Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Interview: Electric Live Orchestra

Yours Truly KJS with Electric Live Orchestra
  #228: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) is very pleased to bring you an interview with local ELO tribute band The Electric Live Orchestra. Yours Truly KJS caught up with the talented quintet recently at a certain public house in Wolverhampton and put these questions to them:

KJS: Firstly; please tell me about the personalities in the band?
John: Dave is the creator of the band, Mel is the backbone and “hummer” (Ha Ha!), Bernie is the newbie with lots of experience and he’s the joker, Gary (‘Gaz’) is “the main man” and I am the 'puppy' who has obtained 40 years of musical experience in 14 years (at 27!) and the good looking one!
Gaz: Well, firstly we have Dave a.k.a. “the Gaffer” - and we let him think he is! Dave is a perfectionist, he makes us work hard, but that’s why the band is so good. He also plays, sings and looks a lot like Kelly - which is good! Mel is great, you don’t have to worry about me with Mel around! He is solid, reliable and loud! Mel doesn’t try to be flash, he just plays what should be played, perfect for ELO! As long as he gets his pint at the end of a gig, he’s happy! John is the comedian in the band. He’s great at impressions and stuff; he should be in a comedy band! John is a super guitarist and we work well together. There’s a kind of healthy competition between us plus he’s not a bad singer either! Bernie has made a great difference to us. He was a hero of mine when I was a kid; although back then he played guitar - a very talented guy!
Bernie: Dave is the driving musical force of the band. Mel is ‘solid as a rock’ percussion; Johnny is guitarist extraordinaire and ‘puppy’! Gary is also guitarist extraordinaire and twin ‘puppy’ to Johnny! I am the midfielder who came out of retirement to add some pretty chords and vocals to the band.
KJS: What are the bands musical influences other than ELO?
Dave: The Beatles and Tamla Motown.
Gaz: Believe it or not, Glam rock influenced me a lot! Rock ‘n’ Roll should be fun, that is why we all got into it in the first place. I don’t take things too seriously! When it stops being fun, I’ll stop doing it!
Bernie: Trapeze, Glenn Hughes, Mel Galley, Black Eyed Peas, Jethro Tull, Yes, Snow Patrol. Bernie has no musical boundaries!
Mel: My personal influences in the music scene are Journey, Foreigner, Toto, Boston and generally the American rock genre.
KJS: Are any of you guys presently involved in other musical adventures and (if so) what are they?
Gaz: At the moment, I am writing a few songs for my nephew who is just starting his musical adventure. I am hoping to include him in our show at The Range. Feel free to check him out on YouTube: Adam Dean.
Bernie: I’ve been the resident DJ at Gilberts in Willenhall for many years. Dave and Johnny have been gigging as a duo for some time too.
KJS: Your set list includes a wide range of well-known ELO songs. But what other ELO songs would you like to attempt live on stage and what tracks do you plan to perform in future?
Dave: “Poker”, “Don’t Walk Away” (unplugged), “Poor Boy (The Greenwood)”, “Big Wheels”
John: “Poker”, “Big Wheels”, “Eldorado”, “Here Is The News”
Gaz: There are so many ELO songs that we could do. I would love to do “Midnight Blue”, “Shangri-la”, “So Fine” and “Here Is The News”
Bernie: “Alright” from “Zoom”, “Secret Messages” and “Don’t Walk Away” would be mine.
KJS: What work goes into your interpretation of the ELO ‘sound’ on stage?
Gaz: Anyone who has seen us will know that “we rock them up a bit!” We try to get a live feel instead of sounding like the record - and it seems to work! Really it’s just us playing ELO songs the way we like to play them. We have two rock guitarists and this gives us that ‘edge’ - especially on the earlier stuff. We also sneak some extra harmony lead guitars in - just because we can! We always have great nights.
Bernie: Dave and I arrange the songs; Mel deals with the best ‘live’ interpretation of the drumming; Gaz and Johnny (‘the puppies’) try to add their unique guitar work.
KJS: How did the band come into being?
Dave: I worked with the band Finders Keepers, discovered Gary 'Puppy' Mitchell and introduced John 'Puppy' Will. And the rest - they say - is history!
KJS: Please tell me about your musical journeys?
Dave: I’ve worked with local bands Fable, Tears and Soul Machine besides (of course) Finders Keepers!
John: I started to play the guitar at the age of 8 years, I was taught by my father. I was brought up with The Shadows then I progressed into rock guitar covering the likes of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci and Steve Lukather. At 14 years of age, I joined the Tears show group as a lighting engineer and became a massive fan of ELO, Queen, John Parr and Phil Collins. It was then that I started to get up on stage with the band and do a couple of ELO songs. At the age of 17, I joined up with Dave Bates to form a club duo that has been going now for 11 years.
Gaz: My journey started one day in 1977 when I was 14. I heard a record on the radio that really changed my life. That record was “My Baby Left Me” by Slade - not the Elvis version! - a three chord stomper with that fantastic voice of Noddy Holder. I immediately dragged my satellite Les Paul copy from under the bed and I’ve pretty much had a guitar in my hand ever since! I had already formed a band before I left school. We were not that good but we were good enough to convince my uncle Brian, who was a great singer, to be our manager. Brian had been is some good bands in the sixties and seventies: Finders Keepers and Lady Jane & The Royalty” to name but two. He soon had us playing and singing at a very good standard. We had several successful years that included record company interest. We met Kelly (Groucutt) a few times during this period (more later) when we were called Ashley. Since then I have played in many different bands Shy With The Girls (cabaret), Ballzy (three piece rock), Fat Chance (Blues band) and most recently a new line-up of Finders Keepers. Last year, Ashley reunited to do a few gigs, kind of a 30 year anniversary! It was great fun.
Bernie: I was born in Walsall, West Midlands and I played piano from age 8 as well as trumpet from age 12 and guitar from age 16! I’d planned to be a professional trumpet player but picked up the guitar which was much more hip! I played in local bands around the Midlands up to 1980 before going pro with Sight ‘n’ Sound, travelling the UK and Europe with them. At that time I also did some session work for BRMB Radio and Central TV. I left Sight ‘n’ Sound in 1985 and joined local band Tears whilst doing a lot of promo work for M&B brewery. Sometime later, both I and Dave Bates began rehearsing with Kelly Groucutt to form his version of ELO. However, I think legal matters got in the way and the rest is history! By saying this, I do not want to be seen as jumping on the ELO bandwagon - I would sooner run a London marathon on my knuckles!
Mel: I started playing the guitar at the age of 14. I was inspired by my dad, who had been a fantastic drummer playing in swing bands since his early twenties. I followed in his footsteps and started playing together with some school friends at the age of 17. Drumming has been a hobby of mine for many years and it has given me the opportunity to do what I love with some great people, who have also become great long term friends!
KJS: Have any of you come across ELO members; past or present?
Dave: Kelly Groucutt!
John: I’ve met Kelly Groucutt – a long time family friend - loads of times at various clubs and pubs.
Gaz: During the early Ashley days, we would have get-togethers at a pub in Tividale (near Dudley) called The Plough. Our manager Brian was a good friend of Kelly (Groucutt), although he always called him Mick. Occasionally, Mick would join us for a drink. I remember that it was quite exciting for us when he walked in with his big ELO necklace and his acoustic guitar with ‘ELO’ stamped all over the case! He even let us play it! I’ve never thought about it before but I have probably played a guitar that featured on a lot of ELO records – cool!
Bernie: Kelly Groucutt. A really nice man. God bless him.
Mel: I have had the great pleasure of meeting Kelly Groucutt through a musician and very dear friend of mine: Terry Garvey.
KJS: I have stated before that in between tours by The Orchestra and other ELO related acts, there's nothing better than attending a gig by a reputable ELO tribute act and that there is plenty of room for more than one such group. Indeed, whilst The ELO Experience bring forth the ELO album ‘sound’ live, my personal opinion is that the Electric Live Orchestra truly recreate ELO’s raw, rock-edged live Seventies ‘sound’ and are also a credit to the song writing of Jeff Lynne. What is the crowd reaction to and feedback like at your gigs?
John: The reaction and feedback is always good wherever we go. Whether they are ELO fans or not, they still enjoy our approach to performing ELO songs.
Bernie: I never cease to be amazed at the enthusiasm of audiences. The expectation seems to build with every gig we do.
Mel: Reactions to our performances are very positive and lively. On numerous occasions they have resulted in future gigs being booked at the same venue in advance and tickets being sold out.
KJS: A question I always ask next! What are your personal favourite ELO trax individually and as a band?
Dave: Too many to mention!
John: “Nightrider”, “Poker”, “10538 Overture”, “Ma Ma Ma Belle”, “Wild West Hero” and “Turn To Stone”
Gaz: My personal favourites are the earlier ones. My fave albums are “Face The Music”, “A New World Record”, “Out Of The Blue” and “Discovery” although there is also some superb guitar work on “Zoom”
Bernie: My personal favourite is “Poker”!
Mel: I don’t have any particular favourite trax. I enjoy playing the set as a whole and the atmosphere created at our performances.
KJS: Your gigs are predominantly in ELO’s Midlands heartland. But are you planning to develop and take your show out across the UK nationally?
John: We travel all over the UK and would love to do Europe and the USA.
Bernie: I feel we need a promoter with a good track record to push the band on. On a personal note, I would really like us to record some original music so as to give us our own identity but without compromising the tribute side of the band.
KJS: How can prospective venues, agents &/or promoters contact you and how can folks find out where and when the Electric Live Orchestra are playing?
John: They can visit our Facebook page at

One common thread I think that you will notice throughout this interview is the influence - both musically and personally - of the late, great Kelly Groucutt. This interview is dedicated to the memory of Mick 'Kelly' Groucutt. Once again, my wholehearted thanx are extended to the band for sparing their time and agreeing to participate in this interview.
The Electric Live Orchestra are: Dave Bates (Bass/Vox) ~ Johnny Will (Lead Rhythm Synth Guitar/Vox) ~ Gary Mitchell (Lead Rhythm Synth Guitar/Vox) ~ Mel Thompson (Drums/Percussion) ~ Bernie Toner (Keyboards/Vox)

ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommend The Electric Live Orchestra to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe Move'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) universe ... KJS ... 29-June-2011

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Caught Live (3): Electric Live Orchestra @ Essington 25/06/11

#227: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! Yours Truly KJS journeyed over to a new local venue named The Range near Essington in Staffordshire last Saturday night (25th June) with Christian "The Fall" Evans to join a packed crowd of around 200 patrons and witness the latest offering by the Electric Live Orchestra. And the trip was well worth it as this loud, bold and talented band literally rocked for two hours through the ELO back catalogue.

Now a five piece that features keyboardist Bernie Toner, fellow members Dave BatesGary MitchellJohnny Will and Mel Thompson produced a powerful set that included a 'rocked up' version of "Xanadu" and a remarkable rendition of that famous introductory aria in "Rockaria!" by John! Add to that a mid-interval Michael Buble cameo by new artiste Adam Dean and you could say that we had a very musically varied night!

E Live O performed all the hits from "10538 Overture" all the way through the ELO/Jeff Lynne songbook. Highlights for me were (as ever): "Ma Ma Ma Belle""Do Ya""Can't Get It Out Of My Head""The Diary Of Horace Wimp""Mr. Blue Sky" and "Twilight". High quality and industrious gigs like this keep the ELO sound 'live' and further reinforce my often repeated view that there is plenty of room for more than one ELO tribute act in the UK (and Europe) who explore the different musical styles found in the ELO universe.

I was also impressed by The Range venue itself; its facilities as well as the professionalism and courtesy of the staff. It was a loud gig but I had no complaints, even though my ears were still ringing two days later! The Electric Live Orchestra are well worth checking out, should they play a gig near you. ELOBF also suggests that you pay The Range a visit if you like good quality tribute acts in an intimate setting in the West Midlands of England.

ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends the Electric Live Orchestra to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe Move'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 28-June-2011

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

ELO Video Hits Collection Long Overdue

#226: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! I should have known better than to post an article recently questioning Sony's apparent repackaging (or was it re-sleeving?) of their 2005 ELO compilation release "All Over The World" some three weeks ago thus:

I was somewhat disappointed to find that the 2011 edition was in effect just a (very nicely designed) new cardboard outer sleeve - but with a very nice promotional campaign on selected TV channels. AOTW re-entered the UK album charts at #22 before slipping to #23 the next week so, when I checked the UK Top 10 album chart last Sunday, I was surprised (and most pleased) to see ELO back in said Top 10. Hence, Yours Truly KJS needs to humbly apologize to Sony. And quite rightly so. But I should be all that surprised when one reads this on Wikipedia:

"From 1972 to 1986, ELO accumulated more combined UK & US Top 40 hits than any other band in the world, and also generated the third most UK & US separate Top 40's."

So is it really any surprise to see the ELO back where they belong - a full 25 years since their last Top 30 single and Top 10 studio album. That a compilation managed to reach #6 back in 2005 and can still achieve a #10 placing upon re-release is most impressive to this writer, at any rate. ELO are a band who spawned so much worldwide success in their heyday yet they still retain a strong fan base (despite almost holding the Guinness World Record for the number of compilations ever issued) a full quarter of a century later. Move over Abba, Queen et al!

There is but one question that I wish to ask our friends at Sony: If you are so very confident of the re-marketability of the ELO back catalogue, then why don't you release a DVD of their video hits? This 2009 ELOBF article from 2009 needs no further updating:

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 21-June-2011

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Caught Live: Band On The Runn @ Wolverhampton 17/06/11

#225: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! It is so very apt to be writing and compiling this review on the 69th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney! Hence; it was my great pleasure to be in attendance and witness the first ever live gig by Band On The Runn at the Goodrich Club in Wolverhampton last night (Friday 17th June) with Christian 'Jet' Evans.

In a packed venue, this new Paul McCartney, Beatles and Wings tribute act delivered a phenomenal, unbroken set for over two hours that including some great interpretations of Macca influenced song writing and performances from the first Beatles album through his Wings career and solo material up to his time with The Firemen.

Band On The Runn are: Craig WhaleAdam WillettsIan Hammond and Dave Cottle. For a band playing for the first time in front of a sizeable audience; This group are polished, tight and professional performing tracks such as: "Jet", "Flaming Pie", "Hey Jude", "Highway", "Coming Up", "Back In The USSR", "Hey Jude", "Let 'Em In", "Live And Let Die", "Let It Be" and "Drive My Car" amongst many others. Yours Truly KJS has to say that my absolute fave last night was "The Long And Winding Road"!  

ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends Band On The Runn to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, The Move, The Beatles, 'Brum Beat' and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 18-June-2011

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

New Horizon for EarthRise

#224: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! A new friend to ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) - Ged Eastick - posted a comment on our Caught Live: Bev Bevan's Walk of Stars Award @ Gatecrasher 28/04/11 article back on 29th April regarding to a project he has been working on with former ELO members Richard Tandy and Dave Scott-Morgan which will see the classic 1984 (US)/1986 (UK) album "EarthRise" by Tandy Morgan reissued soon and subsequently reviewed (naturally) here.

Yours Truly KJS notes with interest that this album also includes contributions by the late great Carl Wayne, Tony Clarkin (Magnum) and Brian Badhams (co-founder of Wheels of Fire with Phil Bates, Mark Stanway and Clive Bunker). To find out more, you can visit Ged's website EarthRise by clicking on the link below thus:

ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends "EarthRise" by Tandy Morgan to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe Move'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 15-June-2011

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hamilton Radio: KJS Suggests This Week 10/06/11

#223: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! Friday means that you could - if you so choose - tune into the KJS Suggests slot over on Hamilton Radio which regularly features artistes including ELO (and their extended family members), The Beatles (both collectively and solo) amongst not a few others! The show also features new and upcoming bands with a link or musical nod to ELO such as Fragile X and WelshMansHill.

The show goes out from 10AM EST for two hours which equates to from 3PM to 5PM here in the UK (or from 2PM to 4PM during Winter). Feel free to click on the links below to reach Hamilton Radio - a partner of ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) and a wonderful family friendly radio station located in Hamilton, New Jersey that plays a fair proportion of ELO and related artists music 24/7 - and also hosts Pete DicksBeatles and Beyond and Martin Kinch's Cherry Blossom Clinic radio shows thus:

ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends Hamilton Radio to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe Move'Brum Beat'The Beatles and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 09-June-2011

Monday, 6 June 2011

Caught Live (3): The ELO Experience @ Torquay 03/06/11

#222: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! Whether it was providence or just pure good luck, it was wonderful to bookend our Devon holiday by once again seeing The ELO Experience live at The Princess Theatre in Torquay last night (Friday 3rd June) alongside my good friend Christian Evans and his daughter Stephanie.

We witnessed another wonderful, professional show performed by a band who were truly at home with what they were doing whilst enjoying each other and delivering a memorable collection of songs to a responsive, appreciative and excited audience. "Big Wheels" was replaced by "Standin' In The Rain" in a set list that included a marvellous rendition of "Don't Walk Away" which was dedicated to the late, great Kelly Groucutt. This ELO tribute band really deliver that polished ELO sound when they perform with their two duo of cellists. Who knows what they will sound like if they can hook an eclectic violinist? ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) also recommends the two CD's on sale at their gigs, the latest of which includes eleven live songs - including "Big Wheels" - recorded during their concert at The Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury last July.

And while we all await the return of The Orchestra (former members of ELO & ELO Part II) and maybe even Jeff Lynne to tour again on UK shores, The ELO Experience (and other tribute bands) are keeping the appetite for the music of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) alive in their own unique interpretive styles.

ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends The ELO Experience to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe Move'Brum Beat'The Beatles and all related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 06-June-2011

Friday, 3 June 2011

Sleeve Semantics

#221: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! A few days ago on Saturday 21st May, I posted this article about the then forthcoming re-release of the 2005 compilation "All Over The World" thus: All Over The World ... Again!

Yours Truly KJS did (finally) decide to order the CD from prior to my Devonian adventure last week and I was looking forward to having a look at it upon my return. I guess I expected a new updated CD booklet with the multi-ELO spaceship et al. But I have to say that I was disappointed to make the "Discovery" that - in effect - the package contained the full 2005 CD (albeit remastered with minor tweaks) within a cardboard sleeve depicting said multi-ELO spaceship design. Having said that, enough ELO fans bought it in its first week of release for it to re-enter and attain a quite respectable #22 in the UK album chart!

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 03-June-2011

Thursday, 2 June 2011

ELOBF Gig Guide #5: June 2011

#220: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! Following on from that fantastic gig by The ELO Experience in Torquay last weekend, June 2011 looks like it is shaping up to be a great month for ELO and Beatles related concerts here in the Midlands of England thus:

Saturday 11th June
M74: Tina McBain, Nigel Merritt & Maartin Allcock @ The Chapel of Peace & Forgiveness, National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire
Tickets: £10 each (*plus booking fee)

Friday 17th June
Band On The Runn @ Goodrich Social Club, Wolverhampton
Free entry

Saturday 25th June
Electric Live Orchestra @ The Range, Essington, Staffordshire
Tickets: £8 each (*plus booking fee)

Sunday 26th June
The BeatBack Brothers @ Goodyear Pavilion, Wolverhampton
Free entry

Yours Truly KJS is also hoping to be interviewing one or three of the above artistes in the coming weeks and months for ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF). See you there!

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 02-June-2011