The Idle Race

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1966) as The Nightriders

- Johnny Mann -- guitar
- Greg Masters -- bass
- Dave Pritchard -- vocals, rhythm guitar
- Roger Spencer -- drums, percussion

  line up 2 (1966-69)

NEW - Jeff Lynne -- vocals, guitar (replaced Johnny Mann)
- Greg Masters -- bass 
- Dave Pritchard -- vocals, rhythm guitar 
- Roger Spencer -- drums, percussion 


  line up 3 (1969-71)

- Greg Masters - bass
- Dave Pritchard - vocals, rhythm guitar 
- Roger Spencer - drums, percussion 


  line up 4 (1971-72)

NEW - Mike Hopkins - vocals, guitar (replaced Jeff Lynne) 
- Greg Masters - bass
- Dave Pritchard - vocals, rhythm guitar 
- Roger Spencer - drums, percussion 
NEW - Dave Walker - vocals (replaced Jeff Lynne) 




- Balls (Steve Gibbons, Trevor Burton)

- Bandylegs  (Mike Hopkins)

- Black Sabbath (Dave Walker)

- Cooperfield  (Mike Hopkins)

- Electric Light Orchestra (Jeff Lynne)
- Fleetwood Mac (Dave Walker)

- Fludd  (Mike Hopkins)
- The Steve Gibbons Band (Steve Gibbons and Greg Masters)
- Denny Laine & the Diplomats (Mike Hopkins)

- Lemon Tree  (Mike Hopkins)

- Greg Levene and the Avengers  (Mike Hopkins)

- Nicky James Movement  (Mike Hopkins)
- Jeff Lynne (solo efforts)

- The Magic Christians (Trevor Burton)

- Mistress (Dave Walker)
- The Move (Jeff Lynne)

- Quartz  (Mike Hopkins)

- Raven (Dave Walker)

- The Red Caps (Dave Walker)
- Savoy Brown (Dave Walker)
- Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders (Greg Masters, 

  Dave Pritchard, and Roger Spencer)

- Sheridan's Lot  ( Greg Masters, Dave Pritchard, and 

  Roger Spencer)

- Tea and Sympathy
- The Traveling Wilburys (Jeff Lynne)

- The Uglys (Steve Gibbons)

- The Wages of Sin  (Mike Hopkins)

- Dave Walker and the Ambulators (Dave Walker)
- Carl Wayne & the Viking (Johnny Mann)  





Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Birthday

Company: Liberty

Catalog: LST-7603

Year: 1968

Country/State: Birmingham, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4

Price: $90.00

Cost: $30.00


The mid and late-'60s saw a literal torrent of talented English bands trying to make the big time. Naturally, popular tastes catapulted plenty of marginal acts into the spotlight, in the process overlooking many outfits which had just as much, or even more talent. The Birmingham-based Idle Race were certainly one of those groups in the latter category.

Originally known as The Idyll Race, (quickly changed to the more conventional The Idle Race), this outfit  trace their roots back to Birmingham, England's Mike Sheridan & the Nightriders. Following namesake Sheridan's 1966 decision to pursue a solo career, bassist Greg Masters, rhythm guitarist/singer Dave Pritchard and drummer Roger Spencer recruited former Carl Wayne & the Vikings guitarist Johnny Mann. Renaming themselves The Nightriders, Mann quit within a matter of months and was quickly replaced by singer/guitarist Jeff Lynne. 

The group found a major supporter in the form of The Move's Roy Wood.  Having previously worked with engineers Eddie Offord and Gerald Chevin, Wood convinced the pair to check out The Idle Race at a local concert and to subsequently sign on to produce the group's debut.   Wood went on to donate what was planned as their debut single - 1967's 'Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree'.  The story's a little convoluted, but The Move had already released the song as the 'B' side to their 'Flowers In The Rain' single.  The Move single was supported by the release of a promotional postcard featuring a photo of a naked British Prima Minister Harold Wilson lying in bed with his secretary Marcia Williams.  Wilson successfully sued the band and The Move manager Tony Secunda for liable.  Apparently gun shy over the whole episode, Liberty management decided to distance themselves from the episode dropping plans to release the 45 in the UK,  though Liberty went ahead and issued it in the US and Germany.  The Lynne-penned 'he Imposters of Life's Magazine' was subsequently released as the UK debut.

   US pressing

- 1967's 'Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree' b/w 'My Father's Son' (Liberty catalog number 55997)

   Germany pressing

- 1967's 'Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree' b/w 'My Father's Son' (Liberty catalog number 15 010A)


   UK pressing

- 1967's 'The Imposters of Life's Magazine' b/w 'Sitting In My Tree' (Liberty catalog number LBF 15026)


   UK pressing

- 1968's  'The Skeleton and the Roundabout' b/w 'Knocking Nails Into My House' Liberty catalog number LBF 15054)

   French pressing

- 1968's  'The Skeleton and the Roundabout' b/w 'Knocking Nails Into My House' Liberty catalog number LIF 523F)


   UK pressing

- 1968's 'The End of the Road' b/w 'Morning Sunshine' Liberty catalog number LBF 15101)


In spite of the absence of sales, in an uncharacteristic show of corporate faith, the lack of sales didn't disheartening Liberty executives who readily agreed to finance an album. 

Released in late 1968, "The Birthday Party" offered up a mix of previous released singles and new studio selections. As with the earlier singles, the spotlight was clearly on Lynne who handled the vocals, played lead guitar, and was credited with penning the majority of material.  Musically the collection offering up a distinctively English blend of styles including music hall ('Lucky Man'), pseudo-classical arrangements ('Birthday' and '
The Lady Who Said She Could Fly' which seemed to foreshadow future Move and ELO projects), and upbeat out-of-their-minds psychedelia ('Morning Sunshine'). Complete with creative production touches, cryptic lyrics ('Skeleton and the Roundabout') and jaunty melodies ('I Like Toys'), it made for an intriguing package.  Being born and raised in Alabama, I'll tell you the album had a distinctively English feel and much of that English-ness was lost on my American sensibilities.   Was 'I Like My Toys' really about a love of toys?   While the set attracted considerable critical recognition in the press (supposedly even The Beatles were supposedly impressed), it did little in terms of US, or UK sales. 

For you trivia hounds, the UK release featured a far more elaborate gatefold sleeve (Liberty catalog LBL 83132 mono; LBS 83132 stereo)

"The Birthday Party" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Skeleton and the Roundabout   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:16   rating: *** stars

The lyrics are lost on my American ears, but I'm guessing back in the day 'Skeleton and the Roundabout' might have sounded daring and cutting edge.  It was certainly catchy and fun, but today it sounds like something Eric Idle and Monty Python crew might have come up with.  Cute, but hardly essential toytown psych.   As mentioned above, the track was previously released as a single in the UK and France.
2.) Happy Birthday (instrumental)    (Patty Hill - Mildred J. Hill) - 0:34
   rating: ** stars

This was nothing more than a brief instrumental introduction to the title track ... 
3.) Birthday   (Jeff Lynne) -
   rating: **** stars

How would you describe the title track ?  How about a seriously stoned 'Eleanor Rigby' meets early Electric Light Orchestra ...  Okay it may have been extremely derivative, but I've always loved the melody and orchestration and the lack of originality didn't detract from what a great performance this one was.  

4.) I Like My Toys   (Jeff Lynne) - 1:45    rating: **** stars

Whimsical ?   Stoned ?   Catchy in a goofy fashion, but probably too cute and too eclectic for anyone other than fans of toytown psych.  Always loved the guitar effects on this one.
5.) Morning Sunshine   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:45 
   rating: **** stars

'Morning Sunshine' was one of the album's prettiest melodies.   Kicked along Lynne's instantly recognizable voice, George Harrison-styled slide guitar, and Roger Spencer's tribal drums, this one had a distinctive ELO-esque flavor. 
6.) Follow Me, Follow   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:45 
  rating: *** stars

Lynne's slightly wobbly vocals has always reminded me a bit of a Bee Gees song.  That wasn't necessarily a good thing, but I will admit this had a dandy chorus.
7.) Sitting in My Tree   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:50 
  rating: *** stars

Bit of The Fab Four's ''Ob-la-di Ob-la-da' rhythm here ?   Interesting given this came out before the other tune.  The song was almost more interesting for the opportunity to hear Lynne's unadulterated Birmingham accent.

(side 2)

1.) On With the Show   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:20    rating: **** stars

The opening 20 seconds were wasted on what sounded like a collage of cartoon and commercial snippets, but when the main melody kicked in 'On with the Show' stood as one of Lynne's sweetest melodies.
2.) Lucky Man   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:35  
rating: ** stars

Another tune that was just kind of ... well strange with an Eric Idle flavor to it.  Not hard to picture some psycho killer singing this as he slaughters a line of innocents.  I'm guessing much of the song's charm was simply lost to American ears.   
3.) Don't Put Your Boys in the Army, Mrs. Ward   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:10  
rating: ** stars

I you certainly couldn't argue with the anti-war sentiments, but 'Don't Put Your Boys in the Army, Mrs. Ward' was another song that was simply too cutesy; too English for my plebian tastes.   
4.) Pie in the Sky   (Dave Pritchard) - 2:23 
  rating: *** stars

Rhythm guitarist Prichard's only contribution, 'Pie In the Sky' was a surprisingly mainstream pop tune.   I quite liked Pritchard's voice, the bouncy melody, and the harmonies, but it also sounded very out of place surrounded by the rest of the album.   
5.) The Lady Who Said She Could Fly   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:17  
  rating: *** stars

Heavily orchestrated ballad that had that distinctive ELO feel.   If you don't like ELO, you'd probably want to avoid this one.
6.) End of the Road   (Jeff Lynne) - 2:05   
rating: ** stars

Simply too Vaudevillian and cutesy for my tastes, but that clearly wasn't an issue for the thousands of folks who bought the UK single.