Jim Irvin – “The Bullring Variations: ELO” (2001)

elo-3

(Jim Irvin’s article from Mojo magazine, August 2001 issue–reprinted from Beat Patrol)

April 20, 2001. The fat drops of rain falling on New York cannot dampen the anticipation that’s crackling along this usually quiet side-street. Here stand the few hundred lucky souls selected to witness the first show in 15 years by their favourite band. Soon they’ll be ushered into a makeshift TV studio and seated inches from a skinny man with a cloud of chestnut-coloured hair, a trim beard and wraparound shades that hide his baggy eyes. He’ll caress an electric guitar and sing songs that rocked their young lives.

Pray silence, please, for the Electric Light Orchestra!

elo-4

Mayhem. You could hold a nice barbecue with the warmth of this response.

Staring at his feet, Jeff Lynne strolls on, plugs in, strums something. His body language ripples through a few emotions: Oh no, I can’t hear the guitar! Those people are a bit close! But they’re bloody pleased to see me!

He senses it’ll be okay, looks up and says hello.

For two hours we’re treated to the works of a master. It’s impossible not to grin like a fool at ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, ‘Evil Woman’, all of them. But, seated in the heart of this diverse, adoring crowd, I reflect on how I once despised this music. When ELO were at their artistic and commercial peak, right at the height of punk, I considered them artless, sexless, pointlessly extravagant – on stage and in their arrangements – their words meaningless, their melodies appropriated from greater pop minds. Ersatz and processed, the sonic equivalent of Dairylea cheese. Gloop for the masses.

What a horrible snob I was. Of course, the dream of punk as a great proletarian force was cobblers. The real ‘70s Music Of The People was being made by disco acts and bands like ELO, a noble music that’s uplifting and unpretentious. You don’t have to decode it or hitch a lifestyle to it. It’s music made with pleasure, for pleasure; a rare commodity we should treasure. Here’s how it happened…

Read more: https://beatpatrol.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/jim-irvin-the-bullring-variations-elo-2001/

Jeff Lynne working on ELO album

elo

(via Prog Magazine)

by Scott Munro / 07 Nov 2014

Jeff Lynne has revealed he’s working on new ELO material.

And he says he’s planning more live dates following his appearance at London’s Hyde Park earlier this year – an event he feared could have been a disaster.

Lynne picked up the Outstanding Contribution award at the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour event in LA this week and had previously hinted at bringing ELO back. Now he’s confirmed future plans are in place.

Read more: http://prog.teamrock.com/news/2014-11-07/jeff-lynne-working-on-elo-album

Songs You May Have Missed #477

elo

Electric Light Orchestra: “Fire on High” (1975)

Sometimes it just works out that one of an artist’s best works never follows one of the paths through to legacy status. People who either actually owned Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album on vinyl or are big enough fans to have purchased it in a more recent format probably agree that the album-opening “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” medley is among Sir Elton’s finest moments.

Similarly, “Fire on High”, the instrumental curtain-raiser on ELO’s fine 1975 release Face the Music, is a definitive Jeff Lynne/ELO song.

But the two major threads a pop song can follow to a timeless popular status (think “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Hotel California”) are continued radio airplay and inclusion on Best-of compilations. And although “Fire on High” got FM airplay in its day (as opposed to actual top 40 radio airplay, which was on the AM dial in 1975) you don’t really hear it on the oldies formats today. And as for being included on greatest hits collections, well, since it was never a single in the first place, the people who compile such collections don’t seem to think it merits inclusion.

In other words, ELO fans from back in the day most likely remember it. But to the younger generation fans–those who came to the band via a greatest hits collection or digital downloads of such perennials as “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Don’t Bring Me Down”–this is probably unfamiliar. If so, enjoy! And do check out the catalog further. Face the Music, A New World Record and Out of the Blue represent the band’s peak. And all three contain great album tracks to be explored.

Electric Light Orchestra were much more than their hit singles.

Oh, Oh, Telephone Line–How ELO’s First Album was Given its Title by Mistake

no answer

(Reprinted from Snopes.com)

Claim: A record label inadvertently mistitled the U.S. version of the Electric Light Orchestra’s debut album because of a misunderstood phone message.

Status: True

Origins: In the early 1970’s Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, members of a group called The Move, developed a concept for fusing rock and classical music. All three continued to bide their time recording and performing as The Move while they assembled the collection of classical instrumentalists they needed to flesh out their “Electric Light Orchestra”. Meanwhile, their manager, Don Arden, managed to line up a recording contract for the nascent group with Harvest Records (UK) and United Artists (U.S.)

After some delay while The Move wound down, the Electric Light Orchestra finally recorded their first album, which was released in the UK by Harvest in December 1971 and (in line with common practice for debut LPs by new groups) assigned the eponymous title of Electric Light Orchestra. When the same album was released in America by United Artists three months later, however, it bore a completely different title: No Answer.

Why the switch?

As groups such as the Beatles had learned years earlier, American record companies had no compunctions about retitling (and even rearranging) the LPs of British groups to suit their notions of what would sell in the American record market. But what possessed United Artists to reject a straightforward album title in favor of one that seemingly made no sense? After all, No Answer wasn’t the name of a song on the LP, the phrase wasn’t found in any of the album’s lyrics, and it certainly didn’t signify anything of importance to the American record-buying public.

The answer is that the title was an accident, the result of a misunderstood phone communication.

The legend differs slightly in some of the details from telling to telling, but the basic premise is that when United Artists was preparing to schedule Electric Light Orchestra’s debut album for release in the U.S. someone from United Artists (either an executive or his secretary) placed a call to someone connected with ELO (either an executive at Harvest Records or the group’s manager) to find out, among other things, what the LP should be titled. The caller, having failed to reach the desired party, jotted down the notation “no answer”, a phrase which was mistaken for an album title and assigned to the U.S. version of the group’s debut record.

This all sounds like a story a PR person might have concocted to garner some free publicity for a new band, but no one has ever offered a plausible alternative explanation for the origins of the No Answer album title, and Bev Bevan, ELO’s drummer, affirms that the familiar account is true:

Bevan confirms the story that the album was called No Answer in America due to a misunderstanding. The American record company phoned to discuss the title with ELO manager Don Arden, but his secretary couldn’t contact him and replied with the two words that became immortalized on the album sleeves.

“It was quite a good title, though, wasn’t it?” says Bevan, the band’s drummer and percussionist.

In an odd coincidence, a similar mix-up at about the same time resulted in a Byrds LP mistakenly being released with a title of Untitled.

ELO Mix Baroque with the Beatles–And Other Treasures from Jeff Lynne Tribute Channel

 

Electric Light Orchestra’s live cover of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” is from a 1974 live album called The Night the Light Went On (In Long Beach) which though recorded in the U.S. was, somewhat ironically, only released in Europe. Thus even loyal fans in this country have never come across this performance. 

Similarly to the band’s early covers of “Roll Over Beethoven” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” this is another early example of Jeff Lynne’s fusion of classical music with rock and roll, later achieved more seamlessly on hits like “Livin’ Thing” and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”.

Note Lynne’s sly amendment to the lyric, changing “she’s a big teaser” into “she’s a prick teaser” (probably what McCartney wanted to say.)

This and lots more great ELO tunes appear on the YouTube Jeff Lynne tribute channel movejefflynnelo with upgraded audio, and painstakingly synched with vintage videos. It’s a treasure trove for fans of ELO and Lynne’s previous band, The Move.

http://www.youtube.com/user/movejefflynnelo?feature=watch

 

A History Of Short-Lived Band Reunions

  

(Reprinted from Rolling Stone)

Not all band reunions last – Here’s a look at some that seemed to be over before  they began

By Andy Greene

Earlier this month, Neil Young confirmed widespread suspicion that last year’s Buffalo Springfield reunion was over after a mere seven-show tour. “I have to be able to  move forward,” he said.  “I can’t be relegated. I did enough of it for right then.” But they aren’t the first band to reform with great fanfare, only to collapse again pretty quickly. Here’s a look at some others.

Led Zeppelin

Break-Up: 1980. The group dissolved immediately after the death of drummer Jon Bonham.

Reunion: The surviving members reformed for the rare special  occasion in the 1980s and 1990s, but in December of 2007 they did their first  full concert since the break-up at London’s 02 Arena.

Duration: One night. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were  extremely interested in a reunion, but Robert Plant had absolutely no interest.  In 2008 the group rehearsed with Steven Tyler and Myler Kennedy and even began  putting venues on hold for a tour, but ultimately came to their  senses.

Journey with Steve Perry

Break-Up: The group dissolved after their tour in support of  1986’s Raised On Radio. Frontman Steve Perry was exhausted and wanted  to take a long break.

Reunion: They played a couple of songs in 1991 at a Bill  Graham memorial show, but Perry shocked the band in 1996 when he agreed to  reform the group. They recorded the new album Trial By Fire and a  reunion tour was in the works. Their single “When You Love A Woman” even became  a big hit.

Duration: One album. Perry injured his hip while hiking  in Hawaii and required hip replacement surgery. He refused to set a date for the  procedure, delaying any shows. This caused tremendous tension within the band,  and in 1998 they hit the road with a replacement singer. Perry hasn’t sung a  note in public with Journey in over twenty years.

The Fugees

Break-Up: The Fugees spent five years struggling to  break big, only to implode almost immediately after becoming superstars. Looking  back, it was pretty inevitable. Wyclef Jean was dating Lauryn Hill, but he was  also seriously involved with another woman while they were together. At the same  time, Hill felt that she wasn’t getting enough credit for her contributions to  the band. Pras felt the same way. They split in 1997, about a year after The  Score hit shelves.

Reunion: Much to the surprise of pretty much everybody,  the group reformed in September 2004 to play Dave Chapelle’s Block Party in  Brooklyn. The following year they launched a European tour, and even released  the new single “Take It Easy.”

Duration: A little over a year, with large gaps of  inactivity within that. Everyone hated the new single, and Lauryn caused  tremendous tension by pulling an Axl on the tour and repeatedly coming out late.  To the surprise of nobody, they pulled the plug in early 2006.

  

Van Halen (With Sammy Hagar)

Break-Up: Believe it or not, tension surrounding the  soundtrack to Twister caused Sammy Hagar to leave Van Halen in 1995.  The group had just finished a long world tour, and a worn out Hagar was  unwilling to fly right back to the studio and continue work on a song for the  disaster movie. When all was said and done, Hagar left the band.

Reunion: An ill-fated LP and tour with Gary Cherone  convinced the Van Halen brothers that they needed their old singer back. Both  sides had talked a lot of shit over the years, but they put that aside to record  some new songs for a compilation and launch a tour in 2004.

Duration: A little under a year. The tour coincided  with the peak of Eddie Van Halen’s alcoholism. Hagar and Eddie had  horrific clashes on tour (detailed in Sammy Hagar’s amazing autobiography) and  neither party has spoken with each otter since the final show in November of  2004. That’s also the last time Eddie spoke with original bassist Michael  Anthony.

Electric Light Orchestra

Break-Up: In the summer of 1986, the group (now reduced to a  trio) toured in support of their new disc Balance of Power, and then  called it a day. Members of the group carried on in ELO Part II, but the group’s  leader Jeff Lynne was done. (Even later, The Orchestra rose from the ashes of  ELO Part II, but they were an offshoot of an offshoot and barely worth  mentioning.)

Reunion: Lynne always saw himself as the Trent Reznor of  ELO, and when he reformed the group in 2000 for the new album Zoom he  didn’t invite any of the original guys back – though keyboardist Richard Tandy  did wind up playing on one song. For some reason, Lynne was under the impression  the group could still fill arenas and a massive tour was announced.

Duration: One album and one TV concert. This was like  one of those 1950s rockets that crashed a few moments after takeoff. The group  did a single show for PBS, but the tour sold horribly and the entire thing was  called off before it even started. Lynne’s done a pretty good job of staying out  of the spotlight ever since, though he remains a busy producer.

The Supremes

Break-Up: Diana Ross left The Supremes in 1970, but  they carried on with new singer Jean Terrell and continued to score hits  and tour for a few years. By 1977 things had slowed down considerably and they  called it quits.

Reunion: Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong briefly put  aside their differences with Diana Ross at the 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary  Concert. (Founding member Florence Ballard died in 1976.) They performed  “Someday We’ll Be Together.” Three years later, Wilson released her memoir and  it was sharply critical of Ross, driving the two even further apart. In 1999  Ross reached out to Wilson and Birdsong about a reunion tour for the following  year, exactly 30 years after they had last played a full show together.

Duration: This one went really, really poorly.  According to multiple reports, Ross was offered around $15 million, Wilson was  offered $2 million and Birdsong $1 million. They asked for more, but were  ultimately replaced by two latter-day Supremes who had no history with Ross.  This resulted in a flood of negative press, and ticket buyers seemed to have  little interest in this “reunion.” The tour forged ahead, but was canceled after  less than a month.

Cream

Break-Up: Cream crammed a lot of music into their two-year  career. According to legend, Eric Clapton decided to break up in the band in  1968 when he first heard the Band’s debut LP Music From Big Pink, and  when he read a scathing review of the group’s music in Rolling Stone by  Jon Landau. In November of 1968 they played a farewell show at Madison Square  Garden.

Reunion: The group played in 1993 at their induction into  the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that didn’t lead to any other activity until  2005. At the time Jack Bruce was recovering from liver cancer, and Ginger Baker  was struggling with arthritis.  To Clapton, it seemed like it was  now or never. They played four shows at the Royal Albert Hall in May of 2005,  followed by three shows at Madison Square Garden that October.

Duration: Five months. The reunion fizzled out during  the three-night stand in New York. “In many ways, I wish we had left it at the  Royal Albert Hall,” Clapton wrote in his memoir. “But the offer was too good to  refuse … My heart had gone out of it, and also a certain amount of animosity  had crept back in.” They haven’t played together since.

Genesis

Break-Up: In 1997 Genesis made the ill-fated decision to  carry on without Phil Collins. Former Stiltskin singer Ray Wilson was brought  into the band, and they released the new LP Calling All Stations. The  disc sold extremely poorly, as did their tour. Ticket sales were so bad in  America that the entire tour was called off. The tour ended in May of 1998 in  Germany, and the group quietly ended afterwards.

Reunion: In November of 2005 Phil Collins came to Glasgow on  his First Final Farewell tour. Backstage he met up with his former bandmates  Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford to discuss a  reunion tour. The plan was to perform their 1975 rock opera The Lamb Lies  Down On Broadway straight through. Gabriel only wanted to do a tiny number  of dates, and when he felt pressure to commit to a longer tour he bowed out of  the whole thing. With him out of the picture, the 1980s line-up of Collins,  Banks and Rutherford decided to tour instead. In 2007 they did 47 dates across  Europe and North America.

Duration: Four months. The tour ended at the Hollywood Bowl  in October of 2007. On the tour Collins dislocated some vertebrae  in his  neck. It caused nerve damage in his hands, making it nearly impossible for him  to play drums. Collins is now completely retired from music, and any sort of  Genesis reunion seems incredibly unlikely.

Lynne Me Your Ears: Are New ELO Recordings Better Than The Originals?

Mr Blue Sky: The Very Best

Next week will see the release of Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra. Jeff Lynne has rerecorded many of the band’s most timeless classics and, judging from the music samples on Amazon.com, they sound fantastic.

http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Blue-Sky-Very-Best/dp/B008OJ291W/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1349401227&sr=1-2&keywords=electric+light+orchestra

As Lynne has said, that was pretty much the goal:

“The idea was to get them to sound better,” Lynne told Rolling Stone about Mr. Blue Sky. “Because I’ve been working for all these years  with these great people and producing records with people, I became a much  better producer. So when I listen to my old ELO songs, I used to think, ‘I wish  I’d done that a bit better.’ And in the end, I drove myself mad. So I decided I  should re-record one. I started with ‘Mr. Blue Sky,’ and re-recorded the whole  thing from scratch. I enjoyed doing that a lot, and when I listened back to it  and compared it to the old one, I really liked it much better. My manager  suggested I do another couple and see how I get on with them, and I did ‘Evil  Woman’ and ‘Strange Magic,’ and they came out really good too. So I just carried  on doing them.”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/premiere-jeff-lynne-covers-soul-nugget-mercy-mercy-20120921#ixzz28Ny8KrWm

I’m really conflicted on this one. First, I don’t think this album should be called a Best of Electric Light Orchestra. Most people consider “Best of” to be synonymous with “Greatest Hits”. And these are not the hit versions of these songs, even if you consider them to be superior to the versions that charted decades ago. It’s a misleading album title and cover.

Secondly, I’m a stickler for original hit versions–fanatically so, in fact. And the only example I can think of where an artist rerecorded an entire album’s worth of their classic hits and actually improved on the originals is Roy Orbison’s 1987 In Dreams: The Greatest Hits compilation (also misleadingly titled). The superior recording technology, smoother background vocals, ace studio musicians, and the fact that Orbison’s voice at 51 sounded, miraculously, better than it had at 25 made In Dreams a definitive document of his hits–at least to me.

In Dreams: The Greatest Hits In Dreams: Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits

Two different covers, same album.

By the way, In Dreams is sadly out of print; however, used copies are available at Amazon.com starting at less than a buck and I highly recommend picking one up:

http://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Greatest-Hits-Roy-Orbison/dp/B00008EPZG/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1349402556&sr=1-2&keywords=roy+orbison+in+dreams

Still, that was Roy Orbison. And if you could expect anyone to revisit sacred music and actually improve on it, it would be someone whose vocal talents were beyond comprehension in the first place.

Jeff Lynne has never been known to be anything more than competent as a vocalist. But he is a masterful (sometimes remasterful) producer. I’m sure the new compilation will have cracking sound, which will leave me with a difficult decision as to which versions of these songs to pledge my allegience to. With any artist not named Orbison, choosing the original versions would be a no-brainer. But back in the 70’s ELO was all about great sound. Lynne went to great pains to make an ELO album a state of the art listening experience. Maybe that’s why he can’t leave it alone–he can’t bear to see (or hear) that sound become dated, when it had been so fresh in its day.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: