The Sad And Terrible Story Of The Electric Light Orchestra

When I want to go back in the time machine of my mind and relive the swingin’ sounds of the 70’s a few choice bands come to mind. Supertramp, with their unique keyboards and arty wordplay; Elton John and his Americana themed albums such as Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Tumbleweed Connection; the bombastic conceits of Queen; and the orchestral, Beatles influenced disco progressive sound-stylings of Jeff Lynne and The Electric Light Orchestra.
And their spaceship, of course.
With E.L.O., it was all about mixing post Sgt. Pepper’s pop with orchestral grandeur, a sound they perfected on the double album “Out Of The Blue”. If you look back you have to admit that Jeff Lynne was on a songwriting roll during the early to mid 1970’s:

1973: “On The Third Day”. Key tracks: Showdown, Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle.

1974: “Eldorado”. Key tracks: Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, Blue Boy, Eldorado.

1975: “Face The Music”. Key tracks: Evil Woman, Strange Magic.

1976: “A New World Record”. Key tracks: Telephone Line, Livin’ Thing, Do Ya.

1977: “Out Of The Blue”. Key tracks: Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Mr. Blue Sky

Yes, the albums were spotty (excepting Eldorado and perhaps A New World Record, which are pure pop perfection through and through), but you can’t deny those singles! Lynne took the over-the-top production of Across The Universe and made a career out of tweaking and updating the sound to fit the mood of the decade by cranking the orchestra up to 11 and adding in some disco beats for good measure. They are, without a doubt, one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures, which is why I chose to ridicule them in the below “Bogus Band Bio”, which I’ve revised slightly from the original which was published over a year ago. It’s dumb, it’s silly and immature, purile and even a tad scatological in places, and I really have no memory of how or why I chose to include a gun toting Phil Spector in the story. I believe that I was very sick at the time of this writing, hopped up on Nyquil, and the influence of that particular drug should become painfully evident in the factual inaccuracies and improbable story line you’re about to read. But I had fun writing it and it took my mind off the bronchitis. So here it is, warts and all, in it‘s entire ridiculousness.

 Enjoy?

 

 

 

elo-spaceship“Veeble festeraahht bloot. Wamp blatt borfft, bizzt Chakunkding: CRUGAZUNCH! Faroolana Frugga dugga dugga Gashklitz jugarumm.
Baraam spa da blunkum, kitoon splukaw gazoont blam blam. Paff toong et shnorkle zzzzt snorreh–snorry–sssor–eh, ssoorry, sorry.
Ahem, I must apologize. I did not have my translator on, please forgive me. If you are receiving this transmission your beloved earth is now 67% uninhabitable and I am currently en route back to my home planet of Beetlegeuse.
You know me as Jeff Lynne, lead singer and prime architect of the wildly successful orchestral rock and pop band ELO, or Electric Light Orchestra. But you may be surprised to find out that my true identity has been hidden from you earthlings for over 50 years. My real name is inconsequential and unpronounceable, but loosely translated to your primitive earth-language it means, ‘Fuzzy Explorer’. Are you shocked? Well, after I clarify a few things and tell you my story it should all become clear. Or, perhaps not.

In 1946 a team of Russian government scientists sent a ‘satellite’ (dubbed ‘Leonid‘) deep into space. Although the government informed the public that the probe was officially designated to study Jupiter and Saturn, the real purpose of Leonid was to explore and report on alien radio transmissions that were received by “Roskosmos”, Russia’s equivalent of N.A.S.A. It was sent forty thousand light years past the moon, where it landed fortuitously on my home planet. One other fact that was left out of the original report and I feel needs to be addressed is that the satellite was manned. Yes, this so called Leonid pod contained 4 Russian cosmonauts. Their names were Boris, Olga, Vladimir and Jakkoff. As they landed on the eastern shore of Beetlegeuse, the four cosmonauts of Leonid huddled before the massive Astro-View screen and watched, fascinated, as the camera panned the horizon of my home. Beetlegeuse remains a lush and abundant landscape, but not by your standards. Our landscape is aural, not visual. Beetleguesians are blind, you see. We have two sets of “ears” to compensate; two on the sides of our brain shell (similar to earthlings) and two where your visual globes are located. The two located in front are used to navigate our surroundings, using sound waves as a guide, while the other two were mostly aesthetic, with a side purpose as reproductive organs.

We are not unlike you humans in our physical form, however. As a matter of fact, other than the two sets of ears we are extremely similar.

I observed from a distance as a shapeless mass of dough like protoplasm we call Deeslefragg approached the explorers, devouring everything in it’s path. After years of co-existence with the Deeslefragg’s we have learned that the only way we can repel them is to emit a high pitched squeal of sorts, a sound only our unique vocal cords can create. These creatures move very fast, and thusly the Russians did not have a chance and were devoured within a matter of seconds.

Our elders, who were observing this scene as it was occurring from their underground lairs, called me and one other to them. This “other” was named Vootle Dst, but you may know him by his earth name of Phil Spector.

The elders debated for hours on what to do with the now unmanned Earth craft, finally deciding that it would be a wonderful opportunity for us to observe a pre-historic alien world and perhaps learn a thing or two about ourselves, and decided to send myself and Phil to Earth with a mandate to observe, collect samples and return to our planet without disturbing the natural order of things. A noble cause, one we gratefully accepted. Under the darkness of night we re-launched Leonid and were off on our mission.

We landed in the summer of 1947 in the area you know as 51, in the Nevada desert, where we were picked up by the American government who had a military base nearby.
They took us deep into the base, down an elevator underneath Hanger 18, where we finally arrived at a door labeled “Interrogation Room 187”. Suspecting the humans were going to subject us to a violent and primitive form of torture Phil, who was always a violent sort, snatched a gun from one of the soldiers and killed all seven of them within seconds. We quickly donned our invisibility cloaks, made our way back to the surface and escaped. I thought it would be a good idea for us to separate at this point, and so we did; Phil deciding to stay in America and I to the United Kingdom to start and complete our respective observation terms.

Our superior aural abilities made it a natural for us to enter earth society through the burgeoning rock music scene. Phil had more initial success than I with his “Wall Of Sound” production techniques, but his tendency towards violence would eventually prove to be his downfall. But that is another story.

I met a man named Bev Bevan in 1965 and we formed the rock band The Move, which found moderate success with the British people. Musically speaking it was a very primitive style of music by my own design, as to not arouse suspicion. If I was to utilize my futuristic and alien soundscapes in a public way I might have been exposed! My hubris would soon get the better of me though, as I saw musicians with far inferior talents getting the recognition and accolades I so richly deserved. Ou see, we Beetlegeusians are not immune to what you humans call “pride”.

Sadly I succumbed to my ego in the fall of 1970. I informed Bev of my intent to create a much more sophisticated brand of Rock and Roll, utilizing elements of classical music as the base. Although Bev was a little reticent he agreed to step back and let me ’orchestrate’ our future. I christened our new band E.L.O., or the Electric Light Orchestra.

10538 Overture (side note: 10538 is the calendar year Phil and I left Beetleguise) was a rousing success. ELO performed at the 1972 Reading Festival and ‘stole the show’ thanks to the innovation of the Barcus Berry pickups now sported by our newly christened string section, allowing them to dance on stage with their instruments not unlike the bards of King Arthur‘s day.

Our second album, ELO II, was another success with the single Roll Over Beethoven as it’s centerpiece. It’s success led to hiring a 30 piece orchestra I dubbed the
Neo-Pagens. Our success was massive, but I craved more. I was succumbing to my base ambitions and simple greed, and I liked it!

From our album Face The Music, the instrumental “Fire On High” with its mix of strings elegantly played by the Neo-Pagens and blazing acoustic guitars, saw heavy exposure as background music on CBS Sports Spectacular television montages in The United States, though most viewers had no idea of our song’s origins. The fact that the song features a deliberate backward message, where a mysterious deep voice reverses to ‘The music is reversible, but time is not, turn back! Turn back! Turn back!’ — ostensibly our sardonic response at answering the hysteria following completely unfounded allegations of satanic messages which were leveled against our song “Eldorado” by the fundamentalist Christian collective called The Lucians Of Samosata.

Out Of The Blue, an “in-joke” of a title to be sure, was to be my Magnum Opus. It contained many of my now classic compositions such as Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman and Mr. Blue Sky. It was at this point in our story that I reconnected with my fellow Beetlegeusian Phil Spector, who had developed a benign version of a laser weapon as a visual aid for the shows. I was cocky in my belief that I was now fully accepted as a human born of your earth, and I started using iconography from my native world as a backdrop for my shows, album artwork and various concert paraphernalia.

But, alas, all good things must come to an end.

In 1980 I was asked to write the soundtrack to a film entitled Xanadu, which stared the Australian woman Olivia Newton John. Even though it performed well, yielding hit singles in the title track and Magic, it would eventually cause a series of events that would eventually lead to the partial destruction of earth, something I alluded to earlier in my story.

The premise of Xanadu, which deals with the rise and fall of Kublai Khan’s Mongol empire, incensed the Muslim faithful and they decided to retaliate. After two decades of planning they attacked the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001 in addition to the Pentagon. The newly elected President Of The United States decided that this would be a good excuse to start a “war for oil” in the guise of a “war on terrorism”, and he subsequently launched a strike on the east that would last over four decades, leading to the financial and moral bankruptcy of the USA. The economic holocaust this caused in the year of 2009 created an irreversible chain reaction that was disastrous and affected half of the globe’s population adversely and horrifically.

In early March of 2041, Bill Gates (who had recently purchased Pakistan) launched an all out nuclear assault on North America. Canada, whose currency the “loonie” had risen to almost 400% the value of the US dollar by that time and who had a formidable military arsenal in their home base of Newfoundland as well, launched their own strike. But the Newfies miscalculated and sent the rockets straight up in the air, sending them hurtling straight down and annihilating their own country. At that point I decided that my time on earth was at an end, so I busted Phil out of jail and we headed for Stonehenge, where we hid our spacecraft in the guise of one of the Trilithons.

So, as I leave this place in our spacecraft and I glance through the viewer at the smoldering globe that was once earth I cannot help feeling a little responsible, and if I had eyes I would sob at the sight. The lessons I learned will help my planet in ways I can not as of yet calculate. Thank you for that.

If you are hearing this transmission and are one of the few left alive, do not think poorly of me. Let my musical legacy endure.

Transmission out……

 

 

 

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