I don’t want to make any bones about it, and lets discard your opinions of Electric Light Orchestra for a moment, they are the band that got me into music. I saw in the music of ELO, in a tape I had squirreled away in my room and used to loop constantly, all the things in music which I now love. To me, ELO presented something wholly new, a kind of kaleidoscopic madness fusing pop, rock and classical together into something that definitely shouldn’t work but just kinda does. Their music has that same enduring appeal as a lot of basically beautiful bands. The constant use of songs of theirs as soundtracks, in adverts and on TV helps keep interest in ELO alive too. Just like Grand Funk, ELO aren’t given the correct amount of deference they really deserve, having sold far more records than a lot of bands I talk about as visionary (but then again if you go by record sales, Michael Jackson several thousand times better than Silencer... err). The music of ELO is a prog rock mainstay that draws in references from all over and is just hysterically enjoyable. Every motherfucker knows Mister Blue Sky, and everybody loves it too. It’s one of those messy whisky tunes that’s impossible not to sing along to; but Out of the Blue has so much more to offer the listener. To name but a few I can remember, you’ll find proto-Status Quo licks, a little flurry of the melody from Dylan’s Hurricane, proto-Queen all over the place and more with every listen. Hearing it now as I am, on a top-of-the-range soundsystem, and to think of how spellbound I had been by the original tape (which I swear was mono) coming out of the stereo I could afford at the time (which was total crap); it really gives further fuel to my theory that great things needn’t be perfectly given to us. Kyuss sounds freakin’ awesome coming out of my shitty travel speakers, but some of the garbage I get sent for review and play on my aforementioned kick-ass stereo, guess what clown? It still sounds like shit.
I’m not alone in loving Out of the Blue and ELO in general, many musicians across a smorgasbord of genres and decades have professed their love for the cheesy rock and roll heroes. Our very own personal favourite New York darlings, Heliotropes and dedicated lovers; and they have masses of adoring fans across the world.
It really is a stunning tribute to all that music can be. I remember my original thoughts at hearing the orchestral dips and gasps being used for something actually fun, the guitars being used in a way I couldn’t have contemplated, the solid beats and the pace and the way after a morning listen, all the songs had to vie for the position of getting stuck in your head for the day, will it be Mister Blue Sky again? Suddenly music seemed at once to make sense. It wasn’t just a bit of noise to chuck down your face pipes to help you fill another nugget of time between cradle and grave, interchangeable with movies or literature or red wine or heroin; no, it was far more, all of a sudden music could be masterful; it could be a feminine beauty and a masculine use of tools and all at once a-genderal; unhindered by the same language and cultural barriers as movies or literature. It could be deep, powerful, it could change your life and tap your feet while you were being melted. Music is political and emotional, it’s last-chance pleas to long lost girlfriends and sock-it-to-‘em punches to authority. It doesn’t judge you on basis of language or age or race or sex or creed or style. It was something so universal and yet so personal. I listen to it myself, I play it for my friends. We discuss at length everything we understand about three minutes of noise made by men from another country. It’s for everyone, and more than that, it’s just for you. I am prone to histrionics and hyperbole but please take it for all it’s worth that Out of the Blue transformed my life. This was a hell of a powerful realisation to instil into a twelve-year-old and you know how I got through it? I had the music. Now for my twelve years spent in the dark empty emotionless wilderness, I am saddened, so allow me to sign off with a quote directly from the Electric Light Orchestra,
“Mister Blue Sky, please tell us whyYou had to hide away for so long”
ENDNOTE – I am reliably informed that Stairway to Heaven happened to be on the hospital radio at the time of my birth, although I was a little young to absorb it. So for those of you of a fastidious bent, technically my rock awakening was at 0 hours, 0 days, 0 weeks, 0 months, 0 years.
Written with pure glee by Steven