Monday 22 March 2010

Don't feel guilty

Music wise (and pretty much everything else wise) in these post modern times, it's not a hanging offence to admit to having a soft spot for Abba. Or Billy Joel. Or even The Carpenters. That's because the battle lines of the 70s and 80s have become muddied since we all went digital. It's OK to have a guilty pleasure - you can sleep safely in your bed at night knowing that when you wake up in the morning your house hasn't been daubed with anti Barry Manilow graffiti. Your iPod may well house some of the coolest tunes on the block but next to Madness and Magazine may well be some vintage Marmalade or Mary Hopkin. But who's bothered? Nobody died.

So why then do ELO always come in for a kicking? Livin' Thing may well have been voted the nation's favourite guilty pleasure single (followed by Boston's More Than A Feeling, if memory serves) but, if you've a hankering for symphonic strings and spaceships, then you'd best keep your head down; just in case the vigilantes find out where you live.

And you can't help feeling sorry for Jeff Lynne - he did have friends in high places: Lennon once said that if The Beatles hadn't split they'd probably have turned into ELO. Changing man Paul Weller must have remembered them from his youth when he nicked the 10538 Overture riff. A couple more that spring to mind: Karl Wallinger's World Party became identikit ELO for Put The Message In The Box and Neil Hannon (one half of the might fine Duckworth Lewis Method) paid his dues when The Divine Comedy recorded Come Home Billy Bird.

Speaking of The Duckworth Lewis Method, their other half - Pugwash front man Thomas Walsh, has paid Lynne and ELO their biggest compliment to date. Have a listen to the sumptuous Nice To Be Nice.


  1. ELO were definitely a boy's band - all those beards and spaceship images. The boys I knew who tended to like them were in the main gentle, harmless types with older sisters, who often sported a bit of bumfluff and dandruff and had books by Isaac Asimov in their Gola bags.

    I never had anything against ELO, but as a girl I felt they weren't singing to me.

  2. I never got 'em - it was the partly the perms ,beards and all-season sunglasses. But mainly Jeff Lynn's off-the-peg production and that sausage banging a bucket drum sound which made The Beatles first new music in 25 years sound like every/any ELO tune.

    Having said that I don't mind early era bits, but The Move and Wizzard get my vote over ELO

  3. Ma Ma Ma Belle, 10538, even Showdown (remember Bill Murray in Kingpin?) But then he took Paul's bit out of A Day In The Life and turned it into a career. You're right, of course, about his production: you couldn't slide a cigarette paper between Harrison, Edmunds, Petty or The Wilburys. The ELO brand was music for the Smashey Nicey generation - but annoyingly catchy at times.

  4. I Am The Walrus seems the template tune for ELO, in the same way that Bowie's Look Back In Anger was career material for Ultravox and Duran have recycled and reformed Roxy's Both Ends Burning since they were first in Tukka Boots.

    You must have Mark Vid's Supreme Evil - a magic mash isn't it?

  5. I will defend ELO hugely. They were my favourite band in my late teens (yes, I was pretty damned square), before indie music got its claws into me. Now? I think they are fantastic, and spent all of Sunday morning (after reading the Jeff Lynne interview in the Sunday Express *ahem*) playing the albums, of which I never tire. Of their genre, they are the best, and the tunes are absolutely nonpareil.

  6. PS if you like a bit of soft rock, check out the Sonic Executive Experience on MySpace.

  7. Thanks for that Clair - I'll give them a coat of looking at.