Back in the hazy-dazy days of 2001, I had put together a feature on one of my favourite bands, the Electric Light Orchestra, which included reviews of then-new album Zoom and the Eldorado re-issue and Flashback boxset.
An additional feature – something I had forgotten about totally – consisted of quotes from well-known fans on what Jeff Lynne/ELO meant to them.
I have a vague recollection that when Roy Wood and Jeff were forming ELO or Wizzard (there’s the vagueness) I was asked to play keyboards because I did a lot of string arranging for The Move. I had to disappoint them by saying that I wrote on guitar then, not keyboard and I could just barely get through “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” on piano. But “Mr. Blue Sky” was a favorite of both Bowie’s son and my son when it came out, so it was played to death in our homes. I ended up loving it very much and gaining deep respect for what Jeff had achieved since his early association with Roy.
When the Beatles broke up I was a very sad teenager. Who would carry the torch from then on? Thank God for Jeff Lynne…….he picked right up where the fab four left off. It’s no surprise he ended up working with them in the end! Long live Jeff Lynne –all the music he touches turns to gold!!!!! It’s great have him back!!!!!!
So many great things. So many great songs. Distinctive, identifiable sound. The ability to make incredibly complex arrangements seem simple, which is an art in itself. The ability to cross genres, from seemingly simple pop to more complex symphonic epics. And the singing, writing and producing skills of Jeff Lynne, someone i admire very much.
Well, truth is, I didn’t love ‘em at the time they initially burst on the scene. I was a Move fan first, and back then any defections were viewed with suspicion. ELO’s commercial success coincided with my general disenchantment with the pop music of the early seventies — a dark age marked most notably (in my mind) by the appearance of the highly flammable, wide-lapelled polyester suit. Also, ELO’s showbiz aspirations were just so “Spinal Tap”: The dopey staging of a spaceship laden with cello-sawing longhairs in platform shoes and bell bottoms was a far cry from the psychedelic hipness of the Sargeant Pepper-era Beatles, and no amount of hash-pipe haze could obscure that negative impression.
Listening to the recordings now, I’ve formulated a more sanguine view. Take away the hokey staging and the historical context in which ELO first scored commercial victory, and you have some earnest music being made, with a surprising breadth and depth of emotion. There is an un-cynical blend of rock band bombast and orchestral pretensions that lacks both bombast and pretense — the hallmark of great pop. With the passing time, Jeff Lynne’s vision has risen from the ashes, triumphant. And, against the bleak backdrop of today’s pop music scene — lately consisting of either clean-teen white-boy doo-wop bands in autistic two-step, or moaning mouseketeer divas fronting aerobics class, all united in the lofty purpose of promoting soft drinks and/or sportswear — ELO reminds us that music is, ultimately, an art.
Why I love ELO? The unabashed joy of going over-the-top! “Showdown” got to me first… at a tender age… and must have made an impression when you consider the prominence of cellos on my own records!
Jerry Dale McFadden (Swag, Sixpence None The Richer)
Jeff Lynne has always had one of those pleasing voices to me. I know some people have fave singers that they say they’d love to hear “sing the phone book”, well, maybe Jeff isn’t one of those singers, but I still never tire of his voice. When I was a kid I used to think that ELO took up where the Beatles left off. They still carry the torch for great pop songwriting. I love them dearly!
They kept classic pop full of Beatle-isms on top forty radio at a time when it was 96% dreck (Captain and Tennille, Debby Boone, the list could go on if I had some mid-70’s billboards within my reach) they were born out of the move, one of the great bands of the 60’s Jeff wrote really great singles like “Can’t get it out of my head,” “Strange Magic,” “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Do Ya”‘ (granted, a move re-make), “Hold On Tight” … that list could go on too.. instead of choosing to sit back and just count the mailbox money, Jeff Lynne continued to produce great records by Tom Petty, Del Shannon, George Harrison and eventually, the Threetles. Good on him!
Prairie Prince and Gary Cambra of The Tubes with Diana Mangano, lead singer for Jefferson Airplane/ Starship
We love ELO because they’re so cute. My favorite was Micky! No, I liked Davy best! Well, I always liked George, you know, he was the true genius.
Jeff Lynne’s inventiveness constantly astounds me. The wildly original arrangements, the often seemingly simple but quite complex songs, the awe-inspiring background vocals, the nuanced lead vocals, and the high production concepts all conspire to make me want to never make another note sometimes because I’m convinced I’ll never come close to the art he has succeeded in creating.
(A great big ‘THANK YOU’ – then and now! – to Doug Powell for putting this together)
… still there’s more …