I know that a lot of purists out there will think much less of me when I say that one of my favorite bands of all time is the Electric Light Orchestra. My fondness for the band probably stems from its ubiquity on the jukebox at the Round Table pizza on Blossom Hill Road in San Jose, California, where my dad would take my sister and me rather frequently. I also distinctly remember hearing “Evil Woman” being played at, of all places, Frontier Village, a now defunct theme park that anyone who grew up in San Jose in the 1970s would remember with fondness.
As I got older, the whole ethos of ELO’s music – that jam-packed arrangements, the often lame lyrics, the tendency toward bombast, especially on the early albums – didn’t really work for me as I veered toward punk. But there was something to the band’s music that made me smile when I heard it, and when I got a car with a good CD player – a Prius, of all the stupid things – I was amazed to discover all the weird little touches buried in these songs. Now that I’m mature enough to get the technical expertise of the band, it’s enjoyable on another level. The production is over the top, but everything is right where it ought to be (most of the time) in a Jenga sort of way – yank out one piece and the whole confabulation would come crashing down.
There are so many little weird things to enjoy in every ELO song. That “Dr. Who”-style bass effect in the chorus of “Turn to Stone.” The incredibly silly backing lyrics to “Sweet Talking Woman.” The strange keyboard noodling secreted away during the verses of “Don’t Bring Me Down.” ELO songs are to music what “Police Squad” was to comedy shows lasting six episodes: if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss something. “Telephone Line” is the best Bee Gees song they never recorded; “Mr. Blue Sky” is remarkable in being totally unconventional in structure but peppered with an assortment of hooks; and the combination of violin and trumpet at the start of “Living Thing” is just pure genius.
Anyway, I had “ELO’s Greatest Hits” on my CD player in the car for six months (note: I commute to work via bus, so I wasn’t going all “Jeff Lynne-cum-A Clockwork Orange” on myself) and enjoyed the heck out of it. It is not the smartest music in the world, but neither was the music of the Ramones, and I love ‘em both the same. I gladly surrender any cool points you wish to deduct.
Filed under: Popular Music