The history of Birmingham legends ELO and their connections to Coventry
In his 125th article for Coventry Telegraph, Pete Clemons discusses the Brummie icons
In terms of gig going this year I have seen both Jeff Lynne and Trevor Burton. One of these great musicians you may have heard of the other you may not be quite so familiar with. But you will almost certainly have heard music that each of them has contributed to.
During the 1960s and 1970s Birmingham was awash with some great bands and some incredibly inventive musicians. And the music they produced has, over time, been heard in all corners of the globe. The motivation for some of these musicians, apparently, was an alternative lifestyle to that in the steel foundry or car factory.
The linkage between the two names above is a little tenuous but not just the fact that both were from the second city. For those who remember that fine rock band, The Move, then you may have already realised the connection.
The Move had formed in 1965 and scored a succession of hit singles including ‘Fire Brigade’ and ‘Flowers in the Rain’. The band initially comprised of Carl Wayne on vocals, Ace Kefford on bass, guitarists Trevor Burton and Roy Wood and Bev Bevan on drums.
All the band members had been with 60s beat bands and, with only twenty miles of the A45 separating us, there are loads of Coventry connections. Carl Wayne’s band The Vikings, for example, had been regular visitors to The Sportsman’s Arms and other pubs within the city.
Jeff Lynne who, at the time was with The Idle Race, received an offer to replace Trevor Burton in the Move during February 1969. He declined in the hope that The Idle Race would get the success they so richly deserved.
Story Link Flashback: Remembering Coventry band Jigsaw
A year or so later, however, Jeff Lynne did eventually join The Move. He was possibly enticed by the grand ideas of Roy Wood the bands charismatic multi-instrumentalist. These ideas involved introducing more orchestration into the music and these plans would eventually come into fruition by way of the Electric Light Orchestra or ELO as they later became more commonly known as. Both Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood were very keen on experimentation and production. And with Bev Bevan also making the move the ELO were born.
The Move and ELO actually overlapped each other for a period. ELO released their incredibly ambitious first album on the legendary Harvest Records label at the back end of 1971. The album contained the successful single ‘10538 Overture’. The Move released their final three track single during mid-1972 by way of the wonderful ‘California Man’.
However during the recording of the bands second album Roy Wood, with regret, left ELO later citing management issues. But you can’t keep a great songwriter down for long and Roy was soon back. This time with a rock ‘n’ roll band called ‘Wizzard’. In fact Roy Wood’s Wizzard soon found themselves at the forefront of the glam rock years.
Both ELO and Wizzard would appear at the National Jazz Blues and Rock Festival held at Reading during August 1972. ELO performed on the Saturday and Wizzard on Sunday. Toward the end of 1972 ELO played at the Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry University). Around the same time Wizzard also played the Lanch with Coventry band Asgard as support.
After Roy Wood’s departure Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan had set about re-building ELO by enlisting an assortment of rock and classical musicians. By the time of the release of their second album the band had expanded to an eight piece that included multi-instrumentalist Richard Tandy who had also had an input to the first album.
Richard had been at school with Bev Bevan and was well known on the Birmingham circuit having been involved with various bands as well as appearing on The Move’s hit ‘Blackberry Way’. Richard has been an integral part of ELO ever since.
As with all these massive bands, the creativity of the individuals involved took on different directions. Bev Bevan had a spell with Black Sabbath, then after ELO officially disbanded in 1986, Jeff Lynne would become a founding member of late 1980s super group The Traveling Wilburys. Bev Bevan would briefly revive the ELO name during the late 80s early 90s when he put together ELO part 2.
The 1990s saw Jeff Lynne in demand as a producer. He has never hid the fact that The Beatles were a huge influence so it must have been a massive high for him when he became involved with hugely successful Anthology collection. The then ‘new’ Beatles songs titled ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’ were produced by Jeff Lynne from mono demo tapes.
Gareth Malone and his Voices choir accompany Jeff Lynne for Mr Blue Sky at the Children In Need Rocks concert.
Up until recently you could hear Bev Bevan on his really enjoyable Sunday afternoon radio programme on BBC WM. And Bev recently toured with longtime friend Jasper Carrott and several other ‘Brummie’ musicians, including Trevor Burton, who put together a show that was a mixture of music and comedy.
And now, under the name of Jeff Lynne’s ELO a new album of original music is available. ‘Alone in the Universe’, was released last September to good reviews and, with it, came a supporting tour that was effectively a career spanning spectacular. The tour visited Birmingham and quite memorable it was too.
Note - Jeff Lynn also joined Coventry band The Mad Classix for a short while before joining The Nightriders who became Idle Race. he repleaced Ron Smith (lead guitar) in the Mad Classix.
And from Hobo Coventry's Music and Arts Magazine February 1974