Bill Elliot and the Elastic Oz Band: God Save Us (1971)

 |   |  1 min read

Bill Elliot and the Elastic Oz Band: God Save Us (1971)

The problem with political songs is that so often they are merely sloganeering and headlines. Fine print and nuance can't make it into a three minute song.

Still, there's nothing quite like a chant such as "power to the people" -- even if we are never quite sure which people should have the power.

For a few years from the late Sixties, John Lennon's "political" thinking was muddled and muddy: he felt guity about his wealth and so gave money rather indiscriminately to odd causes; and vacillated between the peace message and that of revolution, neither of which were any more defined than the other.

An example of his lightning swift if rather woolly responses was this song from 1971. The magazine Oz had published its notorious "school kids" issue in May 1970 (kids had done it, they weren't the intended audience said the publishers) which saw it landing in court on obscenity charges.

The defense lawayer was John Mortimer (creator of the Rumpole of the Bailey series) and the case brought massive publicity. It was the age of politics and revolution, street marches and anti-establishment activity.

Lennon -- and Ono apparently, she gets a co-credit --  quickly penned God Save Oz and demo-ed it (it is on the John Lennon Anthology), then for contractual reasons (or possibly realising it was an unworthy beast) turned over the vocal to Bill Elliot of the group Splinter (whom George Harrison had brought to Apple).

With a cobbled together band (billed as the Elastic Oz Band not be mistaken for the Plastic Ono Band) and with Phil Spector producing, the single appeared on the Apple label. Between demo and final product however Lennon had made the theme more general so it became "God save us" as he toyed with including it on his forthcoming album (which was to be Imagine). The single's flipside -- a lumpy rocker -- was Do the Oz with Lennon and Yoko prominent vocally.

Somewhere in the process the A and B sides were swapped so God Save Us now became the A-side. Didn't make any difference. The single hardly troubled either radiio or the charts. Not that they didn't try and Apple took out ads in sympathetic (read: left) magazines and journals, and the proceeds were intended for the Oz defense fund.

But the ads cost more than the record earned. 

To his credit, he also donated his white piano to a fundraising exhibition for Oz's defense. 

But the song? As with the School Kids issue of Oz, the single on Apple became something of a collector's item in later years. But really, listen to the lyrics.

It were roobish, mate.

For more oddities, one-off singles or songs with a backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Graham Parker: Between You and Me (1975)

Graham Parker: Between You and Me (1975)

It's all every well to ridicule Dick Rowe of Decca Records for turning the Beatles down after an audition in '62 ("Not to mince words, Mr Epstein, we don't like your boys' sound. Groups are... > Read more

Vera Lynn: Everybody's Talkin' (1970)

Vera Lynn: Everybody's Talkin' (1970)

Although knows as "the Forces' Sweeheart" for her songs during the Second World War, the great Vera Lynn subsequently had a successful career with hits in the Fifties and Sixties... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Southwest Pacific: The Lonely Sea and the Sky

Southwest Pacific: The Lonely Sea and the Sky

The day before our Pacific cruise a brief news item caught my attention: a volcano in Vanuatu was spewing ash and thousands of villagers were being evacuated amidst fears of a major explosion.... > Read more

South west China: Give me land, lots of land

South west China: Give me land, lots of land

In Guizhou province they move mountains. Literally. Here in this vast region of south west China – two thirds the area of New Zealand and with a population around 40 million –... > Read more