1. Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Like meringue mix and Outkast, symphonic pop requires a craftsman’s balance; too much of either ingredient and you end up with a watery mess. The Move’s Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne first conceived their side-project Electric Light Orchestra as a way to “pick up where the Beatles left off” by bringing classical instruments into their songwriting, but their early experiments lurched lopsidedly between the two. Though the first ELO song, 10538 Overture, perfected the formula from the off, their 1971 debut album let the classical dominate; pop hooks played second fiddle to lengthy baroque evocations of English civil war battles that couldn’t have been more prog if they’d pulled on a fox’s head 24 minutes in and announced supper. In 1973, after Wood departed to form Wizzard, ELO 2 upped the tune tally, but buried them within lengthy classical structures to mimic a five-movement pop concerto. Beethoven rolled over. On the Third Day refined the recipe by sifting Lennon tributes like Bluebird Is Dead and Oh No Not Susan from their take on Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, but it wasn’t until 1974’s Eldorado that Lynne struck on the magic formula, thanks in no small part to his father telling him he was crap. “My dad said to me one day: ‘The trouble with your tunes is they have no tune,’” Lynne said in 2012. “I said, ‘Bastard! You rat! I’ll show you a tune!’”
Hiring in a full orchestra gave ELO the authentic oomph the concept demanded, and instantly they blasted class. Eldorado Overture, with its fantasy intonations about mythical cities and its oceanic strings, tossed and tumbled into Can’t Get It Out of My Head, the album’s grand panning shot settling on Lynne, alone, adrift on some midnight shoreline as a vision of Neptune’s daughter “walking on a wave” imprinted on his memory forever. Operatic choirs, sonata pianos and a dash of mystic mystique – at least until the verse where Robin Hood, William Tell, Ivanhoe and Lancelot all get together to rob a bank, presumably calling themselves the Green Tights Gang – made this simple ballad sound like the backing track to Coleridge’s Kubla Khan opium reverie.
2. Strange Magic
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 alert – ELO predicted UK punk, his primary strength was still in bombastic balladeering. Waterfall was a stately Niagara of languorous melody, but Strange Magic stands as ELO’s finest smoocher. The sound of a 1950s prom splashing out on the Royal Philharmonic for the last dance, it shuffles along beneath a Carrie-like hanging bucket of cheese, dribbling half-cut romantic poetry in our ear (“You’re sailing softly through the sun in a broken stone age dawn,” Jeff? Really?). But it’s redeemed by the audacity of Lynne being so enamoured with this girl that he leaps into an exultant Bee Gees falsetto for the chorus, like Tom Cruise bouncing on Oprah’s sofa. And that, coming from a bearded Brummie in the 70s, was true love.
3. Telephone Line
And the mothership descends. The final piece of the ELO puzzle was the arrival of a sci-fi element, creating a symphonic space-opera tone that elevated them above their plodding prog contemporaries and probably 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 instance, became a weepie of the spheres; Lynne forlornly hanging on an endless dial tone like it’s the last shred of his dissipating relationship, lost in an amorphous web of cold wires. Of course, if it really had been the future, his ex would have blocked 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 ensemble by now, with Lynne, drummer Bev Bevan, bassist Kelly Groucutt and keyboardist Richard Tandy often merging 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 magazine’s No 1 guilty pleasure, at the time it was the band’s biggest UK hit, thanks to its pizzicato riff, spaghetti western horns, some classic Lynne guff about love being “magic” to please the soppy hippies and a bit where an uncredited Addie Lee elbowed her way into the bridge with a lusty “Higher and higher! Baby!”
5. Do Ya
ELO knocked out a straight-ahead rock’n’roll boogie on virtually every album, as if campaigning for a Quo day at the Proms. Do Ya was the cream of the bop, and also the oldest – the song was originally released on the B-side of the last single by the Move in 1972. Creeping into ELO’s mid-70s live set as a forerunner to Evil Woman, but written out of worship rather than spite, it grooved jubilantly around some of the most hallucinogenic lyrics ever written by a man whose strongest poison was real ale. As Lynne claimed to have witnessed, in his time, everything from weeping ghosts and flying lovers to, oh yes, a slideshow for pigs, Do Ya nonetheless built towards one of his less clumsy romantic declarations, as he roared “but I’ve never seen nothing like you” with such ardour that even Stephen Fry would have let the double negative slide. If Kanye West’s Twitter feed were a rock song, it’d be this one.
6. Turn to Stone
If we learned one thing about Jeff Lynne in the late 70s it was that, relationship-wise, he was a waiter. If dumped while on tour, he’d let that phone ring all night, and when ditched at home he’d sit staring at the wall for weeks like a gargoyle in sunglasses. Such was the sentiment of Turn to Stone, the dazzling opening track and first single from 1977’s double-album behemoth Out of the Blue, galloping in surrounded by Doppler effects like the first chariot race ever to break the sound barrier. Alongside Sweet Talkin’ Woman it marked ELO’s sideways shimmy into the disco era. Its electronic backing choir would become a band trademark, and the track itself became a kind of secret handshake between surreptitious ELO diehards. Let on you’re a fan and expect to be tested on a rendition of Turn to Stone’s tongue-twisting middle eight to prove you’re not what serious Lynneheads call a “Bobby Blue Sky”.
7. Summer and Lightning
Besides a shonky side two and the lumbering, ambient depths 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 side three was turned over to the four-song, 19-minute Concerto for a Rainy Day, the most cohesive attempt at a pop symphony of his career. Everyone bawls along to Mr Blue Sky like a pissed-up Pavarotti these days, but the three less clement song sections were vastly superior: the slow-burn gorgeousness of Big Wheels, Standin’ in the Rain doing its damndest to be Beethoven rushing through a recital in a thunderstorm, and the piece’s pinnacle, Summer and Lightning. Love, magic, waiting, yada yada, but when Lynne clambers atop this strumbling acoustic ditty to the sound of rolling thunder and bellows “here it comes again!” like he’s ripping his shirt open to get struck dead in the chest by a thunderbolt, there was surely no more euphoric moment in 70s pomp rock. Until side four.
8. Sweet Is the Night
Out of the Blue was a masterwork of mid-paced bombast that, Mr Creosote-like, ballooned to bursting point. Boasting an embarrassment of epic choruses, Lynne piled them on with the enthusiasm of a Bake Off contestant piping rosettes on a showstopper. And every one a winner – Sweet Is the Night swept from an elegant glam-funk strut to a chorus that was essentially All The Young Dudes base-jumping. Could this album get any more ridiculous?
9. Wild West Hero
Yes, yes it could. Out of the Blue ended in the only manner it reasonably could – with a track that sounded like an experiment to discover just how epic a pop song could possibly get. An overblown song needs an overblown setting, so Lynne cast his band as The Exorbitant Seven, roaming the prairies of the wild west, from canyon-trek verse to interludes of flagrant saloon stripper music, like a busy night in a Dodge City bordello. The video even had them playing in fur chaps and 10-gallon hats, with Lynne being lassoed by a cowboy on a real-life onstage horse. But if the High Noon plotline was knowingly cartoonish, the final chorus was no laughing matter; the repeated refrain “I wish I was a wild west hero” building to crescendo after crescendo, like Hey Jude on horseback, delaying its climax as spectacularly as a tantric Sting. Wayne gone Wagner, anyone?
Long, expensive and performed on stage from a massive spaceship, Out of the Blue made ELO prime prey for punk’s dinosaur traps and, come 1979’s follow-up Discovery, it looked as if they were happy to throw themselves on to the pit spikes. The record boasted some catchy tunes – Shine a Little Love and Last Train to London probably even had Nile Rodgers checking the credits for his name – but it was so disco it should’ve come in a crushed velvet sleeve, and its Saturday Night Feverisms dated the band badly, threatening to confine them so tightly to the 70s that they might have turned to dust at their first exposure to a single note of Huey Lewis and the News. Instead, thankfully, Lynne paused at the dawn of the 80s to gauge the tide of the times and decided, astutely, that the future was in electronic new-wave pop. Enter 1981’s startlingly modernist Time, taking its cues from Tubeway Army, the Human League, Devo and Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack and set to become ELO’s most influential album, since name-checked by Grandaddy, Ladyhawke and the Flaming Lips.
A concept album about a man abducted to a 2095 of human clones, moon tourism, prison satellites, hovercars and 4G android girlfriends, it shed the symphonic for the synthetic, with vocoder vocals and post-disco sci-fi synth riffs. Yours Truly, 2095; The Rain Is Falling; 21st Century Man and Ticket to the Moon all rebooted ELO’s aesthetic for the neon decade, but Twilight stood out for its space-age cathedral sizzle, warp-speed pacing and the sort of brazen futuristic hooklines that proved they gave that Flash Gordon gig to the wrong band. Lynne would spit-and-polish the life out of the style over two further albums before the band’s initial demise in 1988, but it was Time that would make ELO’s latter-era fans wish they were back in 1981.
Стратмор выключил телефон и сунул его за пояс. - Твоя очередь, Грег, - сказал. ГЛАВА 81 С мутными слезящимися глазами Беккер стоял возле телефонной будки в зале аэровокзала. Несмотря на непрекращающееся жжение и тошноту, он пришел в хорошее расположение духа.