More tragic, most of the people who are aware of Electric Light Orchestra and their musical past hate their ever-lovin' guts. For my generation, I can't immediately think of many other legitimately talented bands who earn the level of vitriol thrust on ELO. In a musical universe where practically everyone rips off the Beatles for profit, John Lennon described ELO as the "Sons of the Beatles."
I'd like to think that, when someone bigger than Jesus makes a declaration like that, it's worth pause. No matter how stoned he might have been when he said it.
some kind of gay Panacea.)
[NOTE: Olivia Newton-John was my first crush. I was in lust with her before I even understood what the hell lust was. In both Grease and Xanadu, she's this wholesome princess who brings the movie to climax by turning into a ball-rockin' sex goddess... I had to believe she was magic.]
The central creative force behind ELO was Jeff Lynne, easily one of the the more influential musical presences in pop music in the late '80s. He formed the Traveling Wilburys, thus sneaking his way into a group of four kick-ass legends and making a darn fine album to boot. He produced Tom Petty's rocket-shot beyond Heartbreaker stratosphere, Full Moon Fever (and co-wrote almost all the songs). He also produced the most successful 80s fare from Dave Edmunds, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Randy Newman. So, although Xanadu put his "band" in an iron lung, Lynne kept on making waves.
My all-time Top 10 ELO/Jeff Lynne songs (in alphabetical order, 'cuz I can't rank things without constantly changing my mind):
- Calling America
- Don't Bring Me Down
- Don't Walk Away
Remove this song from Xanadu, and forget that it was played during a particularly uninspired animated portion of said awful film, and what you have is an adorably sappy break-up song with killer orchestral flourishes, classic '60s backup singer repetition, and just enough falsetto to make any masculine man jittery. One of the great devices of pop song greatness is the ability to keep a song building in intensity, with an increasingly complicated arrangement, and it works wonderfully here.
- The Diary of Horace Wimp
OK, so the verses of this song take some getting used to, but by God the chorus is catchy. And when I say "by God," I mean Lynne throws that booming God voice in the background. I'm kinda surprised conservatives haven't adopted this one for it's "Marriage = One Man + One Woman" message... straight from the voice of God! Also, I'm a sucker for songs that follow the days of the week (Sting's "Seven Days" immediately comes to mind).
- Last Train to London
- Lift Me Up
From Lynne's 1990 solo album, I've actually overheard this song on a couple of movie trailers in the past few years. It's not a transcendent pop song, but it's damn fine. More than 30 years after starting in the biz, Lynne still shows his gift for mixing mild electronica, those adorable background vocals, and a catchy-as-hell pop hook.
- Mr. Blue Sky
- Turn to Stone
- Wild West Hero
This song doesn't belong on Out of the Blue. I like that album a lot, and I loooove this song, but it's totally out of place. What's a songwriting genius to do, though, when he writes a song to honor the soul and spirit of his childhood, maybe one of the coolest orchestral-electric-pop-western songs ever. It was written for boys who were my age when I first played it some 5,000 times on my turntable. I didn't love this song because I wanted to be a cowboy. I loved it because it spoke of yearnings so powerful you feel dizzy, of wishes you wish knowing damn well they're not gonna come true, but you just keep wishin' 'em anyway, 'cuz what are we if not creatures made of cells, tissue and wishes?