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It has been a while since I started this series.  My contributions here, and at my other regular blogs, have been quite spotty for a number of reasons.  Part of it has to do with it having been the holiday season, and things get a bit odd then, but for the most part the holiday season treated me pretty well, except for when it did not.

Another distraction, one that is absolutely necessary for me to do, is to work on cultivating my nascent consulting business.  I write well, am a great scientist, and have skills that include things from analytical chemistry to health and safety expertise to technical writing to expert testimony.  One of my friends that I met here who does consulting work has agreed to work with me over the telephone to assist me in establishing my business.  Any others who might be able to help are strongly encouraged to pitch in as well, because I am sick and tired of feeling useless!

In any event, it is time to get back to what I do well in this series, or at least I think that I do, and that is to provide embedded music, some historical background, and my commentary to bands that catch my interest.  With this in mind, we shall look at the second effort from The Electric Light Orchestra, called ELO 2.

In my opinion it is a very much better album than their debut one.  The band had settled down a bit, and Jeff Lynne was very much in control, for good or ill, by then.  Let us get started!

ELO 2 was released in the UK on Harvest in either January or February (depending on the source) of 1973, and in the US in March of that year on United Artists.  It charted at at #35 in the UK and at #52 in the US, not particularly auspicious, but not horrible either.  By the way, the UA release was called Electric Light Orchestra II.

The personnel performing were significantly different from the first album, and are as follows:

Mike de Albuquerque (19470624 and still with us) – Bass, backing vocals

Bev Bevan (19451124 and also still with us) – Drums, percussion

Mike Edwards (19480531 - 20100903) – Cello

Wilfred Gibson (19450228 and still with us) – Violin

Jeff Lynne (19471230 and still with us) – Vocals, guitar, Moog synthesizer

Richard Tandy (19480326 and still with us) – Keyboards, Moog synthesizer

Colin Walker (14499798 and still with us) – Cello

In addition, the former band member and cofounder was also on the record in two pieces:

Roy Wood (19461108 and still with us) – Bass, Cello on tracks 1 and 4

Note that this iteration of the band was heavy in cello, and that became their signature sound.  The album was produce by Lynne.

The first track is called "In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)", written by Lynne.  I not not really get it, because that is now what I think of a boogie, but it sort of sets the theme for subsequent sounds from the band, especially Lynne's interesting and distorted voice.  First the lyrics:

Down, down, you can see them all
rising gaily to the top
keep on rising babe you know you got a long drop
you better cling cos it's the done thing

Down, down, at the Policemans Ball
They're all dancing in a line
keep on gruntin boys you know you're doin fine
come quickly I've been strangled

Down, down, at the Military
they're all marching round and round
keep them boots shined and that still upper lip down
Ablution Revolution

Down, down, at the launching pad
giant phallus stands erect
ten thousand tons of waste throb then eject
look out space, we're gonna change our place

Down, down, in old England Town
there was air and now there's smoke
let's build more cars and drive away before we choke
suddenly it's always night time

Down, down, at that nice Trade Fair
all the money gone astray
let's inflate this price and float away
just you and me and everyone...

Here is a live version:

I find it sort of ponderous with little meaning, but that might just be me.

The second song, also written by Lynne, is called "Momma".  It is quite poignant.

She came up from the country with a smile for everyone
she left her blue horizon just to find another home
a lonely girl who'd travelled many days
a lonely heart that could not find a way

[chorus:]
and she said Momma, it's a hard life now you're gone
Momma, it's so hard to carry on
and I feel I'm a fool who lost it all
you used to make it all so very clear
that life must go on though the end is near
oh Momma, it's a sad and lonely life

A misty morning rider she came wandering through the hills
a wanderin soul appearin over rainy window sills
a loser in her heart, but in her face
a smile for everyone under God's grace

[chorus]

Midnight maiden madness, what to search for in this place
gateway to the city, night sky shadows on her face
a lady lost in nowhere but her stare
leaves the world, her life to start somewhere

[chorus]

This is a wonderful song.  I miss my mum, and several recent events have made me think about her, not the least being that Christmas was her favorite time of year.

The third and last track on Side One is probably the best cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" that has ever been made.  This is what got the band on the charts, and it is really pretty wonderful.

Gonna write a little letter gonna mail it to me local D.J.
it's a jumpin little record I want my jockey to play
Roll Over Beethoven, gotta hear it again today

My temperature's risin, the juke box's blowin a fuse
My heart's beatin a rhythm, singin out rhythm and blues
Roll Over Beethoven, they're rockin in two by two

Well if you feel you like it, go get your lover and reel and rock it
roll it over and move on up now, go for cover and reel and rock it
roll it over, Roll Over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news

Early in the mornin I'm a givin you the warnin,
don't you step on my blue suede shoes
hey diddle diddle gonna play my fiddle,
I ain't got nothing to lose
Roll Over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news

She wiggles like a glow-worm, dances like a spinning top
she got a crazy partner, you should have seen her reel and rock
long as she got a dime, the music will never stop

Well if you feel you like it, go get your lover and reel and rock it
roll it over and move on up now, go for cover and reel and rock it
roll it over, Roll Over Beethoven, dig these rhythm and blues

Roll Over Beethoven, Roll Over Beethoven,
Roll Over Beethoven, Roll Over Beethoven,
Roll Over Beethoven, dig these rhythm and blues?

I really like how it starts, and how the real strings are used in it.  This song was the one that propelled them to the charts.  At #9 in the UK and #42 in the US, it did well.

Berry really did well with the song, making references to classical and modern (at the time) works, viz. Perkins's "Blue Suede Shoes".  This is a rock classic, and the band did a good job with it.

Side two starts out with the Lynne song "From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)".  This is a strange song, but I like it.

Listen to me sister, I got news from the governor,
and he's heard people shouting from the towers in the city
while their babies grow in test tubes over night

Run and fetch the priest cos there's a light on in the building
and there's sounds blowin out in the music of the night
and we should try to get the people out alive

Movin 'cross the ocean with the flag of death a'flyin
the demon butcher pointin out the message on the tide
and the demon light a'sailin at his side

Stormin down the airwaves comes the protest and the prayin
and the love that shone down from the sun to world
no longer could support the life it gave

It seems like some convoluted social comment, from everything from in vitro fertilization to the Viet Nam war to protest music.  This one does sound much more like a boogie than the boogie on the first side.

I was also able to find a very nice live version of it:

This is really well done, considering how complex the music is and how many people were trying to play at once.  It is a very nice effort.  The guitar sounds to me in some places very much like Richie Blackmore on the Mark I iteration of Deep Purple, and that was a pretty good band about which I have written before.

The second and last track on the second side is the Lynne number "Kuiama", about Viet Nam atrocities.

My My Kuiama, she came in the morning
she smiled but the tears on her little face
showed the pain that had been in that far off place
so sad, treated so bad

My My Kuiama, don't break your heart tryin
to say how your ma and your pa passed away
and they left you to wander the ruin and decay
real mean, that bullet machine

See here Kuiama, now ten thousand miles
is a long long way and you're here today
and you won't go back so you might say
hello, how do you do

Kuia stop your cryin, there's no bombs a'fallin
no horsemen in the night a'ridin through your dreams and tearing at your life
baby goodnight

No more silver rain will hit your ground
and no more guns will sound
and no more life be drowned
No more trenches where the soldiers lie
and no more people die
beneath that big black sky

Wake up Kuiama, I got somethin to tell you
it's just that I mean, well that is to say,
that I'm trying to explain but I'll start again,
for you, I must be true.

Kuia in this country, they got rules with no reason
they teach you to kill and they send you away
with your gun in your hand, you pick up your pay
so cool, that no mercy tool

Kuia please believe me? I just couldn't help myself.
I wanted to run but they gave me a gun
and they told me the duty I owed to my Fatherland.
I made my stand.

Kuia I just shot them, I just blew their heads open,
and I heard them scream in their agony
Kuiama she waits there for me
True blue, you saw it through.

This, my friends, in a masterpiece and should singlehandly be enough to seal the place in ELO in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Eligible since 1997, they have not yet been inducted.  That is a shame, because they are more deserving than some of the acts already inducted, at least in my opinion.

Here is a decent live version.  The embed code returns the wrong song, but this link works.

Now some thoughts about this album.  By the time that ELO2 was released, Lynne was completely in control of the band both artistically and administratively.  The musical style is obviously influenced by The Beatles (Lynne had met them in 1968) but so were a LOT of other bands at the time.  I would never go as far as some critics and say the Lynne was imitating them, but rather taking some of the more innovative elements of their music and adapting them for the unique sound of ELO.

I think that this is much better effort than the debut album, and was a harbinger of even better things to come.  Some things that I find of interest is the intentional use of distortion of Lynne's vocals, because any recording engineer would not allow a voice to be distorted like that by accident.  In many ways it adds to the effect, but does get a bit old now and then.

Research that I have done indicates that this record was originally to be a concept album called The Lost Planet, but that was dropped after Roy Wood left the band.  I can find little or no connexion betwixt that album title and the science fiction novel by Angus MacVicar (made into a movie serial) of the same name, but may be overlooking something.

I like this album a lot, and some of their subsequent work even better.  However, except for a few rare gems like "Kuiama", their music does not "grab" me like music by The Who or The Moody Blues.  I guess what I am trying to say is that, while I like their music fine, I do not have nearly as strong an emotional bond with their than I have with the other two bands just mentioned.  As a matter of fact, the songs by The Electric Light Orchestra are the light, even funny ones, not their serious stuff.

Speaking about The Who, on BBC America tonight at 10:00 Eastern there is a documentary about the making of Quadrophenia, and at midnight some video of live performances by them.  I shall watch them as I field comments, since I have no place to go tonight and choose to spend the evening with my friends here, my readers.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Docudharma, and

firefly-dreaming

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