Great Psychedelic Discography

The Idle Race

Birmingham was hardly the hub of the music industry, but by the mid-60s, rival Brit-beat-cum-psychedelic groups, The MOODY BLUES and The MOVE, had stamped their authority by way of massive-selling hit singles. In competition to these “Brummie” combos were second division contenders, The IDLE RACE, members with whom had stemmed from Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders, who’d featured in their ranks, a young pre-MOVE, Roy Wood; a friend of the latter, Jeff Lynne, was indeed the main man in The IDLE RACE, so the ancestral connection to The ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA was in place.
When the aforesaid Mike Sheridan turned his back on The Nightriders (rhythm guitarist/vocalist Dave Pritchard, bassist Greg Masters and drummer Roger Spencer), the trio enlisted the help of ex-Carl Wayne & The Vikings guitarist Johnny Mann to fill the void. This however was short-lived, when in the summer of ’66, lead guitarist Jeff Lynne came to the band’s rescue. His diverse and multi-faceted talent was spot on, although the group’s contractual debut 45, `It’s Only The Dog’, failed to capture valuable airwave space.
In need of a re-vamp after Polydor Records let them go, The IDLE RACE – the moniker chosen from the poetical “Idyll Race” title – found the necessary patronage from old mucker, ROY WOOD. He convinced messrs Eddie Offord (future YES producer), Gerald Chevin and, in turn, Liberty Records, to give them a shout, although a cover of the MOVE man’s `Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree’ was shelved when it turned up on the B-side of near chart-topper, `Flowers In The Rain’. Instead, the freakishly psychedelic `Imposters Of Life’s Magazine’ (bridging the gap between The MOVE and PINK FLOYD) flopped unceremoniously. On the back of post-BEATLES capers were the order of the day, one-that-got-away was surely The IDLE RACE’s mischievous follow-up, `The Skeleton And The Roundabout’. Records didn’t have to make “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” sense in these trippy halcyon days.
`End Of The Road’ and the quirky (but withdrawn) `I Like My Toys’ preceded the quartet’s debut LP, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY (1968) {*6}; but it seemed that their blend of cheeky, WHO/SMALL FACES-like psychedelics (example `(Don’t Put Your Boys In The Army) Mrs. Ward’) had missed a beat in the day’s fickle industry.
Content with sticking with the psych-beat, `Days Of Broken Arrows’ and `Come With Me’ (the latter previewing sophomore set, IDLE RACE (1969) {*5}), the group were going nowhere fast. Sounding at times SEEKERS-esque folky (`Reminds Me Of You’, `Girl At The Window’ and `Sea Of Dreams’) or novelty-led (`Big Chief Woolley Bosher’), main contributor Jeff Lynne was becoming increasingly frustrated at their lack of success. He duly found fame in both The MOVE and the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA.
Having stiffed as quasi-psychedelia evolved into prog-rock, the remaining alumni of the IDLE RACE added Mike Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Dave Walker (vocals/harmonica); a version of MUNGO JERRY’s `In The Summertime’ subsequently hit Top 10 in Argentina, while their follow-up was a cover of HOTLEGS’ (future 10CC), `Neanderthal Man’. Needless to say, there was no room in the British market for such blatant rip-off antics.
IDLE RACE continued as an acoustic-folk act. Released on Regal Zonophone, 1971’s TIME IS {*4} was never going to fly off the shelves, but it at least housed a couple of renditions of GORDON LIGHTFOOT’s `Bitter Green’ and Jesse Lee Kincaid’s `She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune’. When they split early ‘72, mostly all of them joined the teething STEVE GIBBONS BAND, having earlier backed King Biscuit Boy; Walker joined SAVOY BROWN then CHICKEN SHACK before being given a free transfer to FLEETWOOD MAC; Roger became Ollie Spencer and worked as a comedian; Pritchard went on to Willy & The Poor Boys (with BILL WYMAN), and much later Hopkins joined QUARTZ.
© MC Strong 1997/GPD // rev-up MCS Oct2012

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