THE PROG INTERVIEW
He was a member of The Move, a founding member of ELO and even a member of Black Sabbath. He is drummer Bev Bevan and this is his remarkable story in his own words.
The Prog Interview is just that: every month we’re going to get inside the minds of some of the biggest names in music. This issue, it’s
Bev Bevan. The Birmingham-based drummer was an original member of both The Move and ELO, followed by ELO II, and has toured and recorded with Black Sabbath, as well as numerous others. Bevan gives us a glimpse into his long career, from his early influences to the musical freedom of the 70s, playing with one of the biggest-selling groups in the world and beyond.
In 1965, Birmingham-based guitarist Trevor Burton and bass guitarist Ace Kefford were putting together a group. They went to see a young David Jones – who seemed on the verge of success and was just about to change his stage name to Bowie – and after the show they asked him for some advice on how to crack the music business. He told them: “Find the best people in Birmingham and rehearse like crazy. Then move to London and get yourself a manager.”
They recruited Bev Bevan on drums and Carl Wayne on
The 1979 Out Of
The Blue tour was amazing and a lot of people have said it was the best show they’ve ever seen – it was spectacular.
vocals – Bevan had played in local bands since his schooldays and had recently played with Carl Wayne And The Vikings on the gruelling German club circuit – and Roy Wood on guitar and vocals.
This new band, The Move, quickly established themselves as one of the premier British groups of the 60s, notching up 10 Top 40 hits, nine of which made the Top 20. They made four albums, which encompassed pop, psychedelia, heavy rock, eccentric cover versions, classical quotations and the odd lengthy proto-progressive rock excursion.
Following Wayne’s departure in 1970, guitarist and vocalist
Jeff Lynne – who had previously been in The Idle Race – joined The Move for their third album, Looking On. That same year, Lynne, Bevan and Wood began working together for the first time as Electric Light Orchestra. They scoring an immediate hit with 10538 Overture and recorded a self-titled album in 1972.
The Move folded and Lynne and Bevan carried on as ELO, a journey that would take them from baroque oddity to string-driven progressive rockers to purveyors of lavish orchestral pop. ELO were one of the world’s biggest-selling groups, with No.1 albums and 20 hit singles by 1980, but their popularity waned and they disbanded in 1986. Bevan then played in ELO Part II with ex-members from 1989-’99.
He has enjoyed a remarkable, wide-ranging career, most of it involving friends from Birmingham and the Midlands. These have included spells as live drummer in Black Sabbath and playing percussion on The Eternal Idol (1987), hooking up with Trevor Burton again in The Move Featuring Bev Bevan And Trevor Burton, and touring this year with a friend from his schooldays, Jasper Carrott, in the live show Stand Up & Rock.
Bevan joined Midlands group Quill – self-described as country/folk/rock – as drummer and percussionist in 2017 and has played on and contributed material to their new EP Grey Goose Call.
You initially played in beat groups, but with The Move you drummed in a more expansive and flamboyant style. Who influenced your playing?
Early on I didn’t know the names of my favourite drummers, but they turned out to be people like Hal Blaine [of the Wrecking
The Move were always a great band to play in as you always had total freedom to play exactly what you wanted. No one said, ‘Hey, keep it simple.’ I could do whatever
Crew session group], and I used to love Phil Spector records and the bigness of the drums. So I was influenced by listening to records, rather than seeing people.
Tony Secunda became our manager and got us a residency at the Marquee in 1966. That’s when I started seeing drummers like Keith Moon and Ginger Baker, and learning from them as well.
When The Move was formed
I’d developed a reputation for certainly being the loudest drummer in the Birmingham area until John Bonham came along. He used to come and watch me when he was in a band called Terry Webb And The Spiders, from Redditch.
He did learn stuff from me but, of course, within a year I was watching him and he became probably the best rock drummer in the world. We were really good friends. [Later on] I used to go to his house in Hadley, where he had a couple of kits set up, and this tiny little kit made by Ludwig for his son Jason, and the three of us would play together.
The Move’s records are so exciting because one can feel that things were changing quickly and lots of ideas were coming through. How did it feel to you at the time?
The Move were always a great band to play in as you always had total freedom to play exactly what you wanted. No one said, “Hey, keep it simple.” I could do whatever I liked.
The album I like most is Shazam . It’s an eclectic mix alright, and by the time you get to Message From The Country , you’ve even got some country and western in there.
You had some pretty heavyweight management in Tony Secunda and Don Arden. What did they add to the group?
Don Arden never really managed The Move. He was involved but he was more of an agent. Tony Secunda was a good manager, but he made mistakes and the biggest was not sending us to America in 1967–1968 as I think we would have done well. We only did one tour there in 1969.
The other one was issuing that libellous postcard [a cartoon of PM Harold Wilson in bed with his secretary Marcia Williams] with Flowers In The Rain, which gave us front page coverage but lost us the royalties, including Roy’s songwriting royalties [which Wilson was awarded in the libel case], which he’s still fighting to this day to get back.
So Tony did make mistakes, but he was a great ideas man. We’d turn up in London looking like The Who, really, with mod gear, and he turned that round completely, and put us in gangster suits and really cool-looking clothes, and hired a great photographer called Bobby Davidson. He gave us an image. And the smashing of the TVs [onstage], that was another idea of Tony Secunda’s – destroying the one-eyed monster in the living room.
The Move played on the famous 1967 package tour with Jimi Hendrix, Pink
Floyd, Amen Corner, The Nice and Eire Apparent. Do you have any particular memories of that?
It was two shows a night, in theatres. The opening act were Pink Floyd and they got to play two songs – their two hits, See Emily Play and Arnold Layne.
Pink Floyd were difficult; they kept themselves to themselves. Nick Mason was fine, but drummers always speak to each other. I remember Syd Barrett being a bit weird. He seemed out of it most of the time. I don’t think he was even speaking to the others much.
But everyone else was really friendly. Amen Corner asked
Roy Wood to write them a song, which he did, Hello Susie, and it became a big hit. Hendrix, and Noel [Redding, bass] and Mitch [Mitchell, drums] were great guys and we got on very well. The Move closed the first half – we played about half an hour – and Hendrix closed the second half, as there was no way you would want to follow Hendrix onstage.
What was it like seeing Roy Wood become one of the best UK songwriters of the 60s?
We were playing the Marquee to sell-out crowds every Thursday night and it was a great show, and they were queuing around the block to see it, but it was all covers. We had record companies wanting to sign us, but Tony Secunda said, “It’s all very well, but if we get a record deal, you guys have got to write some original songs.”
None of us were songwriters, including Roy, but he was the closest thing we’d got to one so Tony said, “Here’s a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a mic – get writing.” And he would come up with these extraordinary songs. He couldn’t churn them out, but he could write a good song in a couple of weeks.
Roy wasn’t that prolific, so when he came up with a new song, everyone wanted to sing it, including Roy. Trevor and Ace would also say they’d like to sing it and Carl said, “I’m the lead singer – I should sing it.”
So that’s why when you listen to I Can Hear The Grass Grow, you can hear three different lead singers. Someone would sing the verse, someone would sing the chorus, someone else would sing the middle eight. I did bass vocals on a lot of the records as well.
Electric Light Orchestra formed while The Move were still going. Was it always the plan to run the two groups simultaneously?
The Move were signed to EMI Harvest and had what turned out to be the last ever single California Man [in 1972], which was a massive hit. So EMI were saying, “We want The Move. We’ve got this hit band and you want to do this thing called Electric Light Orchestra?”
They weren’t very keen on the idea. So whatever recording costs were involved in the first ELO album were made from an advance that we got for The Move. So they did coexist for a little while.
Is it true that ELO were thought of as a conceptual group in which you would expand on the arrangement ideas of Beatles songs like I Am The Walrus?
Jeff, myself and Roy were huge Beatles fans and we loved Strawberry Fields… and I Am The Walrus, and we were attempting to do something like that, but onstage. The first album, The Electric Light Orchestra, took forever to record. Roy played all the cello parts and it was just overdubbing and overdubbing!
We did one British tour with ELO and then went abroad to Italy, and it was a bit of a mess as we were trying to amplify violins and cellos and we didn’t really know how to do it.
Then we came back and for a couple of weeks neither Jeff nor myself had heard from Roy Wood. Don Arden, who was managing us by then, said, “He’s left and taken some of the guys with him. He’s formed this band called Wizzard, so do you want to carry on with this Electric Light Orchestra idea or go back to being The Move?” Jeff said, “We’ll carry on as ELO.” We got a couple of proper cellists in, so that made a hell of a difference.
Like The Move, early ELO were difficult to categorise. The first album was a baroque oddity and ELO 2 was basically progressive rock, but with more melodic songs than most.
It was totally experimental. We didn’t know which direction we were going in to begin with. I like ELO 2, but the tracks go on and on. Kuiama is about 11 minutes long. But you could do it back then in ’73. And you would get [FM] radio stations in America that would play long tracks.
The turning point was probably Eldorado in ’74, which was a concept album and I think it really worked. That’s when
Jeff really began to blossom as a songwriter, and he became a lot more confident in his singing ability and his production ability. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head is a beautiful song and was a Top 10 single in America. The album was our first gold in America, which was an incredible thrill, but it didn’t sell in Britain.
Once we started using orchestras, we didn’t use the cello players in the studio, although [violinist] Mik Kaminski got featured on a couple of solos. Lou Clark was a great arranger and conducted the orchestra, and sometimes there was a choir. It was a massive production and
Jeff was having a ball.
With ELO we used to double track the drums, which gave it a unique sound. I had to keep the drumming solid and pretty simple because there was so much else to be put on after me – Kelly Groucutt’s bass, Jeff’s guitars and Richard Tandy’s keyboards, and an 80-piece orchestra.
What was it like playing in the spaceship on the 1978 Out Of The Blue tour?
It was an amazing tour and a lot of people have said it was the best show they’ve ever seen. It was absolutely spectacular, the spaceship opening, and you knew it was the end of the show when the spaceship closed. It was flying off to another planet!
But it wasn’t a comfortable experience at all because whatever it was made of – kind of Perspex-y stuff – the sound wasn’t very good in there. You’d get an awful bounceback.
And we had these electronic lifts, risers, for the drum kit, for the keyboards, for everybody. Some nights they didn’t work, so the show would start with Standin’ In The Rain and one night the drum kit didn’t come up. The risers all came up eventually as they could be hand-cranked by the crew. On another occasion the kit had come up and Jeff’s riser hadn’t come up. You could see him clambering out of a hole to get onstage.
You made a solo single in 1976, a cover of Sandy Nelson’s Let
There Be Drums.
It wasn’t a hit, but it was fun to do. I’ve been touring this year with Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up & Rock and I’ve brought that back. I’ve been doing it onstage.
How did you end up playing with Black Sabbath on the Born Again tour in 1983-’84?
Jeff wanted to make records and didn’t want to tour, but as a drummer I just wanted to work. I had an offer from Tony Iommi, who is my best friend in the rock’n’roll business, because Bill Ward wasn’t fit enough to do a Black Sabbath set. We did a European tour, we headlined at Reading Festival, we did two American tours. This was with Ian Gillan, who was someone I admired as a singer. I had a great time. It was a bit like being back in The Move where I was allowed to do whatever I liked, really – play as loudly as I wanted to.
Why did you leave ELO in 1986?
We were contracted to make one more album, which was Balance Of Power. The single, Calling America, was a minor hit, but the album didn’t sell well and Jeff wanted to work with other artists and produce other people. So that was the end, really, of ELO. There were no plans, as far as I know, to record any more albums or to tour. So I didn’t exactly leave, it just ceased to be.
Then you played and recorded as ELO Part II for nearly 10 years. What was that like?
I had a number of former members of ELO involved – Lou Clark, Mik Kaminski and Kelly Groucutt. And again I enjoyed it. We went all over the world to places that ELO had never been before. We played just about every country in South America, for example, and we got to play with a lot of symphony orchestras, which was another thing that ELO themselves had never done live on stage.
But I had a legal agreement with
Jeff Lynne and the legalities got broken several times. You’d turn up in somewhere like Brazil and the strict rules were that we were called ELO Part II and you’d get to some venue somewhere and it would just say ELO. That was the cause of the problems and
Jeff objected. It was going to carry on happening because it was difficult to control those situations, so I left in 1999. They carried on and as far as I know they still exist as The Orchestra.
You reacquainted yourself with Trevor Burton in Bev Bevan’s Move. What was it like revisiting that material?
The Bev Bevan Band was formed in 2005. That was a good little band. We were asked to do some shows as Bev Bevan’s Move and Trevor Burton was interested. We only did one tour and it was fun to play the old Move songs again. Roy Wood wasn’t very happy, although I did ask him if he wanted to join us, but he didn’t. People wanted us to carry on, but I wouldn’t want to do it again as it was a backward step.
Have you switched to being a percussionist in Quill?
There’s a drummer in the band called Andy Edwards and I play drums too, and I’ve got a massive percussion set. It’s a new lease of life for me now to be playing original songs. I’m writing lyrics, and [vocalist] Joy Strachan-Brain and myself write most of the songs. It’s really eclectic stuff and I haven’t been as excited about music for a long time.
We did Cropredy last year to 20-odd thousand people, which was great. Robert Plant, who is a good pal, got us that gig, and we’re hoping to do some more festivals next year and to put a new album together as well.
What about the Emerald Sabbath project of rearrangements of Black Sabbath songs put together by Mad Mike 666?
Some of it is beautiful – there are some orchestral arrangements, brass sections, string quartets, and on every track there are at least two or three people who played with Black Sabbath, including Adam Wakeman, who played on the farewell tour on keyboards. I think Sabbath fans will love it.
I play percussion on two versions of Embryo and drums on Changes and Trashed. They’re mixing it now. At first I thought it might be nonsense – now I’m proud to be on the album.
You also played with Paul Weller in 2010 on his album Wake Up The Nation.
That was a funny phone call. I don’t know how he got my number. He said, “There are a couple of tracks I’d like you to play drums on. Actually, you’re my second choice. I really wanted Keith Moon, but he’s been dead about 30 years and you’re the nearest thing.”
Had you thought about doing more sessions with other people?
I think some people think I’ve retired, but I would love to do stuff with other people. Yeah, please get in touch!
Bev Bevan is playing with Jasper Carrott on his Stand Up & Rock tour. See www.jaspercarrott.com and www.facebook.com/bevbevannews for more information.
Jeff, myself and Roy were huge Beatles fans and we loved
Fields… and I Am
The Walrus, and we were attempting to do something
like that, but onstage.
THE MOVE IN 1967,L-R: CARL WAYNE,BEV BEVAN, TREVOR BURTON, ACE KEFFORD (STANDING), ROY WOOD.
GREYGOOSE QUILL’S 2018 ALBUMBEV BEVAN.CALL, FEATURING
BEV BEVAN, JEFF LYNNE AND ROY WOOD ON TOP OF THE POPS, CIRCA 1970-’71,
ELO IN 1975, CLOCKWISE FROM TOPLEFT: MIK KAMINSKI, MELVYN GALE, BEV BEVAN (CENTRE), JEFF LYNNE, RICHARD TANDY, HUGHMCDOWELL, KELLY GROUCUTT.
BLACK SABBATH AT THE 1983 READING FESTIVAL, L-R: TONY IOMMI, GEEZER BUTLER,IAN GILLAN, BEV BEVAN.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS FANS BEV BEVAN, ROBERT PLANT AND IAN ‘SLUDGE’ LEES AT MOLINEUXIN 1980.
QUILL, L-R: MATT WORLEY, KATE MCWILLIAM, ANDY EDWARDS, BEV BEVAN, JOY STRACHANBRAIN, JO BATES, PHIL BATES.
ELECTRICLIGHTORCHESTRA’SCLASSICALBUM, ELDORADO. 1974 CONCEPT