Monday, 8 November 2021
Interview: Author Barry Delve discusses Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song
#1,631: When it was announced that new book "Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song" (Sonicbond Publishing ISBN 978-1789521528; 160 pages) would be published on Friday 3rd December (originally Thursday 25th November), Yours Truly KJS/ELOBF was minded to catch up with author Barry Delve to find out more both about himself and his debut book in this latest interview for ELOBF. It was again rather enjoyable for this particular fan to interview a fellow fan on familiar subject matter! Here's hoping that you enjoy reading these questions and answers!
KJS: First things first, Barry! Please tell us about yourself?
BD: What's to know? I'm just an ordinary guy who's written a book about ELO!
KJS: Is this your first book?
BD: Yes. I've contributed art and written articles for various fanzines and websites (mostly to do with cult TV and films, which is a major interest) over the years but this is the first time I've tackled a proper book and written anything about music.
KJS: What sparked your interest in the Electric Light Orchestra?
BD: I kind of cover it in the introduction, but the short version is I saw them on Saturday morning TV (The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop) performing "Livin’ Thing" and was hooked from that moment on. Thanks to archive TV listings I managed to work out the exact date I saw them and realised had I missed that particular programme and tuned in a couple of weeks later then it would have been Queen in that slot and I'd probably have adopted them!
KJS: Your motivation for writing the book?
BD: It all happened by accident as I had no intention of writing a book! I bought one of the early "On Track" books and emailed the publisher to say how much I'd enjoyed it and innocently asked if there was one on ELO in the pipeline. The response was that there wasn’t one planned but would I be interested in writing it myself? I wasn't sure at first but Stephen at Sonicbond was very encouraging after I submitted an example piece and I knew I'd regret it if I passed on the opportunity, so I went for it.
KJS: How did you approach writing "Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song"?
BD: From the beginning I decided not to write the book in order, so I started with "Discovery", as it was a piece on one of the songs that I had initially submitted to the publisher as a tester. I then did "Time" and after that went to "A New World Record" and worked backwards. I then worked backwards from "Balance Of Power" and filled in the gaps. "Out Of the Blue", which for a reason not even known to myself I had been avoiding, was last of the original ELO albums I tackled. I then did the post 1986 output chronologically. I don't know if this made a difference but the randomness of it kept my interest levels up! I was very undisciplined at the start but as the deadline got nearer I imposed a stricter regime, which was to do at least two songs a day. Not an easy task when you’re also holding down a full time job! It was the research that took most of the time, as I wanted to uncover as much undocumented stuff as I could and also check everything for myself. So an example of this would be that there's a short noise at the end of "Don't Bring Me Down" that Jeff Lynne has stated is afire door closing. Well, to me it’s always sounded nothing like a door, so rather than just re-quoting the quote I thought I'd try and find out for myself what it was. I put the clip in 'Audacity' software and kept increasing the speed of it until it sounded recognisable. When I got to 600% it was clearly a metal door closing so it went in the book! I've also tried to make it as informative as possible, so taking the first album as an example, if you want to know exactly which classical album the backwards introduction to "Mr. Radio" is taken from, or where 49th Street is in Manhattan, this is the book for you! The hardest part was stopping, letting go of it and giving it over to the publisher, just this week a previously unknown recording of ELO performing "Eleanor Rigby" live has surfaced and it’s never been documented that they performed it so I'm gutted I couldn't get to include it. Even now I'm waking up every day wondering if I've left a song out!
KJS: What can readers expect to find in this particular book?
BD: It's a complete overview of ELO from their beginnings up until the present day. It works as a linear history, but also as something readers can dip into randomly. I've tried cram in as many facts as possible, including things like chart places and there's even a guide to all the secret messages on the eponymous album. There's a sprinkling of opinion too, so hopefully it will be a handy one-stop guide to everything people need to know about ELO!
KJS: Were there any particular difficulties with your research?
BD: I started making ELO scrapbooks from the moment I got into the band and I still have my fan club newsletters and the Face The Music fanzines, which have been very useful. The internet is obviously a great resource and sites like worldradiohistory.com have searchable versions of the old music papers, so I've been able to go back to the original sources, including radio interviews for all the facts and quotes I've used. If I couldn't read it or hear it for myself I didn't use it! On top of that I reached out to many people who had connections with ELO and many of them were more than happy to talk to me. I wanted to do a piece on the "Freedom City" movie and John Elton, the producer, was really helpful. He has lots of photos and a script somewhere, but unfortunately was unable to locate them, so regrettably I cut that part entirely when I had to reduce the word count. The only real difficulty was getting accurate release dates, as a lot of the accepted dates, as documented on Wikipedia, etc. are just wrong, so it was back to checking contemporary press releases and the music press for those.
KJS: Did you uncover any surprises along the way?
BD: Not necessarily surprises, but I made it my mission to try and get to the bottom of some mysteries. For example, the story behind the supposed original 'handshake' sleeve for Secret Messages has always intrigued me, so I tracked it down and spoke to the artist who designed the actual artwork, and he was able to tell me exactly why and when it was created and what it was meant for. There are things scattered through the book which I don't think are common knowledge. Some that immediately spring to mind are the original titles for some "Secret Messages" songs and the details of exactly which "Time" tracks were recorded by Jeff and Richard in LA after the album was meant to have been completed. I've also managed to track down a couple of unpublished pictures from the early days which I hope will be of interest.
KJS: What are your hopes for "Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song"?
BD: I hope both casual and hard-core fans alike will find it interesting and enjoyable. It was put together as a labour of love, it's very much written from the perspective of a fan and I hope that comes through.
KJS: Have you any further writing adventures planned?
BD: As we know, the ELO family tree is quite large and extends in many directions so the big conundrum was what to include and what not to include. I had a word count I had to stick to and it soon became apparent that wouldn't be able to cover everything, so I limited myself to only writing about bands that included the words 'ELO' in their names and then I ended up cutting about 10,000 words anyway! So, this is a roundabout way of saying that there’s another book waiting to be written about Jeff Lynne's solo adventures as a performer, writer and producer and the wider ELO network. I'm not sure there’s a market for it or if I have the stamina to do it, but if people are interested, then let Sonicbond know!
KJS: What are your three fave ELO tunes and why?
BD: Goodness, that changes every day! OK, lets avoid the singles and go with these: (1) "Eldorado": a magnificent and mature song with a great vocal performance, where everything comes together to create a fitting finish to ELO's first masterpiece album. (2) "So Fine": It is what it is! A bouncing ball of effervescence that's impossible not to like. Forget "Mr. Blue Sky" – this is the song you should be playing on a sunny day! And what about that ending? The story behind how "So Fine" blends seamlessly into "Livin’ Thing" is a great example of how in ELO's heyday Jeff Lynne was experimenting and perfecting in the studio right until the last possible moment. (3) "Sweet Is The Night": When Kelly Groucutt joined ELO his singing and the way his vocals blended with Jeff Lynne's and took the band to another level. There are a few songs where Kelly gets a bit more of the spotlight and this is the best of the lot, with Jeff and Kelly's enthusiastic vocal harmonies amplifying the sense of sheer joy that permeates this uplifting song.
KJS: How can folks pre-order "Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song"?
BD: It's available via Burning Shed who are the home of the Sonicbond shop, Amazon and most online booksellers.
Yours Truly KJS & ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) extend our thanx to Barry Delve for his much appreciated participation in this exclusive interview. You can pre-order and/or find out more about "Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song" via these links thus:
Related KJS/ELOBF articles
ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF) recommends "Electric Light Orchestra: Every Album, Every Song" by Barry Delve to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO/Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, The Move, 'Brum Beat', The Beatles and related artistes.
Until next "Time" in the ELOBF Universe ... KJS ... 08-Nov-2021