"It's number one - it's Top of the Pops!"
That was an announcement familiar to 1970s British TV audiences.
But one day in 1976 it was followed by a sound very different
from the glam rock bands and disco music of the time - a
Somerset voice belting out: "I drove me tractor through
yer 'aysUck last night..:'. For topping the charts was,
almost unbelievably, The Wurzels' Combine Harvester - Ooh
Against the odds, The Wurzels had brought their brand of
"Scrumpy & Westerly' music to the pinnacle of the
national charts, in one of the greatest surprises of all
time. Their parody of Melanie's "Brand New Key"
was not only one of the biggest hits of the year but heralded
unprecedented scenes as Wurzelmania swept the UK. Fans donned
the latest Wurzel fashions - neckerchiefs, gaiters and "gurt
big 'ats"; took up cider-drinking and dung-spreading;
and the country, gripped in a cyderdelic trance, celebrated
the long hot "Summer of Scrumpy"! The triumphant
Wurzel greeting of "Ooh Arr!" echoed across the
land as the Wurzels enjoyed chart success with hit after
hit - I Am A Cider Drinker, Farmer Bill's Cowman, and many
Success on this undreamt-of scale hadn't come overnight
for the Wurzels. The band had been started back in 1966
by the legendary "Bard of Avonmouth" Adge Cutler,
who had written some fine songs about his native North Somerset
and Bristol, and formed the band to back him as he performed
them in local pubs and clubs. Adge Cutler and The Wurzels
quickly became local heroes in England's West Country, and
Adge's Drink Up Thy Zider became the West's unofficial "National
Knowing a good thing when he heard it, EMI record producer
Bob Barrett auditioned the band at London's famous Abbey
Road studios, and signed them immediately. A recording session
was booked, not at Abbey Road, but at Adge's local pub,
the Royal Oak, Nailsea, in Somerset - chosen for the live
atmosphere and uninterrupted scrumpy supply required by
the lads to give of their best!
Two of Adge's most popular songs from the session - Drink
Up Thy Zider and Twice Daily - were released as a single,
which shot to the top of the West Country charts! Soon afterwards
the record reached the national Top 50, in a rare "regional
brgakout", something normally only occurring in the
US. This was in spite of - or more likely helped byl - "Auntie"
BBC's airtime ban onTwice Daily, whose subject matter (a
shotgun wedding) it considered too naughty for its listeners'
An EP and an album were released in quick succession, and
further singles and albums ensued over the next few years.
These records were (and still are!) all extremely popular
and sought-after in the West, but Adge never quite managed
to make the national charts again. However, Adge & The
Wurzels continued to gain in popularity and were frequently
seen on TV as well as in concerts all over the country.
Some of the songs from those days can be heard on this CD.
As so often happens, just as Adge and the boys' big breakthrough
seemed imminent, fate Intervened. In 1974, sadly, the band
learnt their leader Adge had died in a car accident. For
many bands, this would have meant the end.
But not for the Wurzels! The remaining band members - Pete
Budd, Tommy Banner and Tony Baylis - realised that Adge
was irreplaceable, and made the brave decision to continue
as a trio, The Wurzels. This is the line-up which appears
on the remaining tracks on this album, including all those
big 1970s hits.
The success came later, but back in 1974, little did the
Wurzels imagine that they would one day achieve what Adge
had dreamt of - a chart topping record and national recognition.
Many of the songs on this CD are still popular today, and
the Wurzels still sing them at gigs - for they're still
going strong and well worth seeing if you get the chance.
Indeed, "Wurzelmaniacs" exist all over the world,
including many expatriate Westerners! The Wurzels have become
popular with a new generation of fans and frequently appear
at festivals and on the college circuit.
These songs still get sung wherever a group of cider drinkers
may be found, and the song most associated with Adge Cutler,
Drink Up The Zider, can still be heard echoing around football
grounds whenever Bristol City win. Adge would have raised
his cider mug to that!
notes by Paul Gunningham.