Saturday, 24 April 2021

Randy Newman: The Story of a Rock & Roll Band, ELO & Jeff Lynne

#1,584: Perhaps the ultimate compliment for an artiste/musician is to have a song written about you or a song quoting your songs and when it comes to the Electric Light Orchestra/Jeff Lynne there's now a growing list that includes Cheap Trick's "ELO Kiddies" (1977), Paul Melancon's "Jeff Lynne" (2002), Esa Linna's "She's Not A Human Being" (2013) and, of course, "ELO Forever" (2014) by Michael Laine Hildebrandt's Bubble Gum Orchestra (BGO) amongst not a few others in its ranks as well as a certain track crafted by American singer/songwriter Randy Newman for his album "Born Again" in 1979 just as ELO were approaching their commercial peak.

At the time of release, many thought that "The Story Of A Rock & Roll Band" (UK: Warner Bros. #K17447) was a parody of ELO and Jeff Lynne's trademark song arrangements and success in referencing, as it did, three of their hit singles ("Telephone Line", "Turn To Stone" & "Mr. Blue Sky") and hometown Birmingham. Yet this was far from what was intended by the writer on an album many listeners thought dark and critical of the music biz at that time. This was confirmed in a later interview when Newman affirmed: "What I like about it is that I got everything so wrong … I mispronounced the name of the town, made up their names. And they do have these idiosyncrasies about their music that are funny. It's maybe a kind of a joke, but I wouldn't have done it if I really hated them like I hate some people."
The fact that no offence was taken by Lynne or intended by Newman was confirmed when the two music legends collaborated during the recording sessions nine years later for "Land Of Dreams" (UK: Reprise #WX212) in 1988 when the ELO maestro not only produced "Falling In Love" (UK: Reprise #W7578) but also contributed keys, guitar, bass and backing vox (alongside Tom Petty and Mike Campbell) to the eventual single as well as backing vox for "It's Money That Matters". Note also that co-producer Mark Knopfler also contributed significantly on "Land of Dreams" and would come to work directly with Jeff and Hank Marvin three years later for the "Wonderful Land" charity singleThis was a productive if not busy time for Jeff during the latter half of the decade as he worked alongside George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Del Shannon, Miss B Haven, Brian Wilson and Duane Eddy aside from forming The Traveling Wilburys hence working with Randy Newman too must also have been a highlight.
One therefore wonders why there remains a reluctance to release "Beatles Forever" when taking into account songs such as "Titles" by Barclay James Harvest and "Something About The Beatles" by The Korgis which do great justice to their musical legacy in the same way as the aforementioned quintet of ELO friendly tunes (especially that of Randy Newman) do so for Jeff Lynne.
Related KJS/ELOBF articles

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