade / See the buildings start to really burn"), resulting in the closure of streets around Soho for hours. Later gigs involved stunts such as the wholesale dismemberment of a Cadillac with a saw.
An older, soberer Wayne would later pronounce himself dismayed by the lengths to which he went at Secunda's bidding. "I look back at it now and I shiver, thinking how dangerous it was to the public in general to use a big woodcutter's axe to smash up not one but maybe half a dozen televisions with all the glass flying around," he said.
At the time, though, neither he nor his manager were troubled by any such scruples. "(Secunda) could see that under my skin there was this animal with enormous aggression, that when stirred would want to go and fight somebody," said Wayne. "He'd say 'Go and fight them, Charlie,' and I'd say, 'Ok, I'll go," and if I got smashed up, I got smashed up. It was no use Secunda managing a mainstream act, there was nothing for him to do. But with us it was 'Stick an axe through
that window, Charlie!'"
The band's association with their smash-up Svengali came to a close after a disastrous stunt to promote 'Flowers in the Rain' (1967). A promotional postcard was released with a cartoon of the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in a state of undress; when the touchy Wilson found out, the Move found themselves in the High Court fighting a libel action.
The final ruling not only imposed a gagging order forbidding them to discuss the cartoon, but also ordered all royalties from the single to be diverted to a charity of Wilson's choice - an arrangement that continues to this day.
Nineteen sixty-seven also brought a tour of Britain with Amen Corner and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the band even contributed backing vocals to You Got Me Floatin' on Hendrix's album Axis: Bold as Love. But the levity of the Move's material was beginning to tell when considered beside their more adventurous contemporaries. The next year brought the release of the Fire Brigade and Wild Tiger Woman singles; Wayne famously threatened that the band would split if their effort for 1969, Blackberry Way, did not reach No 1. It did, but the drummer quit.
After a featherlight single, Curly, a spell in cabaret and a grinding tour of America's underground venues, the Move put out its most experimental record, Shazam, in 1970. Shortly afterwards, Wayne left too. Around the time of his departure, the band moved, at its new member Jeff Lynne's agency, towards incorporating classical instruments and synthesisers in the service of a progressive, symphonic sound. This culminated with the establishment of ELO, probably the most visibly extravagant group of the 1970s.
Meanwhile, though, Wayne was taking work where he could find it. He recorded a self-titled solo album in 1972, with an uncredited Dusty Springfield singing backing vocals, before turning to voiceover work in advertisements on TV and radio and even an appearance on the soap opera Crossroads. In 1974 he married the actress Sue Hanson from the series.
In the next two decades, his flexible voice and command of different singing styles ensured that he remained in demand. He appeared in musicals ranging from Godspell to Jesus Christ Superstar and Miss Saigon, and on TV programmes with Terry Wogan, Jim Davidson and Benny Hill among many others. Between 1990 and 1996 he won enormous acclaim for his portrayal of the narrator in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers in the West End.
In 2000 he agreed to replace Allan Clarke on lead vocals when Clarke finally quit his veteran pop group the Hollies. With Wayne at the mic, the group toured Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand to packed houses. Wayne's solo album was rereleased the next year. A keen supporter of research into leukaemia, he also competed regularly in marathons and triathlons to raise money.