In the late 1960’s three musicians came together with an idea. It was a somewhat unconventional idea. Roy Wood and Bev Bevan were part of the band The Move when they met up with Jeff Lynne from The Idle Race. The three hit it off almost instantly. So much so that before long Lynne would also become a member of The Move so that he could work with Wood and Bevan. But that wasn’t going to be the ultimate goal. That unconventional idea that the three had involved combining rock and roll with classical music. Of course, other bands had done orchestral arrangements, most notably, The Beatles. But their idea was to fuse the concepts more integrally together. The idea was to have live violins and cellos as part of the actual band itself. Lynne would once describe the concept as picking up where The Beatles had left off. Together they invented a new way to rock “n” roll. That invention was The Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO to the fans.
The band started with a bang. The first album, while not a huge commercial success received more than its share of attention. But band squabbles would almost doom this ambitious project before it got off the ground. Roy Wood left the band to form his own and took some members with him. It looked bleak for the struggling concept. But that might have been the best thing that could have happened. Jeff Lynne would become the controlling force and the band would go on to enjoy commercial success to go along with those critical appreciations. The band’s second album was called No Answer, but it wasn’t really intended to carry the title. A secretary with the record company was assigned to contact Jeff Lynne to get the correct album title. He wasn’t home. Naturally, the secretary made the notation “no answer”. The notation was misinterpreted as the album title, and the mistake would be a permanent entry in the band’s discology.
When Out Of The Blue hit in early , the band soared right to the top. With this new success, the band found its identity. The flying saucer on the cover would become a trademark for the band. The concerts which this then-17-year-old attended came complete with extraordinary lasers and a saucer that lifted and opened to reveal the stage. It wasn’t until years later that the scandal broke that much of the music we heard on the Out Of The Blue tour had been pre-recorded. The final years of the band saw releases without much of the actual orchestra still intact. Most of the strings fell to keyboardist Richard Tandy and his keys. When the band appeared to have disappeared forever, Bev Bevan attempted to resurrect the band with the debuted of his new version he called The Electric Light Orchestra Part II. The band released two studio albums with vocalist Eric Troyer sounding suspiciously like Jeff Lynne. Lynne sued the group over the use of the ELO name. A compromise was reached that gave Lynne a percentage of the band’s money and allowed the band to keep the name and use the library of mostly Lynne-composed songs at their concerts. That effort didn’t last long. Lynne eventually followed up the demise of ELO Part II with a new studio CD that was pretty much a solo release. Since that time Lynne has become a much-sought-after producer. He’s resurrected carriers of the likes of George Harrison and Roy Orbison. Even Helen Reddy and Brian Wilson got the Lynne treatment. He produced music for Tom Petty and Randy Newman. Together with Harrison, Orbison, Petty, and Bob Dylan the band created two albums as the farcical Traveling Wilburys.
Now Eagle Rock Entertainment has brought ELO back to its roots. This disc contains performances from three of their earliest concerts. This is ELO without all of the glamour and glitz. This shows the raw musicianship and the power of the songs themselves. ELO fans will want to take advantage of this trip back in time to the days before ELO became a household name. This is the stuff.
The three concerts are:
Brunel University – 1973
Rockpalast – 1974
Fusion (television show) – 1976
Tracks include King Of The Universe, Ma Ma Ma Belle, Showdown, Nightrider, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, and Evil Woman.
The concerts are presented in a full frame aspect ratio. This is old archival footage, so the picture just isn’t going to shine at all here. You have to pretty much accept that this is likely the best footage that will ever be available for these shows.
The Dolby Digital audio is pretty good when you consider the age. There is some mild distortion. Still, the mix is good enough to hear the songs in a way that they can be fully appreciated here.
Rockpalast Interview: (5:03) Very short interview for German television, complete with German subtitles. It’s interesting to hear them joke about who the founding members were when you consider it would become a legal issue at a later date.
As you might have guessed, I’m a huge fan of ELO. As a songwriter myself, I count Jeff Lynne as one of my most important influences. Like Lynne, I love to write and work with cello in my music. It’s quite a compelling combination. Certainly, the band developed a much slicker and more refined sound later on. But these tracks are quite a nice treat for any fan of the band. I first heard the band back in the mid 1970’s. I saw them live in 1978. Ever since that moment, it seems that “I can’t get it out of my head”.