I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
There is no doubt that as a songwriter and a musician, Jeff Lynne is one of the most talented people you could lend your ears to. Therefore, it is a pleasure for me to reprint this article from 1974. Enjoy!
Meanwhile, on the third day, Jeff Lynne said:
LET THERE BE LIGHT
(and there was light)
The String Quartet had just concluded a short recital of chamber music, when one of the violinists – a somewhat distinguished gentleman with shiny bald pate sparsely trimmed with tufts of silver grey – suddenly jumped up, tucked his instrument safely under one arm and proceeded to elbow his way towards Jeff Lynne through the crowd of inebriates and mediamen who had gathered to welcome the Electric Light Orchestra to America.
Grabbing hold of Lynne`s right hand and pumping it furiously, the violinist (who was old enough to be Lynne`s grandfather) effected his own introduction:
“Say, young man,” he gushed, “I`ve got all of your three albums and both the members of the quartet and myself think they`re just great. Yessir, they`re quite splendid.” Lowering his voice Lynne`s confidant disclosed, “We play them all the time and to be quite truthful, we`ve learned a lot.”
Before Lynne had time to recover from this unsolicited outburst of senior citizen fanmania, his newly acquired admirer zoomed into a highly-technical discourse on the Electric Light Orchestra – interspersed with innumerable questions concerning musical theory as applied to ELO`s synchronisation of classical and rock forms. “I hadn`t understood a single word he`d said,” Lynne recollects of the incident. “And when I informed him that I can`t read or write music you should have seen the expression of utter amazement on his face.
“Sure,” Lynne continues, “I know what all the notes and the chords are, but really, that`s about as far as it goes. It took me quite some time to convince him that I wasn`t just having him on.”
Yet in no way has Jeff Lynne`s lack of academic training proved to be a hindrance. Quite the contrary. If, as the man says, one is unaware of the applied rules of the game, then accordingly one just plays it by ear. As simple as that.
In all innocence, this approach has enabled this amiable musical lawbreaker to do those things that would no doubt prompt the entire faculty of the Royal College of Music to tutt: “tish-poo.” Dare one even hazard a thought to how these most learned tutors would react to the following modus operandi: “I just go right ahead and do things just the way I feel `em.”
And the way Mr. Lynne “feels `em” has made the ELO a power to be reckoned with. One minute they`re tearing through a rough house send-up of Beethoven`s Fifth neatly tacked onto the Entire Chuck Berry Repetoire Riff, the next moment Norman Whitfield is expertly rolled over and out for a slice of cello-dominated soul sleaze. By way of non-stop contrast, guitars and violins stand toe-to-toe as they thrust and parry. Moogs are synthesized and percussables are percussed in a wild profusion of original – if somewhat unorthodox – ideas.
ELO may well have given Tchaikovsky the news, but Lynne adamantly refutes any suggestion that he is a frustrated classical musician who`s just jumped out of the closet.
“Sure, I love a lot of classical music, but there`s also a helluva lot that I don`t like. I suppose I`ve got the same kinda taste as the average bloke in the street. You know – a little bit of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, but I don`t like none of this modern pseudo-intellectual stuff…the stuff that usually sounds like crashing cans.
“The last thing you could accuse ELO of being is pretentious. From the very start, we`ve carefully avoided the problem that some groups have of taking themselves too bloody serious…the ultra-cool far-out-man brigade.” He points fingers but doesn`t name names.
“Yeah, we play some serious stuff – well, let`s say: as serious as we want it to be. But we`ve always managed to offset that part of our programme with some harmless nonsense.
“That was the reason why we came up with `Roll Over Beethoven` and `In The Hall Of The Mountain King.` We weren`t doing any rowdy rockers at the time and we thought it would be good fun to arrange them for our instrumentation as a bit of a laugh.”
Now, contrary to what one might be forgiven for thinking, Lynne insists that – as a musician – he experiences far fewer restrictions within the complex format of the Electric Light Orchestra than those of his immediate contemporaries, employed in the more accepted rock group line-up. “Really, that`s one of the main reasons why ELO came into being in the first place. Simply because I`d become so fed-up with the usual guitar bands.”
He clarifies: “After a while, you`re forced into a situation whereby you just keep on repeating yourself over and over again. There`s only so much you can do with guitars after you`ve exhausted straight riffs and half-hour guitar solos.”
From experience, it`s nearly always the strong-brewed British beer-and-skittles bands that are consumed in vast quantities by American audiences. Anything milder just pays its way. Though a new wine in an old bottle, ELO are proving that America is now becoming more appreciative of the exotic, exported bouquets.
“I was really amazed by just how much American audiences knew about us before we went over for the first tour. I mean, they were actually shouting out for numbers off the earlier albums along with things I`d done years ago with the Idle Race and the Move. In fact, after the gigs, kids were coming backstage with old Idle Race albums for me to autograph.”
In the midst of the sixties British Beat Boom, the Idle Race were a band forever on the brink of breaking into the bigtime – but, in the end, didn`t. Today they`ve remembered as something of a minor cult. It`s somewhat of a paradox that the comparative commercial failure of the Idle Race was in some ways responsible for the escalating success of the Electric Light Orchestra.
“The Idle Race served as my apprenticeship,” Lynne explains. “The thing was, I was very naive in those days…totally unaware of the business side of music. I just made me little records, sat back – and watched `em all go down the drain.
“We didn`t have a manager and so naturally we didn`t know what to do about it. Everyone would say, what Great Records we made and that they were Hits, but none of `em ever did make it.
“Funnily enough, it never worried me too much that those records didn`t sell `cause I really didn`t know any better. I just kinda accepted it. I`ll tell you, I wouldn`t accept it now…never.”
Obviously, Jeff Lynne is an artist who has learned from past mistakes, even if they were not of his own making.
Believe me, it`s not often you can write that about someone.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Jimmy The Mod (Terry Kennett), Steve Marriott, Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, Angie Bowie, P.J. Proby, Roy Wood, Todd Rundgren, Blue Öyster Cult, Black Oak Arkansas, YES, Sweet, Monkees, Leo Fender, Greenslade.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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