Do you remember Kevin Turvey?*
He was from Solihull and, frankly, you have to be from Solihull or thereabouts to fully appreciate his pedantry. “I got some milk out of the fridge and I poured it on my cornflakes. Well, not all of it. Obviously.”
People from there or thereabouts will go into excruciating detail to ensure you get the full measure of whatever story they’re telling you. It’s a rarely remarked upon ethnic eccentricity.
I was reminded of this reading an interview with Jeff Lynne this week. He was asked if he’d like a cup of tea.
“Do you want a cup of tea, Jeff?”
“Yeah, I’ll have the same again.”
“The same cup of tea?”
“No, I can’t have the same cup of tea, obviously, ‘cos I’ve drunk it. But some tea. In the same cup.”
Well, it made me cry laughing, but perhaps you had to be there. Or thereabouts.
Another comment I love from Jeff was when Tom Petty pulled up next to him at some traffic lights in LA. “Hey Jeff, we should hang out,” said Tom. “Which was nice,” said Jeff, recounting the story later.
Of course, but for that chance meeting (Tom Petty had been planning a sabbatical) we might never have had The Traveling Wilburys. So ‘nice’ doesn’t begin to cover it.
I saw The Electric Light Orchestra at Fairfield Halls, Croydon on what may have been its first major outing (after a pub debut at The Fox & Hounds (also in Croydon). As a Beatle nut, an entire band dedicated to recreating the sound of I Am The Walrus, cellos and all, seemed an entirely brilliant concept.
But all was not sweetness and light. Backstage after the gig, I saw manager Don Arden line the group up against a wall and walk up and down, shouting at each of them for some invented slip-up. It was a control mechanism. He even punched a couple of them.
No wonder tensions ran high. Not long after, Roy Wood scarpered with a couple of other members to form Wizzard. To those of us who had imagined that the whole Walrus thing was Roy’s idea, ELO seemed like a dead duck.
But Roy wasn’t the creative midwife. Jeff Lynne was. So after a long apprenticeship, going back to 1965, when he first met Richard Tandy, Jeff finally had centre stage and a vehicle for what turned out to be a stunning talent for timeless pop tunes and a mastery of studio techniques.
I’m not going to go on and on about how brilliant Jeff Lynne is. But let’s just think about his timeline – The Idle Race (legendary but rarely heard), The Move, ELO, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, The Traveling Wilburys and then, a career crowner you’d have thought, The Beatles!r
But Free As A Bird and Real Love were 20 years ago. Oh, fuck me!! Really? Yes indeed. And you can’t keep a restless and creative soul like Jeff Lynne under wraps for 20 years. I bought his 2012 album Long Wave, which is a joy.
And now he’s in the process of releasing a new ELO album, though it’s really a Jeff Lynne album, Alone In The Universe. I’ll be buying it.
I know some of you won’t. There are a lot of ELO haters out there. Though you’re not in the same class as the Phil Collins haters. Just deviating for a few seconds (without hesitation or repetition) I personally cannot see the point of hating Phil. I’m not a fan, but for God’s sake, the man is a brilliant drummer, much sampled by the Hip Hop community who revere him. And he’s written some great songs. His music career alone (preceeded by a five-year spell as a child actor) has lasted nearly 50 years.
But hating ELO at least comes with the possibility that you don’t also hate Jeff Lynne. I bet every one of you has a favourite record tucked away that has Jeff Lynne all over it. Surely no-one can hate Roy Orbison and George Harrison and Tom Petty and Dave Edmunds and Olivia Newton-John and Paul McCartney and Duane Eddy and Regina Spektor and Joe Walsh and The Beatles and The Traveling Wilburys?
If you hate absolutely every one on that list, please spare me your rationale. Instead, make a doctor’s appointment and ask to see a consultant. You’re clearly unwell.
Meantime, in case you’ve missed the buildup, here’s a gorgeous taster of Alone In The Universe, due for release late next week, I think.
*Kevin Turvey was one of Rik Mayall’s earliest inventions.