Jan 05 2013

Popular Culture 20130104: The Electric Light Orchestra — ELO 2

It has been a while since I started this series.  My contributions here, and at my other regular blogs, have been quite spotty for a number of reasons.  Part of it has to do with it having been the holiday season, and things get a bit odd then, but for the most part the holiday season treated me pretty well, except for when it did not.

Another distraction, one that is absolutely necessary for me to do, is to work on cultivating my nascent consulting business.  I write well, am a great scientist, and have skills that include things from analytical chemistry to health and safety expertise to technical writing to expert testimony.  One of my friends that I met here who does consulting work has agreed to work with me over the telephone to assist me in establishing my business.  Any others who might be able to help are strongly encouraged to pitch in as well, because I am sick and tired of feeling useless!

In any event, it is time to get back to what I do well in this series, or at least I think that I do, and that is to provide embedded music, some historical background, and my commentary to bands that catch my interest.  With this in mind, we shall look at the second effort from The Electric Light Orchestra, called ELO 2.

In my opinion it is a very much better album than their debut one.  The band had settled down a bit, and Jeff Lynne was very much in control, for good or ill, by then.  Let us get started!

ELO 2 was released in the UK on Harvest in either January or February (depending on the source) of 1973, and in the US in March of that year on United Artists.  It charted at at #35 in the UK and at #52 in the US, not particularly auspicious, but not horrible either.  By the way, the UA release was called Electric Light Orchestra II.

The personnel performing were significantly different from the first album, and are as follows:

Mike de Albuquerque (19470624 and still with us) – Bass, backing vocals

Bev Bevan (19451124 and also still with us) – Drums, percussion

Mike Edwards (19480531 - 20100903) – Cello

Wilfred Gibson (19450228 and still with us) – Violin

Jeff Lynne (19471230 and still with us) – Vocals, guitar, Moog synthesizer

Richard Tandy (19480326 and still with us) – Keyboards, Moog synthesizer

Colin Walker (14499798 and still with us) – Cello

In addition, the former band member and cofounder was also on the record in two pieces:

Roy Wood (19461108 and still with us) – Bass, Cello on tracks 1 and 4

Note that this iteration of the band was heavy in cello, and that became their signature sound.  The album was produce by Lynne.

The first track is called “In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)”, written by Lynne.  I not not really get it, because that is now what I think of a boogie, but it sort of sets the theme for subsequent sounds from the band, especially Lynne’s interesting and distorted voice.  First the lyrics:

Down, down, you can see them all

rising gaily to the top

keep on rising babe you know you got a long drop

you better cling cos it’s the done thing

Down, down, at the Policemans Ball

They’re all dancing in a line

keep on gruntin boys you know you’re doin fine

come quickly I’ve been strangled

Down, down, at the Military

they’re all marching round and round

keep them boots shined and that still upper lip down

Ablution Revolution

Down, down, at the launching pad

giant phallus stands erect

ten thousand tons of waste throb then eject

look out space, we’re gonna change our place

Down, down, in old England Town

there was air and now there’s smoke

let’s build more cars and drive away before we choke

suddenly it’s always night time

Down, down, at that nice Trade Fair

all the money gone astray

let’s inflate this price and float away

just you and me and everyone…

Here is a live version:

I find it sort of ponderous with little meaning, but that might just be me.

The second song, also written by Lynne, is called “Momma”.  It is quite poignant.

She came up from the country with a smile for everyone

she left her blue horizon just to find another home

a lonely girl who’d travelled many days

a lonely heart that could not find a way


and she said Momma, it’s a hard life now you’re gone

Momma, it’s so hard to carry on

and I feel I’m a fool who lost it all

you used to make it all so very clear

that life must go on though the end is near

oh Momma, it’s a sad and lonely life

A misty morning rider she came wandering through the hills

a wanderin soul appearin over rainy window sills

a loser in her heart, but in her face

a smile for everyone under God’s grace


Midnight maiden madness, what to search for in this place

gateway to the city, night sky shadows on her face

a lady lost in nowhere but her stare

leaves the world, her life to start somewhere


This is a wonderful song.  I miss my mum, and several recent events have made me think about her, not the least being that Christmas was her favorite time of year.

The third and last track on Side One is probably the best cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” that has ever been made.  This is what got the band on the charts, and it is really pretty wonderful.

Gonna write a little letter gonna mail it to me local D.J.

it’s a jumpin little record I want my jockey to play

Roll Over Beethoven, gotta hear it again today

My temperature’s risin, the juke box’s blowin a fuse

My heart’s beatin a rhythm, singin out rhythm and blues

Roll Over Beethoven, they’re rockin in two by two

Well if you feel you like it, go get your lover and reel and rock it

roll it over and move on up now, go for cover and reel and rock it

roll it over, Roll Over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news

Early in the mornin I’m a givin you the warnin,

don’t you step on my blue suede shoes

hey diddle diddle gonna play my fiddle,

I ain’t got nothing to lose

Roll Over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news

She wiggles like a glow-worm, dances like a spinning top

she got a crazy partner, you should have seen her reel and rock

long as she got a dime, the music will never stop

Well if you feel you like it, go get your lover and reel and rock it

roll it over and move on up now, go for cover and reel and rock it

roll it over, Roll Over Beethoven, dig these rhythm and blues

Roll Over Beethoven, Roll Over Beethoven,

Roll Over Beethoven, Roll Over Beethoven,

Roll Over Beethoven, dig these rhythm and blues?

I really like how it starts, and how the real strings are used in it.  This song was the one that propelled them to the charts.  At #9 in the UK and #42 in the US, it did well.

Berry really did well with the song, making references to classical and modern (at the time) works, viz. Perkins’s “Blue Suede Shoes”.  This is a rock classic, and the band did a good job with it.

Side two starts out with the Lynne song “From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)”.  This is a strange song, but I like it.

Listen to me sister, I got news from the governor,

and he’s heard people shouting from the towers in the city

while their babies grow in test tubes over night

Run and fetch the priest cos there’s a light on in the building

and there’s sounds blowin out in the music of the night

and we should try to get the people out alive

Movin ‘cross the ocean with the flag of death a’flyin

the demon butcher pointin out the message on the tide

and the demon light a’sailin at his side

Stormin down the airwaves comes the protest and the prayin

and the love that shone down from the sun to world

no longer could support the life it gave

It seems like some convoluted social comment, from everything from in vitro fertilization to the Viet Nam war to protest music.  This one does sound much more like a boogie than the boogie on the first side.

I was also able to find a very nice live version of it:

This is really well done, considering how complex the music is and how many people were trying to play at once.  It is a very nice effort.  The guitar sounds to me in some places very much like Richie Blackmore on the Mark I iteration of Deep Purple, and that was a pretty good band about which I have written before.

The second and last track on the second side is the Lynne number “Kuiama”, about Viet Nam atrocities.

My My Kuiama, she came in the morning

she smiled but the tears on her little face

showed the pain that had been in that far off place

so sad, treated so bad

My My Kuiama, don’t break your heart tryin

to say how your ma and your pa passed away

and they left you to wander the ruin and decay

real mean, that bullet machine

See here Kuiama, now ten thousand miles

is a long long way and you’re here today

and you won’t go back so you might say

hello, how do you do

Kuia stop your cryin, there’s no bombs a’fallin

no horsemen in the night a’ridin through your dreams and tearing at your life

baby goodnight

No more silver rain will hit your ground

and no more guns will sound

and no more life be drowned

No more trenches where the soldiers lie

and no more people die

beneath that big black sky

Wake up Kuiama, I got somethin to tell you

it’s just that I mean, well that is to say,

that I’m trying to explain but I’ll start again,

for you, I must be true.

Kuia in this country, they got rules with no reason

they teach you to kill and they send you away

with your gun in your hand, you pick up your pay

so cool, that no mercy tool

Kuia please believe me? I just couldn’t help myself.

I wanted to run but they gave me a gun

and they told me the duty I owed to my Fatherland.

I made my stand.

Kuia I just shot them, I just blew their heads open,

and I heard them scream in their agony

Kuiama she waits there for me

True blue, you saw it through.

This, my friends, in a masterpiece and should singlehandly be enough to seal the place in ELO in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Eligible since 1997, they have not yet been inducted.  That is a shame, because they are more deserving than some of the acts already inducted, at least in my opinion.

Here is a decent live version.  The embed code returns the wrong song, but this link works.

Now some thoughts about this album.  By the time that ELO2 was released, Lynne was completely in control of the band both artistically and administratively.  The musical style is obviously influenced by The Beatles (Lynne had met them in 1968) but so were a LOT of other bands at the time.  I would never go as far as some critics and say the Lynne was imitating them, but rather taking some of the more innovative elements of their music and adapting them for the unique sound of ELO.

I think that this is much better effort than the debut album, and was a harbinger of even better things to come.  Some things that I find of interest is the intentional use of distortion of Lynne’s vocals, because any recording engineer would not allow a voice to be distorted like that by accident.  In many ways it adds to the effect, but does get a bit old now and then.

Research that I have done indicates that this record was originally to be a concept album called The Lost Planet, but that was dropped after Roy Wood left the band.  I can find little or no connexion betwixt that album title and the science fiction novel by Angus MacVicar (made into a movie serial) of the same name, but may be overlooking something.

I like this album a lot, and some of their subsequent work even better.  However, except for a few rare gems like “Kuiama”, their music does not “grab” me like music by The Who or The Moody Blues.  I guess what I am trying to say is that, while I like their music fine, I do not have nearly as strong an emotional bond with their than I have with the other two bands just mentioned.  As a matter of fact, the songs by The Electric Light Orchestra are the light, even funny ones, not their serious stuff.

Speaking about The Who, on BBC America tonight at 10:00 Eastern there is a documentary about the making of Quadrophenia, and at midnight some video of live performances by them.  I shall watch them as I field comments, since I have no place to go tonight and choose to spend the evening with my friends here, my readers.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

Daily Kos,

Docudharma, and



  1. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    a pretty darned good second effort by a band?

    Warmest regards,


  2. BobbyK

    Thanks for writing & posting them!

    It’s been such a long time since I’ve heard any ELO stuff I must admit when I first looked at the title of the piece Emerson Lake and Palmer tunes flashed through my head. ELP, ELO. ABCDEFG… My brain sometimes gets off on the wrong track when I’m tired.

    Then I read and listened. And enjoyed!

    Before I forget again. A few weeks ago I caught a 1 hour radio show on my local NPR station that you might have enjoyed. The host was a local guy in Connecticut and he had 3 guests who were all teaching various courses on the Beatles at different area universities. The hour of commentary mixed with tunes reminded of your incredible series on The Who.

    Just did a quick search and here’s the link for it.  

    At the end of the show the host also endorsed a guy named Paul Ingles who has done a bunch of audio documentaries on several bands.  The guy said he’d listen them to while preparing meals etc.  Haven’t checked them out yet but I found them here.

    Looking forward to your next piece. Thanks again!

  3. TMC

    I hope you enjoyed your holidays.

    Great piece, been awhile since I listened to ELO.

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