Friday, 25 September 2020

Jeff Lynne at Abbey Road Studios?

#1,532: Yours Truly KJS and elobeatlesforever (elobf) are back after a six (6) month break mostly due to a startling occurrence on one of my fave radio shows - The Richie Allen Show - on Thursday 24th September wherein after premiering his first ever record/single: "You're Sticking No Vax In Me", the affable Manchester based DJ stated that the song - recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London - was "produced by Jeff Lynne of Jeff Lynne's ELO".

This, of course, suggests that the ELO maestro is back in the UK at present tweaking his next project(s). You can hear the song and the story behind it between 2:27 and 6:48 by clicking below thus ..


*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 25-October-2020 ***

Sunday, 29 March 2020

First Live: The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)

#1,531: It was quite a surprise to Yours Truly KJS when, following years of ELO releases on Jet Records, that "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" (EPC32700) appeared on record shop shelves not only on the Epic label but also with new album artwork in November 1985. This writer was 18 years old and I remember buying the cassette at the time. It took another seven years to acquire a pristine vinyl copy of the album, thanx to my good friend Christian Evans, some persuasion and a copy of "Afterglow".

As an avid collector, I was aware of the original 1974 German, Dutch and South African gatefold LP release of "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" (Warner Bros. Burbank WB56058) as a copy often turned up in local second hand record shops, usually with a relatively hefty price tag and not in particularly good condition. Sandwiched between the studio albums "On The Third Day" (K56021) and "Eldorado" (K56090), "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" was a poor recording based on a rough mix of the concert held on the night of Sunday 12th May 1974 yet it provided an edited cover of ELO's iconic Beatles cover "Day Tripper" b/w "Daybreaker" (WB16456) as a single in Germany and Holland which remains a rather rare collectible for completists to this day.
The '85 Epic release was far better to the original '74 Warner Bros. issue owing to the fact that it was pressed using another superior recording of the gig found in the archives. The change in album art was also dramatic with the garish 1950's B movie parody slogan replaced by a sleeve sporting the familiar ELO logo atop an imagined LA highway sign replete with palm tree and traffic light. With the hiatus between "Secret Messages" in June 1983 and "Balance Of Power" in March 1986 nearing its end, the repackaging and reissuing of "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" - ELO's first official live album - was indeed timely.
It would be a further thirteen years before a remastered "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" (Epic 4911032) finally arrived on CD in 1998 with the accompanying booklet based on the 1985 sleeve with the original 1974 album art also faithfully reproduced within.

More live albums followed in 1998 with "Live At Winterland '76" (EAMCD038) and "Live At Wembley '78" (EAMCD039) via Eagle Records before the release of "Live" (2013) and "Wembley Or Bust" (2017). In terms of live output, we should also consider ELO Part II's "Performing ELO's Greatest Hits Live" (1992) and "One Night - Live In Australia" (1996) in the list too.

The story of Electric Light Orchestra's first live album "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" is long and unique but wouldn't it interesting to find more songs on those archived tapes and, if so, enough material to warrant an expanded release?

Related articles from the elobf archives
*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 29-March-2020 ***

Monday, 23 March 2020

Flashback: Whatever Happened to Clair de Lune?

#1,530: When it comes to the musical output of Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra, perhaps one of the more recent mysteries for fans and followers of the ELO maestro is the non-appearance of his interpretation of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" not only in the film itself but also in the original soundtrack album for the motion picture "American Hustle" back in 2013.

"Clair de Lune" - originally the third movement of Debussy's "Suite bergamasque", an instrumental piano composition based on a 1869 Paul Verlaine poem - was cited for possible inclusion in "American Hustle" by several sources at the time including the now retired Official Jeff Lynne Facebook page. Although never leaked or sampled (as far as this writer is aware), it is believed to be a guitar based version with Jeff's familiar sound and production characteristics.

The "American Hustle" OST did include a new Jeff Lynne penned instrumental "Stream Of Stars" as well as his solo version of "10538 Overture" and "Long Black Road" (first found on the Japanese edition of "Zoom" in 2001). Yours Truly KJS believes that when it came to song selections for the film, Soundtrack Executive Producer David O. Russell chose "Stream Of Stars" over "Clair de Lune" as a third instrumental track alongside Danny Elfman's "Irving Montage" and Duke Ellington's "Jeep's Blues".

Maybe Jeff's take on "Clair de Lune" will turn up on a bonus album track or a future rarities release or even an expanded "American Hustle" OST release. Or perhaps it will remain another one of those enigmatic unreleased tracks - not unlike "Beatles Forever" ...

Related elobf articles
*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 23-March-2020 ***

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Time for a 40th Anniversary Expanded Xanadu?

#1,529: Many fans will be aware that ELO's studio albums between 1971 and 1986 have all been reissued, remastered and/or expanded to the max save for their five song contribution to the "Xanadu" original soundtrack album (UK: #JETLX526; US: MCA-6100), alongside a quintet of Olivia Newton-John songs, which peaked at #2 in the Official UK Album Chart back in August 1980. Now that the 40th anniversary of "Xanadu" is fast approaching, this writer is of the opinion that an expanded CD (and vinyl) edition is long overdue bearing in mind that the original gatefold LP produced an impressive six Top 40 hits in the UK alone including, of course, a certain #1 single ...
Aside from the familiar ten songs spread over its ELO and ONJ sides, there are a number of other trax that could be included in an expanded "Xanadu" including "Drum Dreams" ('B' side to "I'm Alive"; #JET179), "Fool Country" ('B' side to "Xanadu"; #JET185), "You Made Me Love You" ('B' side to "Suddenly; #JET7002) and the enigmatic "Xanadu Overture" (sometimes referred to as "Xanadu Reprise") as heard in the film finale. You could even add Jeff Lynne's re-recorded version for "Flashback" in 2000 for good measure meaning that up to fifteen trax could be squeezed onto an updated release thus ...

[1] "I'm Alive" (ELO) ~ [2] "The Fall" (ELO) ~ [3] "Don't Walk Away" (ELO) ~ [4] "All Over The World" (ELO) ~ [5] "Xanadu" (ELO/ONJ) ~ [6] "Magic" (ONJ) ~ [7] "Suddenly" (ONJ/Harry Webb) ~ [8] "Dancin'" (ONJ/The Tubes) ~ [9] "Suspended In Time" (ONJ) ~ [10] "Whenever You're Away From Me" (ONJ/Gene Kelly) ~ [11] "Drum Dreams" (ELO) ~ [12] "Fool Country" (ONJ) ~ [13] "You Made Me Love You" (ONJ) ~ [14] "Xanadu Overture"/"Xanadu Reprise" (ELO) ~ [15] "Xanadu" (2000 version)
Undoubtedly, it would be interesting to gauge whether there is enough interest in both the Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra fan bases for Universal and/or Sony to put together an attractive commercial package, the only potential obstacle being that the OST was originally a joint Jet/MCA release in the UK/Europe but MCA elsewhere. Yours Truly KJS and elobeatlesforever (elobf) would like to know if you would welcome an expanded, remastered "Xanadu" release. Thoughts?

Related elobf articles

*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 19-March-2020 ***

Sunday, 15 March 2020

2021 Release for Wembley Or Bust Budget Hardback

#1,528: Fans and followers of Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) who were unable to afford the Deluxe or Collectors edition of the Jeff Lynne's ELO book "Wembley Or Bust" (Genesis Publications ISBN 978-1905662524) back in 2018 will be pleased to hear that a more affordable 212 page hardcover edition (ISBN 978-1905662647) is set to be published on Sunday 14th March 2021.

Pre-orders for the new budget edition of "Wembley Or Bust" by Jeff Lynne's ELO can presently be placed with (currently priced at £35) and (currently priced at $45) via these links thus:
elo beatles forever (elobf) recommends "Wembley Or Bust" by Jeff Lynne's ELO to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO, Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe MoveThe Idle Race'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 15-March-2020 ***

Friday, 13 March 2020

Remembering Beryl Sinclair: My Mother, Music & Me

#1,527: These words are difficult to write. My mom Beryl Sinclair passed away last weekend hence the pause in new elobf articles. Whilst others have quite rightly posted their photos and memories via social media and expressed their grief in their own way, Yours Truly KJS wanted to pause for thought and remember her influence on me, specifically how I developed such a love for music in general and later, of course, the music of all things Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) et al.

The truth is that even before I bought my first record "Turn To Stone" in November 1977 at the age of ten, my mother had inadvertently seeded me with an ELOve! I recall vividly that she used to do the weekly shop in Wolverhampton town centre and occasionally brought home pristine copies of "Hot Hits" or "Top Of The Pops" from Woolworths. The amazing thing is that I used to play them on the family record player (and later my own modified Dansette). I still fondly remember taking a particular liking to a version of "10538 Overture" on the "Hot Hits XIII" (#MFP50041) album and later "Evil Woman" on the "Top Of The Pops 50th Special Edition" (#SHM935) LP. So perhaps it was not a surprise that I would eventually latch onto a lifelong love of ELO and be writing these words.

Later, I would go on to buy "A New World Record" (#UAG30017) from her catalogue for 18p a week (over 20 weeks) before my mum bought me "Three Light Years" (#JETBX1) and "ELO's Greatest Hits" (#JETLX525) as Christmas presents in 1978 and 1979 respectively. All of which I still treasure as you can see in the above photo montage.

Grief is hard to express in mere words. My mother was a beautiful, kind, generous and loving lady. She was and is an integral part of my life: past, present and yet future. You would not be reading these words but for her, hence this tribute.

In memory of Beryl Lilian Sinclair
Tuesday 6th July 1937 ~ Sunday 8th March 2020

*** Keith James Sinclair ... 13-March-2020 ***

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Olé ELO: The Withdrawal of JETLP19

#1,526: In terms of UK releases, besides the aborted second ELO EP and the "Turn To Stone" reissue mystery, the other rarity that eludes many collectors of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and related vinyl is the release of their 1976 "Olé ELO" compilation via Jet/Polydor (#JETLP19) in their home country. Having peaked at a very respectable #32 in the US Billboard 200, this was the first commercially successful ELO greatest hits collection yet it was hastily withdrawn in the UK almost as soon as it had finished being pressed with only a few copies escaping intact. For many years this writer thought it was down to the original Jet/UA release (#UA-LA630-G) having rear album sleeve notes specifically aimed at US audiences catching up with a band with spectacular live shows and a growing list of hit singles but to understand what happened we need to not only look at the early days of Jet Records but also across the Channel to Europe. The fact that "Olé ELO" did see release at the time on the continent in Germany on the famed red Polydor label (#2310 475) and was later reissued in Holland via Jet/CBS (#JETLP903) inevitably leads us to the conclusion that its effective non-release in the UK was down to circumstances closer to home.

Jet Records (the subject of a forthcoming elobf career overview) made their debut in October 1974 with the release of "No Honestly" (#JET747), a #7 hit for Lynsey de Paul. Their marketing and distribution was carried out by Polydor (and briefly Island Records - including Roy Wood's hit single "Oh What A Shame" #JET754; #13). Success was sparse with a total of 29 singles released under the Polydor umbrella with only four hitting the Top 40 including ELO's "Evil Woman" (#JET764; #10) and "Strange Magic" (#JET779; #38). On the album front, the situation was worse with none of eleven (11) Jet/Polydor albums charting including, amazingly, ELO's "Face The Music" (#JETLP11) and Roy Wood's "Mustard" (#JETLP12). It was at this time that Jet sought another distributor in United Artists (as was the case in America) and it's likely that the rapid pulling of "Olé ELO" was down to that transition if not some licensing difficulties with Harvest over the inclusion of "10538 Overture", "Kuiama" and "Roll Over Beethoven".

It's also interesting to note that ELO's next album, the platinum certified "A New World Record" (#UAG30017; #6) was also numbered as JETLP20 (in brackets). Jet and United Artists went on to reissue "On The Third Day" (#UAG30091), "Eldorado" (#UAG30092) and "Face The Music" (#UAG30034) albums but not "Olé ELO" which remains officially unreleased in the UK to this day.
Related elobf articles
*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 05-March-2020 ***

Friday, 28 February 2020

Calling America: ELO's Unique US Singles

#1,525: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when what we now call the wold wide web was prophetic in science fiction circles, fans, followers and collectors of all things Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) found imports of their foreign releases all the more ... collectable! As a young fan and erstwhile record collector, Yours Truly KJS was always fascinated when I came across ELO's 7" American singles.

Whilst many were the same as their UK counterparts, some had alternate 'B' sides, some were coloured vinyl and the odd one was translucent. They were interesting (especially to completists) but the singles that a young KJS wanted were the singles that were unique to the States and not issued here in the UK. As far as this writer is concerned, there were half a dozen singles that I sought after and eventually held on tight to.

The first was "Daybreaker" b/w "Ma Ma Ma Belle" (United Artists #UA-XW405-W), essentially a double 'AA' side taken from "On The Third Day" which peaked at #87 in the US Billboard Top 100 thanx to ELO's seemingly endless "Do It With The Light On" tour dates. Note that "Daybreaker" wasn't included on the 1976 US hits compilation LP "Olé ELO" (UA-LA630-G) whereas "Ma Ma Ma Belle" was even though technically it did not chart.

Perhaps surprisingly, our second example is the much shortened edit of "Boy Blue" (United Artists #UA-XW634-X) which was issued as the follow-up single to "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" from the "Eldorado" album but, unfortunately, did not trouble the chart.

The third US only single was "Do Ya" (Jet/UA #UA-XW939-Y) in 1976 with ELO riding on the crest of a wave thanx to the success of "A New World Record". Peaking at a respectable #24, "Do Ya" was chosen in lieu of "Rockaria!" as a single for the American market whilst underlining the strong bonds between The Move and ELO.
Whereas "Wild West Hero" (Jet/CBS #SJET109) blazed a trail to #6 in the UK, "It's Over" (Jet/CBS #ZS8 5052) was the fourth unique US single put out across the proverbial pond this time taken, of course, from ELO's iconic best selling 2LP opus "Out Of The Blue". It made #75.

Note: Four singles were taken from "Discovery" both in the States and the UK because "Confusion" (Jet/CBS #ZS9 5064) and "Last Train To London" (Jet/CBS #ZS9 5067) were separate US releases whereas they were a double 'AA' side single (Jet/CBS #JET166) in the UK and "The Diary Of Horace Wimp" (Jet/CBS #JET150) did not see US release.

Fast forwarding to 1981 and our fifth US only single which is "Rain Is Falling" (Jet/CBS #ZS5 02693), taken from ELO's futuresque "Time" album. Whereas four singles were released in the UK from "Time" including another 'AA' side single, only "Hold On Tight", "Twilight" and "Rain Is Falling" (which did not breach the Top 100) were issued stateside in the 7" format.

Finally we come to "Secret Messages" and what many British fans thought would've been a good choice as a single in the UK. "Stranger" (Jet/CBS #ZS4 04208) is the sixth US only single released (as opposed to the title track elsewhere) which, sadly, also did not make the Billboard Top 100. It was however issued in Holland (Jet/CBS #A4070) as a rather attractive third* single from "Secret Messages".
*Note that "Stranger" was not the fourth Dutch single as originally stated in this article due to "Four Little Diamonds" (Jet/CBS #A3869) being pressed in Holland for release in Germany. Thanx to my good friend Patrik Guttenbacher of FTM Germany for the clarification!

Related elobf articles
*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 28-Feb-2020 ***

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Recommended: Morganisation @ Kitchen Garden Cafe 28.05.2020

#1,524: Former ELO member Dave Scott-Morgan will bring a streamlined Morganisation to the Kitchen Garden Cafe venue in King's Heath, Birmingham on Thursday 28th May for what promises to be a rather special gig with wife Mandy and guitarist Alex Lowe also sharing the stage. Yours Truly KJS caught up briefly with Dave (who also cites spells with The Uglys, Balls and Magnum in his musical CV) earlier this week and asked him three quickfire questions for elobf about the forthcoming show:

KJS: Morganisation are back with a bang! What have you been up to recently?
DSM: Hi Keith! 
It's good to be back! Since the Earthrise gig at Birmingham Conservatoire last November, I've been doing a lot in the studio.
KJS: Will your date at the Kitchen Garden Cafe feature the full band or should we expect something a little more intimate?
DSM: The show will be the three piece group with Mandy and Alex. I've re-Morganised us into a trio!
KJS: Your set lists often include a mix of your own songs, inventive covers and some ELO. Will we hear some new songs?
DSM: Yes! All I will say is that there'll be a bunch of new songs in the set, some being from our latest album "Seven".
Dave Scott-Morgan taking "Time" with ELO on tour (left) and with KJS (right) ...
Remaining tickets for the aforementioned Morganisation gig at the Kitchen Garden Cafe are priced at £12 on the door or can be purchased in advance for £10 (plus £1 booking fee) via this link thus:

Related elobf articles

elo beatles forever (elobf) continues to recommend Morganisation to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELOJeff LynneRoy WoodThe MoveThe Idle Race'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 26-Feb-2020 ***

Friday, 21 February 2020

Interview: Mike Stevens (Musical Director: Jeff Lynne's ELO/Take That)

Meeting up: Mike with Yours Truly KJS ...
#1,523: Mention the name Mike Stevens to the current crop of ELO fans and they will correctly identify him as not only the Musical Director for Jeff Lynne's ELO and Take That but also as the ELO maestro's essential right hand man for all their live performances from 2013 to the present day. But the ELO connection does not end there for a man with a stellar career CV, be it his solo career or his accomplished work with Annie Lennox, 10cc and a whole host of other musical heavyweights.

Yours Truly KJS has kept in touch with Mike, having bumped into this writer, arranger, producer and noted saxophonist during the presentation of his Honorary Fellowship at Birmingham Conservatoire back in 2016. I recently caught up again with Mike in order to conduct this exclusive interview for elobeatlesforever (elobf). Enjoy!

KJS: Hello again Mike! Let's go back to the beginning. Having graduated from Birmingham School of Music in 1979, what did a fresh faced 22 year old Mike Stevens get up to in the early 80's?
MS: Well, after studying at Birmingham I formed my own band and did various things including a couple of seasons at Butlins before taking the band on cruise ships where we played Top 40 songs for enthusiastic passengers ... Ha! This was a great grounding for me and helped me to understand the mechanics of great recordings and songwriter. I also played with some Mecca bands at this time. Again, it was all part of the learning process as we were learning new songs each week. It gave me a great start in the business but after a few years I really wanted to do my own thing and be part of the whole ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ thing.
KJS: Your solo career began to take off in 1987 with the release of your acid jazz themed "Light Up The Night" album and the single "C'est L'affaire" - a track that featured former Imagination front man Leee John. If I remember correctly, your meeting up with Leee was an important moment in the early stages of your career wasn't it?
MS: Yes! Meeting and working with Leee was very important. I was writing my own sax albums at that time and I had a small 4 track Portastudio in which I did all my own recording before getting interest from a small London based label who signed me up and put me in a big 24 track studio to make an album. Leee, who I’d met in a session, agreed to collaborate with some writing and, luckily for me, his label RCA heard this and signed up the album. I made two albums with RCA and we made a small dent of success in the States where smooth jazz was just taking off.
KJS: It was also during this time that you worked quite extensively with the late, great Pete Haycock (who was, of course, both a founding member of Climax Blues Band and ELO Part II) both in the studio and on the live circuit with "Guitar & Son" (1987) and later "Livin' It" (1992). What are your fondest memories of performing and gigging with Pete back then?
MS: Yes, Pete Haycock was a great player and around this time he was a member of ELO Part 2. I toured with him for a few years around Europe mostly, playing keyboards, sax and flute. I learnt a lot from him about playing blues, he was a master and gave me many opportunities to express myself as a soloist. Very fond memories of great gigs and lovely company! I particularly remember trading solos with him and how inspiring it was to feel the reaction of the crowd to what we were doing ... great musical adventures!
KJS: Tell me more about the moment in 1988 when Bill Withers landed in the UK with no band for a three week tour. That was your big break wasn't it?
MS: Around this time I was doing a lot of support gigs as a sax soloist supporting my albums. The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, Freddie Jackson etc. and then one day my agent rang and said he would like me to support Bill Withers on a UK tour but also would like me to use my band as his band as well! Wow ... all of a sudden I was his Musical Director for three weeks! Yes, it was a great opportunity and wonderful music! He was very chilled and generous to us, just basically letting us do our thing, arrangements were loose and we just had fun! I have a couple of great stories from that tour a bit too long to go into now but hasten to say it was very significant in my development to the bigger MD jobs that I took on later! Great learning curve!
Back in the day: Mike with Pete Haycock ...
KJS: A second solo album "Set The Spirit Free" arrived in 1990 and by then you had played with or had worked with the likes of Barry White, Brenda Russell, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations, Tina Turner, Mica Paris and Tom Jones! You must have been busy on many fronts before the call came from Take That?
MS: Yes, as I said before, I worked a lot at this time on the road with my sax albums and in the studio with the likes of Tom Jones, Mica Paris etc. also started to do a lot more guitar playing on sessions which I always enjoyed. The sax stuff was becoming more difficult around this time as tastes had begun to change and people got bored with having sax solos all over the place so I decided to move away from my solo career and just about at the same time Take That came calling in ‘93! They already had an MD and I was asked to join as a player but the MD they had didn’t really know too many players so I ended up getting a lot of the guys myself! After a few gigs the MD decided to move on so I just took over. Most of the guys I had booked anyway so was a natural progression.
KJS: You've been the Musical Director for Take That now for getting close to three decades from their initial arrival on the scene to their amazing resurgence through their many hits and as a key member of their imaginative tours. During that time you’ve overseen the establishment of their touring band and, by extension, that for Jeff Lynne too. I noticed that there's a lot of love for you and the band too from the TT fans! When you signed up, did you foresee the success of Take That and how did it affect you down the years? What would you consider to be your personal highlight to date and also your fave Take That song?
MS: Well initially it was only 1993-96 as they split and it really was a teen band although enjoying massive success. When the reform happened in 2005-6, it really was a reinvention and incredible how it developed on! We really had no idea it would take off like it did, the guys were always talking it down in the beginning, believing it was probably only going to last a very short while but, incredibly, it kept on going and when the first album of that era hit everybody realised this was something special. Highlights were always the tours, just massive, doing 8 nights at Wembley stadium in front of 85,000 people a night is something I always remember! “A Million Love Songs” has always been dear to me as it is a great feature for me as a sax player but my favourite song probably has to be “Rule The World”.
KJS: As with working with Take That wasn't enough, you’ve also spent many years working with Graham Gouldman and have performed with 10cc on several tours. With a songbook ranging from the quirky to progressive rock to the layered eloquence of "I'm Not In Love", did you approach working with 10cc any differently than with Take That? Looking back, which 10cc track did you enjoy performing most?
MS: I was in 10cc for close to 14 years and loved it! Graham is a wonderful guy and an iconic songwriter. We played all over the world and the band was always loved wherever we performed! I played mainly keys with the band but also did a bit of bass and electric now and again. Vocals have always been a big part of the band and I always enjoyed the singing parts immensely. The pressure of other gigs has meant unfortunately I had to stop doing it but great memories still remain. Iain Hornal joined around the time I left and is a perfect fit for them. We even did a few crossover gigs together! I loved doing “Good Morning Judge” as I played bass and “The Things We Do For Love” is brilliant but nothing beats playing “I’m Not In Love”.
KJS: Your career seems to have never stopped expanding and evolving as you've also been the Musical Director for Annie Lennox more or less from the time that you started working with 10cc in 2002. You also produced her albums "Songs Of Mass Destruction" in 2007 and "A Christmas Cornucopia" in 2010. I imagine that this is another string to your bow that you've thoroughly enjoyed! How did the opportunity to work with Annie come about? Is there also a stand out moment from working with Annie that you'd care to recall?
MS: Annie has been a wonderful friend and colleague since I started working with her in the very early 2000’s. I met her initially to put together and MD her first real solo tours in 2002-3. She is a truly inspiring performer and writer and I can honestly say some of my greatest musical moments have been in her company! As she started to perform less, I started to work with her in the studio and eventually we formed a great working partnership on her later albums which were also recorded at my own studio. As well as the albums you’ve mentioned, one of the big highlights for me was to be nominated for a Grammy for “Nostalgia”, an album we did in 2015. We performed the key track “I Put A Spell On You” at the 2016 Grammys and Annie very definitely stole the show. The same song also became the opening music for “50 Shades of Grey” which was a big highlight for me as a producer and performer. There are too many magical moments to mention with Annie, maybe in another interview I’ll elaborate!
Star of the show: Mike's solo releases ...
KJS: You were asked to oversee the Queen's Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012 and also the closing ceremony for the London Olympics. They both must've been a huge honour for you and hopefully not too much pressure! Did you get to enjoy both occasions when I imagine that there were many aspects of both productions keeping you busy?
MS: The Diamond Jubilee was without doubt the biggest job I ever took on! It was wonderful and scary all at the same time. Coordinating playing and organising the music and musicians for such a massive concert was daunting and knowing that we were playing live to nearly a billion people meant I could only really enjoy it after we had done it ... Ha! Again there are many stories associated with that day, too many to recount but it was fun and a great experience! Especially the after show in Buckingham Palace ... brilliantly surreal!
KJS: Fast forward to 2013 when you and the TT band were 'borrowed' by Jeff courtesy of Gary Barlow for the Children In Need Rocks concert and the ELO ball started rolling, proverbially speaking. Not long after that, Hyde Park happened and then three major tours not forgetting Glastonbury and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction. I guess that your work with Take That10cc and Annie Lennox meant that you had covered many genres and styles. How did you find learning and arranging all those great Electric Light Orchestra hits for the live shows? Were there any challenges that you'd not experienced before or were the songs something you took to instantly? You look very comfortable with Jeff on stage. What is working with Jeff like?
MS: Meeting Jeff in 2013 was a wonderful coincidence ... and proved very beneficial in the long run! I’ve always worked with Gary Barlow on the “Children in Need Rocks” shows and put together the house bands. In 2013 Jeff had agreed to be on the bill with Richard Tandy so obviously I had two ELO songs to do with him for the show. These shows are very musically involved and require lots of rehearsals and I always recall we use to end long days in rehearsals with “Mr. Blue Sky”. It really helped to relax the band after a long day in the studio. I just hit it off with Jeff at this time, I was a big fan of the music and really felt a close understanding of what he wanted. It’s was a great success on the show and, low and behold, a year later I got a call from te BBC to say that Jeff was up for reforming his ELO with us to do Hyde Park ... Quite an unbelievable moment! As I said, I feel a great understanding with Jeff and I felt his vision for bringing the band back. He really wanted to recreate those records as he had recorded them back in the 70’s - something that was very difficult back then! He’s great to work with because he knows what he wants but, at the same time, he let’s me get on with it! If something’s not right he will tell me straight away, it’s all about trust and as long as it’s right he’s happy. He’s an incredibly generous and funny man ... We’ve had some wonderful times and I’m so honoured to be standing next to him on a stage, as are all of his band. He’s a musical genius on that stage as far as we’re all concerned and it really is a labour of love for everyone!
KJS: Having enjoyed and still enjoying what can only be described as wonderful career (with a new ELO tour around the corner), what would you say are the moments, things and/or events that you personally take most pride from since you started out?
MS: Hyde Park has to be up there! Nobody, including Jeff, knew how this was going to work out. It was only after the first few chords of “All Over The World” that I think I knew it was special, up until then we were nervous and a bit unsure. The Wembley concert is probably my overall favourite but 3 nights at the Hollywood Bowl in LA with an orchestra was pretty amazing too!
KJS: Now here's what always get asked during my interviews for elobf! What are your fave ELO songs and, of the ELO songs that have not been given the live treatment to date by Jeff Lynne's ELO, what would be your choice for a live debut later this year?
MS: Ah! The favourite question ... Ha! I genuinely have more than one favourite! It’s genuinely hard to pick out just one ... “Mr. Blue Sky”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “Telephone Line”, “All Over The World”, “Livin’ Thing” ... love them all! As for ones we haven’t done, I can’t say as I may be giving things away but there are some and hopefully we’ll be doing them in the new show.

A personal message from Mike:
"I would like to say a big thank you to all the bands loyal followers and fans who have been so generous towards us in bringing back the music of Jeff and ELO. We really appreciate all the kind words and look forward to seeing you all on the shows!"
Stellar career: Mike with Jeff Lynne's ELO, Take That and 10cc ...
Yours Truly KJS and elobeatlesforever (elobf) would like to put on record their sincere thanx to Mike Stevens for his participation in this interview. We wish Mike and the band all the very best for the Autumn tours and whatever lies beyond ...
*** Until next "Time" in the elobf universe ... KJS ... 21-Feb-2020 ***