Wednesday, 24 October 2012

JETDP402: The Secrets of Secret Messages

#434: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! You may recall that I posted this article last week about the fact that: Sony Legacy Recordings have an active Music Reissue web page up and running for the growing campaign to have that enigmatic 1983 ELO album "Secret Messages" released in its eighteen (18) track glory, complete with "Beatles Forever":

One of the voters on the above web page - Alan Kelly - has posted this excellent and expansive overview of the "Secret Messages" story with interesting new information, at least to this writer:

"A while back, ELO's official archivist Rob Caiger revealed on the band's own Face The Music website that Jeff Lynne had finally given his support for the release of "Secret Messages" in its original double album configuration after years of resisting such an idea (he supposedly had issues with the mythical "Beatles Forever" in particular, but it seems he may have been persuaded in the end). If my understanding is correct, Caiger even pitched a proposal to Sony for a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' on the Legacy imprint, with the first disc to contain all 18 songs in their unaltered April 1983 acetate form. The second disc would have featured the reduced 11-track version that eventually saw the light of day in June the same year, plus a selection of out-takes, early mixes and alternate takes from the period.

According to Lynne's own liner notes in the "Flashback" compilation from 2000, "Helpless" and "Tears In Your Life" also dated from these sessions, the latter once based around a vocoder part rather than multi-part harmonised vocals as heard in the released version. Ideally, I'd love to hear these demos as well. Also, it is known that Grieg's "Piano Concerto In A Minor" and "Who's That?" started off as '82 era studio sound checks. Again, the incomplete recordings of these would be fascinating to have.

Along with all of these potential bonus tracks, I'd be interested to see if we can have at least a few highlights from "The Garden Rehearsals" - a tape reported to still exist in the vault of the touring group running through many of Jeff's latest compositions, which was probably captured during the previous "Time" tour before sessions for the next album started properly at Wisseloord Studios. In addition to all of this, I hope for a 30th Anniversary release to have a recreation of "Motor Factory". For those who don't already know the history behind this one, it was an early lyric idea wiped in favour of what later became "Rock 'n' Roll Is King". A song about the Austin car factory at Longbridge, you can still hear a distinctive metallic sound designed to emulate an industrial lathe in the final version's percussion.

Unfortunately, due to the way Jeff reworked this track, he would either have to recreate the vocals or source a safety copy, assuming he made any in the first place! On that subject, if possible it would be great if he was given the opportunity to reconstruct the whole album using its digital masters. Since he didn't have the time to familiarise himself with this relatively new technology back in the day, the '83 release was assembled from analogue backups instead.

Perhaps the most important detail of all regarding this project would be ensuring the end result is faithful to Jeff's original vision. Engineer Bill Bottrell has confirmed in the past that he continues to own a tape dub of the full album, and a set of acetates was sold a few years ago. Perhaps these could be sourced to ensure authenticity? "After All" should be the 41-second version, and "Hello My Old Friend" desperately needs its cacophonic ending restoring.

Additionally, the cover artwork for this package would need to be accurate as well. Unlike the final version, "Secret Messages" in its rejected (double album) form was to use a completely different design that only surfaced in the form of a rare promotional poster (Ed: See above). In fact, the "Balance Of Power" out take "In For The Kill" even references this unused sleeve with the lyric "someone holds a document and smiles as they shake hands"

Finally, there should be a wealth of text detailing the lengthy background of this album's creation and subsequent status in the ELO canon. I may be jumping the gun here, but I suspect Rob Caiger has been waiting a long time to write the liner notes for this one. Actually, I reckon he's already done most of the necessary research and could provide some great pictures. Apart from being the band's intended swansong, there should also be a mention of the planned serial number for this record: JETDP402.

To summarise, with the 40th Anniversary currently being celebrated through several hugely successful albums and Lynne preparing multiple further titles for next year, the time is right for all of "Secret Messages" to be revealed. Would it be too much to ask for a guide documenting every backwards sample hidden away on this album at long last as well, plus exactly where each can be found?"

As I read and re-read Alan's summary, Yours Truly KJS has to say that my enthusiasm to continue with the original goal of ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) and help, in some small way, towards it being released - officially - as it was intended nearly three decades ago, has been reinforced!

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 24-Oct-2012


  1. Excellent. Would be wonderful......Mark.

  2. Wonderfull... what a great gift, today, in my birthday!


  3. First of all, I'm absolutely flattered that anyone would quote my comment at the Legacy suggestion board - I certainly didn't set out to write a definitive article on Secret Messages in its original double album form, but rather share a little of the information that I've collected over the years.

    Sadly, with the 30th anniversary passing last year, Sony missed a great opportunity, and with Jeff Lynne again stating his desire for a certain song to remain officially unreleased it looks as if we'll just have to continue listening to fan recreations of the whole album, including an edited version of Hello My Old Friend lacking its proper ending.

    Still, not all is lost, as there's hope the ELO singles boxed set (also promised by Rob Caiger years ago) may yet see the light of day, which would at least allow fans to hear a remastered version of Buildings Have Eyes. Naturally, the real prize is Beatles Forever... let's hope Jeff changes his mind, giving us this and at least something from the equally mythical Garden Rehearsals!

    P.S. I'd love to know who bought those Abbey Road CDR acetates on eBay a few years back, and whether they'd ever consider sharing the contents these incredible finds. After all, it didn't take long for the "Down The Lane And Far Away" sampler to leak, plus who isn't curious to hear the Trojan Tapes Sessions in particular?

  4. I hope will be released on double vinyl also!

  5. Jeff's riding on a wave of massive success as he nears the end of his awesome 2016 tour. Now is the time to release the double Secret Messages ready for Xmas 2016. There's never going to be better time. It's now or never.

  6. but then doesn't this group vanish in a puff of logic?

  7. I hope Jeff realizes there is still some money to be made of Secret Messages 2xLP, and I am sure there is still plenty of us, who would be just too happy to depart with our hard earned dough to hear the double album in its original form.

  8. My ex-husband designed that poster and the braille was my idea. :) Thought about it today and am so happy to see how many people love it. I always referred to it as 'my poster', much to his dismay. haha