1966 * Overture...
After Jeff Lynne joined The Nightriders he soon turned out as keen and flashy a frontman as Roy Wood was despite his tender age of 18 years. Not only the band was pleased with his contributions, their record company Polydor was, too. Still under the name The Nightriders they recorded a single featuring Jeff in It's Only The Dog and on the B-side was Your Friend featuring John L. Mann on guitar. This single replaced a never-released one with the same song on the A-side and Love Me Right Now, with John L. Mann playing on both sides. However Jeff is contributing on It's Only The Dog you can't hear his influence. The single was no success at all.
1967 - 1970 * Interim...
The band had to choose another name. Dave Pritchard suggested the Idyll Race but this name would be too difficult to write so it became the Idle Race. The first song the band recorded under the name the Idle Race was Roy's classic (Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree. Roy gave that song to the band to help them scoring a charts success. But the Idle Race's version was not released because by the time it was due to reach the disk shops, Polydor released a version by the Move as the B-side of Flowers in the Rain despite Roy's advice not to do it.
After this setback the engineers Gerald Chevin and Eddie Offord, who assisted the Move in recording their first album, invited the Idle Race to come to the Advision Studio in London. Each Sunday, they travelled to London to work at their first album titled The Birthday Party. The also struck a deal with Liberty Records. Except for the evergreen Happy Birthday and Pie In The Sky a song by Dave Pritchard, Jeff wrote all the songs. While recording the album, The Idle Race released their first single in October 1967, Impostors Of Life Magazine with Sitting In My Tree on the B-side. It got much media attention and critical acclaim but sold poorly. Both songs also appeared on the album. Three more singles followed before the album was finished, including Skeleton And The Roundabout. Many argue that some of Lynne's better writings were in his Idle Race days, interestingly enough. The album was released in October, 1968.
More than thirty years on and well after the turn of the century, the songs still do not sound outdated despite the psychedelic features, then at the hight of the fashion, that Jeff and his mates incorporated in the recordings. The album was released with a fold-out sleeve with a compound photograph of a birthday party featuring the Beatles, Hank Marvin, the Move and other contemporary celebrities in the world of pop music. The party was held at the first anniversary of the release of the first Idle Race single but drew little attention. The album got much approval from other pop artists, from record companies and from the BBC but the public appeared not willing to buy. The Idle Race toured in the UK in-between and after concluding the recording sessions, sometimes as a supporting act for the Move, and recorded several yet-to-be-released live sessions in the BBC studio.
When Trevor Burton left the Move in February 1969 Roy Wood asked Jeff to join them. Jeff declined the invitation saying that he still hoped that the Idle Race would eventually reach stardom as the Move already did. Liberty's managers too hoped that the band would become a top act in its own right. Moreover, Jeff knew he would not be the frontman of the Move and he had always intent on producing singles and albums for his band all by himself and he didn't quite like the Move's style of music. He was allowed by Liberty to have his first go with the single Days Of The Broken Arrows / Worn Red Carpet (both not included on any Idle Race album). It as followed by the single Come With Me with on the B-side the Pritchard song Reminds Me Of You. He produced the second Idle Race album. It was released with the title Idle Race in November, 1969. At that time, he was very enthousiastic about his performance as a producer but in the Seventies he said in several interviews that he had a lot to learn yet when the album was recorded. Again, favourable reviews came in large numbers but commercial success remained a dream.
After Carl Wayne left the Move in Januray, 1970, Roy invited Jeff again to join the Move. This time, Jeff accepted the invitation.
1970 - 1972 * Finale...
The manager of the Move, Don Arden, became their new manager but they weren't one of his main groups. The remaining members sought a new guitarist but Jeff Lynne proved a hard act to follow. One guitarist after another joined them and left after a few months. They recorded several singles including a cover of In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry and another album was released in September 1970, Time Is. Its sound was anything but reminiscent of the recordings with Jeff Lynne and the album, like the previous ones, sold poorly. After its release two of the original Idle Race members left, Dave Pritchard and Roger Spencer, leaving Greg Masters as the only remaining original one. When Steve Gibbons joined them in 1972, they started anew under the name Steve Gibbons Band. On a tour they once played as pre-act for the Wizzard.
The Idle Race has recently been proclaimed to be one of the U.K.'s best bands that never made it in the U.S. Some of their recordings are available in the U.S. under the import section of better record stores. In 1996 the three original albums along with numerous non-album trakcs and two Nightriders recordings were released as a 2CD set with the title Back To The Story.