From space-age weepie Telephone Line to the mariachi flounce of Livin Thing, there are 10 ways that captivate Jeff Lynnes showstopping sonic majesty
Like meringue mix and Outkast, symphonic pa requires a craftsmen counterbalance; too much of either ingredient and you end up with a runny mess. The Moves Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne first envisioned their side-project Electric Light Orchestra as a path to pick up where the Beatles left off by raising classical instruments into their songwriting, but their early ventures lurched lopsidedly between the two. Though the first ELO song, 10538 Overture, perfected the formula from the off, their 1971 introduction book made the classical dominate; pop fixes played second fiddle to lengthy baroque evocations of English civil conflict combats that couldnt have been more prog if theyd drew on a foxs psyche 24 times in and announced dinner. In 1973, after Wood varied to model Wizzard, ELO 2 upped the sing tally, but buried them within interminable classical organizations to simulate a five-movement pa concerto. Beethoven wheeled over. On the Third Day refined the recipe by sifting Lennon salutes like Bluebird Is Dead and Oh No Not Susan from their take on Griegs In the Hall of the Mountain King, but it wasnt until 1974 s Eldorado that Lynne struck on the magic formula, thanks in no tiny role to his father telling him he was turd. My pa said to me the working day: The any problems with your carols is they have no sing, Lynne said in 2012. I supposed, Bastard! You rat! Ill testify you a sing!
Hiring in a full orchestra sacrificed ELO the authentic oomph the notion demanded, and instantaneously they smashed class. Eldorado Overture, with its fantasy chantings about imaginary cities and its oceanic strings, convulsed and tumbled into Cant Get It Out of My Head, the books splendid panning shoot determining on Lynne, alone, adrift on some midnight shoreline as a perception of Neptunes daughter treading on a waving imprinted on his reminiscence forever. Operatic choirs, sonata forte-pianoes and a rush of mystic glamour at the least until the ballad where Robin Hood, William Tell, Ivanhoe and Lancelot all get together to rob a bank, apparently announcing themselves the Light-green Tights Gang made this simple ballad definitely sounds like the approval line to Coleridges Kubla Khan opium reverie.
Come 1975, as Lynne tried out his newfound orchestral superpowers on early disco( Evil Woman ), colliery hoedowns( Down Home Town) and Poker, in which trollbait alerting ELO predicted UK punk, his primary persuasivenes was still in bombastic balladeering. Waterfall was a stately Niagara of languorous melody, but Strange Magic stands as ELOs finest smoocher. The music of a 1950 s prom sprinkling out on the Royal Philharmonic for the last dance, it shuffles along beneath a Carrie-like hanging bucket of cheese, dribbling half-cut romantic verse in our ear( Youre voyage softly through the sunlight in a broken stone age sunup, Jeff? Really ?). But its redeemed by the courage of Lynne being so enamoured with this daughter that he leaps into an gleeful Bee Gees falsetto for the chorus, like Tom Cruise rebounding on Oprahs sofa. And that, coming from a bearded Brummie in the 70 s, was true love.
And the mothership descends. The final article of the ELO puzzle was the reaching of a sci-fi element, creating a symphonic space-opera colour that promoted them above their plodding prog contemporaries and perhaps soundtracked the conception of Matt Bellamy. A New World Record( 1976) opened with a spaceship touching down, and the whole thing seemed dilithium boosted. A simple doo-wop frippery like Telephone Line, for example, became a weepie of the realms; Lynne forlornly hanging on an interminable dial colour like its the last shred of his dissipating rapport, lost in an amorphous entanglement of cold wires. Of route, if it actually had been the future, his ex would have impeded him inside five minutes and this song would be called Is WhatsApp Down? #Twentymessages #Stopignoringmecarol #Backtotinder.
4. Livin Thing
ELO were as much a close-harmony choir as an orchestral rock-and-roll ensemble by now, with Lynne, drummer Bev Bevan, bassist Kelly Groucutt and keyboardist Richard Tandy often melting into a helium chorale for the big hooks. Rarely did they gel better than on the mariachi flounce of Livin Thing, accompanied by members of( shh now) Fanny. Recently voted Q magazines No 1 guilty gratification, at the time it was the bands biggest UK stumble, thanks to its pizzicato riff, spaghetti western cornets, some classic Lynne guff about affection being supernatural to satisfy the soppy hippies and a little bit where an uncredited Addie Lee shouldered her path into the bridge with a lusty Higher and higher! Babe!
5. Do Ya
ELO knocked out a straight-ahead rocknroll boogie on virtually every book, as if campaigning for a Quo day at the Proms. Do Ya was the cream of the bop, and likewise the oldest the chant was initially secreted on the B-side of the last single by the Move in 1972. Creeping into ELOs mid-7 0s live mounted as a forerunner to Evil Woman, but written out of sacred rather than spite, it grooved jubilantly around some of “the worlds largest” hallucinogenic melodics ever written by a humankind whose strongest poison was real ale. As Lynne claimed to have witnessed, in his time, everything from mourning souls and winging suitors to, oh yes, a slideshow for boars, Do Ya nonetheless built towards one of his less ungainly romantic testimonies, as he roared but Ive ever seen nothing like you with such ardors that even Stephen Fry would have let the double negative slide. If Kanye Wests Twitter feed were a rock-and-roll chant, itd be this one.
If we learned one thing about Jeff Lynne in the late 70 s it was that, relationship-wise, he was a attendant. If dumped while on tour, hed tell that telephone reverberating all night, and when trenched at home hed sit staring at the wall for weeks like a gargoyle in sunglasses. Such was the feeling of Turn to Stone, the dazzling opening line and first single from 1977 s double-album behemoth Out of the Blue, galloping in surrounded by Doppler shift like the first chariot race ever to cracks the sound barrier. Alongside Sweet Talkin Woman it labelled ELOs sideways shimmy into the disco epoch. Its electronic approval choir would become a circle logo, and the line itself became a kind of secret handshake between unauthorized ELO diehards. Give on youre a fan and expect to be tested on a rendition of Turn to Stones tongue-twisting middle eight to supports youre not what serious Lynneheads call a Bobby Blue Sky.
Besides a shonky back two and the lumbering, ambient profundities of The Whale, it seemed amazing that Lynne had written all of Out of the Blue in one short Swiss Alps chalet holiday. Not least because back three was turned over to the four-song, 19 -minute Concerto for a Rainy Day, “the worlds largest” cohesive strive at a pop concert of his job. Everyone whines along to Mr Blue Sky like a pissed-up Pavarotti these days, but the three less clement chant sections were enormously superior: the slow-burn gorgeousness of Big Wheels, Standin in the Rain doing its damndest to be Beethoven racing through a recitation in a thunderstorm, and the fragments spire, Summer and Lightning. Love, supernatural, waiting, yada yada, but when Lynne clambers atop this strumbling acoustic ditty to the music of rolling peal and shrieks here it comes again! like hes rending his shirt open to get struck dead in the chest by a thunderbolt, there was surely no more euphoric moment in 70 s magnificence rock-and-roll. Until side four.
Out of the Blue was a masterwork of mid-paced bombast that, Mr Creosote-like, ballooned to bursting extent. Boasting an shame of epic choruses, Lynne piled them on with the feeling of a Bake Off contestant piping rosettes on a showstopper. And every one a win Sweet Is the Night swept from an beautiful glam-funk strut to a chorus that was essentially All The Young Dudes base-jumping. Could this album get any more ludicrous?
Yes, yes it could. Out of the Blue ended in the only manner it reasonably could with a line that chimed like an experiment to discover just how epic a pop chant could possibly get. An overblown song needs an overblown specifying, so Lynne shed his circle as The Exorbitant Seven, ranging the prairies of the wild west, from canyon-trek ballad to interludes of brazen saloon stripper music, like a busy night in a Dodge City bordello. The video even had them playing in fur people and 10 -gallon hats, with Lynne being lassoed by a cowboy on a real-life onstage mare. But if the High Noon plotline was deliberately cartoonish, the final chorus was no laughing matter; the repeated forbear I please I was a wild west hero building to crescendo after crescendo, like Hey Jude on horseback, retarding its culminate as spectacularly as a tantric Sting. Wayne travelled Wagner, anyone?
Long, expensive and acted on theatre from a massive spaceship, Out of the Blue obligated ELO prime prey for punks dinosaur traps and, attain 1979 s follow-up Discovery, it examined as if they were happy to hurl themselves on to the pit spikes. The record boasted some catchy carols Shine a Little Love and Last-place Civilize to London perhaps even had Nile Rodgers checking the ascribes for his name but it was so disco it shouldve come in a crushed velvet sleeve, and its Saturday Night Feverisms dated the band poorly, is in danger of restrict them so tightly to the 70 s that they might have turned to junk at their first show to a single note of Huey Lewis and the News. Instead, thankfully, Lynne paused at the sunup of the 80 s to reckon the tide of the times and chose, astutely, that the future was in electronic new-wave pa. Enter 1981 s startlingly modernist Time, taking its clues from Tubeway Army, the Human League, Devo and Queens Flash Gordon soundtrack and set to become ELOs more influential book, since name-checked by Grandaddy, Ladyhawke and the Flaming Lips.
A concept album about a humankind kidnapped to a 2095 of human rights clones, moon tourism, prison moons, hovercars and 4G android lovers, it molted the symphonic for the synthetic, with vocoder vocals and post-disco sci-fi synth riffs. Yours Truly, 2095; The Rain Is Falling; 21 st Century Man and Ticket to the Moon all rebooted ELOs aesthetic for the neon decade, but Twilight stood out for its space-age cathedral sizzle, warp-speed pacing and the sort of impudent futuristic hooklines that demonstrated they sacrificed that Flash Gordon gig to the incorrect circle. Lynne would spit-and-polish the life out of the form over two further books before the bands initial demise in 1988, but it was Time that would become ELOs latter-era devotees wish they were back in 1981.