The other day, I was flicking through the TV channels when I stumbled across a time machine. The TV programme was coverage of the Glastonbury Festival, an annual music event in the UK where generations of music fans stand in the mud and rain in front of a giant stage shaped like a pyramid and listen to many different bands covering many different styles of music.
And there on stage stood my very first musical hero.
That man is Jeff Lynne, the creator and genius behind the very first band I fell in love with, The Electric Light Orchestra or simply ELO for short.
I was instantly transported back to the 1970’s as a young teenage boy.
At that point in my life I hadn’t discovered the glory of heavy metal or rock music. I liked pop music but by far and away my favourite band at the time. I spent my hard earned paper round money on their albums. Given the ratio of my income then to the amount I spent on music, this was a big deal. I had to negotiate with my dad to let me have time on his music centre (usually when he was out). I played the albums to death and I still have them in my attic until now.
Back to the present, Jeff Lynne, now aged 68, was standing in front of the now called Jeff Lynne’s ELO belting out my favourite songs as if he were still in his 20’s. And amazingly the guy doesn’t look his age at all. What’s more, he’s from Birmingham – just a few miles down the road from where I was born.
Seeing Jeff bang out a load of old favourites gave me an idea for this post and I am sadly going to inflict it on you, dear reader.
Here are my favourite ELO songs. I hope you enjoy them.
10. Here Is The News
The first song is actually a later one from the early 1980’s when I had actually started university. ELO sacrificed the orchestral side a little in favour of synthesiser but that distinctive ELO sound is still there.
9. The Diary of Horace Wimp
At the time I heard this song for the first time, I was a weird spotty little seventeen year old with an attitude and girl problems – i.e. I didn’t have one. In many respects I was Horace Wimp, the hero of the song and the song told my story."Well he just stood there mumbling and fumbling" was a little too close to home.. However, I loved the optimism of the song particularly when Horace finally asks a girl for a date and his amazement when she says “Yes!”. In some ways, this gave me a little bit of courage – if Horace Wimp could get the girl then so could I.
8. One Summer Dream
This is a beautiful song from 1975 and yanks violently on my heart strings. I’ve always loved the way that ELO fuse guitars and drums with violins and cellos simply because it makes a simple song sound more epic and all embracing. When I hear this song, I feel like I’m floating over the English countryside on a beautiful sunny day.
The fusion of styles between orchestral instruments and rock guitar is probably most evident on a song about fusing opera with rock and roll. One of ELO’s most famous songs is about an opera singer, raised on Beethoven and Puccini who is persuaded to apply her vocal talents to good old fashioned rock and roll and is the quintessential ELO song.
6. Do Ya
The very first ELO album I bought was A New World Record, containing the previous song, Rockaria! as well as this one, my favourite song on the album. Sadly Do Ya wasn’t released as a single, much to my surprise. Perhaps it’s a little too much of a rock song for the tastes of the 1976 youth. That’s a shame.
5. Ticket To The Moon
This is another beautiful song from the early 1980’s with a hint of melancholy that shows just how good a songwriter Jeff Lynne is. Again, when I hear the song, I feel my tear ducts starting to work again. I simply love this tune – I can’t say more than that.
4. Turn To Stone
I am so sad that I actually learned the fast bit of this song so that I could impress my two sisters who, in typical sibling style, were no impressed at all and completely took the piss. Listen out for it:
I'm turning to stone
'Cause you ain't comin' home
Why ain't you comin' home
If i'm turning to stone
You've been gone for so long
And I can't carry on
Yes I'm turning
The sad thing is I can still do it – and Mrs PM is not impressed either.
3. Mr Blue Sky
After the sadness of the last song, let’s hear an uplifting tune. Mr Blue Sky is probably the band’s most well-known hit and I can see why. For me in particular, it reminds me of walking the streets of Walsall with a huge bag of newspapers, forcing them through letterboxes that were sometimes too small. At those early hours, the streets were empty and in summer, it was eerie because the sun would rise well before 6am yielding a beautiful blue sky with few people around to witness it, apart from me and a few cats. This song will make even the most miserable person feel positive.
2. Fire On High
Imagine you are walking through a haunted house in pitch black. How scary would that be? The opening of this fantastic song is quite spooky and if I were creeping through such a house and heard this I think I would quite literally shit bricks. After the spookiness, it evolves into a progressive masterpiece and is one of my most played ELO songs, even today.
1. Don’t Bring Me Down
Ultimately I love a good rock song and ELO can do that too. Don’t Bring Me Down has a fantastic drum beat and came at the time I had discovered rock music causing me to embrace it with the hope this was a future direction for the band. Sadly it wasn’t but I still love the song today.
I hope you liked that little collection. ELO still has a place in my heart and it is good to see Jeff Lynne still enjoying himself.
Do you remember ELO, dear reader?
Do you have a favourite song by the band?