Face The Music!

“The treasure chest of unheard and under appreciated bands must surely be running dry, what with us coming close to two full decades of CD-Age vault-plundering and with multitudes of internet sites cratedigging for the next forgotten masterpiece. So rather than continuing to look for those artists that sold 11 copies of their wildly influential debut record before imploding, perhaps we should be re-appraising bands that have been right under our nose all the time, almost annoyingly so.”

YES YES YES YES! This is one of those rare occasions when I actually can agree to agree with something a Pitchfork.com staffer says in an article.

Way back in days of old you had to rely on friends and some very hip music magazines (read: NOT Rolling Stone, SPIN, etc.) to discover a forgotten gem. Nowadays, of course, with record companies scrambling to keep afloat by re-releasing every album in their roster by giving even the most obscure and undeserving record the “DELUXE” treatment and, of course, the internet, most of the really great forgotten bands are no longer the domain of the terminally hip. Everyone and my grandmother has a copy of Television’s Marquee Moon nowadays. It doesn’t make it any less great, ‘cause it certainly is, it just makes it a little less…special.

Now the only ‘hip’ thing to do is to find and champion an ‘un-hip’ band which will, of course, make said band ‘hip’. Right? I’ve kind of been doing that, albeit a little under the radar, and subconsciously for the most part, all my life. Now I’m not talking about bands like Big Star, VU or The Zombies. They’ve been recognized and championed for decades now. One band I can think of off the top of my head that deserves this kind of positive reassessment is the Electric Light Orchestra.

Of course filmmakers such as Charlie Kaufman and Paul Anderson have tried to help by including some ELO songs in some key moments in some of their key movies, but that kind of publicity only lasts until the Oscars.

Jeff Lynne embraced disco before disco was even a genre. His incorporation of classical strings with rock and roll beats became the cornerstone of ‘70’s dance music, as a matter of pure fact. And while bands like the Rolling Stones stuck a frightened collective toe into the disco pool and promptly decided the waters were too cold and dangerous to swim in (Miss You, Emotional Rescue), ELO dove in head first, because that’s what they’d always done.

The difference between most disco hits of the ‘70’s and Lynne’s output was Lynne’s absolute devotion and obsession with the Beatles, particularly their psychedelic period and particularly Magical Mystery Tour. There’s that, then there’s the fact that Lynne was a freakishly talented pop song writer. When I think of the decadent ‘70’s I think of 2 bands: ELO and the Bee Gees. I don’t think any other band summed up the cocaine decadence of the decade better than these guys. Well, maybe Fleetwood Mac, now that I think about it.

When you sit down and think about the amount of songs that have been assimilated into your rock DNA that were written by Lynne, well, it’s just staggering. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, Mr Blue Sky, Evil Woman, Don’t Bring Me Down, Turn To Stone, Strange Magic, Do Ya?, Telephone Line, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, the list just goes on and on and on and freakin’ on. ELO has had a tremendous impact on modern alternative music and it’s time we gave them their due.

The albums, while spotty, are pretty great, and here’s how I’d rank the best of ‘em:

#1. A New World Record (1976)

#2. Out Of The Blue (1977)

#3. Face The Music (1975)

#4. Eldorado (1974)

#5. Discovery (1979)

#6. Time (1981)

Or, if you’re a ‘greatest hits’ kind of a guy/gal, then go with this:

Other bands that need and deserve the Hipster Bump: Alan Parsons Project, Supertramp, Elton John, Thomas Dolby, OMD, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 10cc, Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, The Cars, AC/DC.