Welcome to the last in the #askNat series for 2012. I started “#askNat” up back in May (2012) on sort of a trial basis and it seems to have gone well so far. This week Elliott Marx from Chatsworth CA is back with this to say:
I view the relationship that George Harrison developed with Jeff Lynne to be incredibly vitalizing and fruitful. In fact I would place Lynne in my top 5 list of most essential Beatles collaborators.
Yet, somewhere in the back of my dusty mind, I think I recall Lennon making disparaging remarks about ELO (Lynne’s band Electric Light Orchestra). Of course this was probably a decade before Harrison and Lynne forged their friendship.
What was the Beatles point of view of bands that were considered “Beatleseque?” I know they had a major role in Badfinger; but what of ELO, Marmalade, Klaatu, or even the Raspberries?
First off, thanks Elliott for a well thought out topic to throw out there once again.
I would say Jeff Lynne is a great choice for inclusion in your “top 5″ list of Beatles collaborators. I have listed his involvement with the group together and apart below but I’m sure I’ve left a few things out.
First off, I want to say that John Lennon apparently admired Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) quite a bit and I have no knowledge of any disparaging remarks he made about Jeff. When John’s Walls And Bridges album came out in 1974, he went on the radio as sort of a promotion tactic to play “dee jay” on station WNEW in New York. He played tracks from his new album, spoke on the air with fans and played other favorites of his. Much of the material from this is scattered about on YouTube if any reading care to dig it up. One of the tracks John personally selected to play on his broadcast was an ELO single called “Showdown.” Here is what John had to say about it.
John calls ELO “sons of Beatles” and the context hear makes it clear that he means it in a complimentary way. Despite many critics accusing ELO of “ripping off” The Beatles, Jeff Lynne has acknowledged that his music with ELO and afterwards was highly influenced by The Beatles and to hear people acknowledge the similarity was the “ultimate compliment.” He first met The Beatles in 1968 during the White Album sessions and before the Electric Light Orchestra had formed. Jeff admitted he was so taken by them that he could not sleep for three days. In 1970, The Beatles had broken up and when he formed ELO with Roy Wood (a bandmate with his then-current band The Move) the idea was to give their music a classical sound, pick up where The Beatles had left off and present it on stage. Throughout the 70′s the Beatle influence was there. On the 1975 ELO single “Evil Woman” from their Face The Music album there is even a lyric that says “there’s a hole in my head where the rain comes in,” which is a reference to the Sgt. Pepper track “Fixing A Hole.”
In later years Jeff became more heavily involved as a producer and worked with George Harrison on his Cloud Nine album. This led to a further partnership as Jeff went on to be a member of the Traveling Wilburys with George, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison.
Jeff also worked with Ringo Starr as a member of his supergroup that recorded The Beatles 1964 rocker “I Call Your Name” at a 1990 tribute to John Lennon (click here to watch this on video). The group also included Tom Petty, Joe Walsh and Jim Keltner and was produced by Jeff. Jeff also produced a few tracks that appeared on Ringo’s 1992 album Time Takes Time.
Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr approached Jeff in 1994 to help them produce “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” for the Beatles Anthology project. Paul was apparently impressed with Jeff’s work enough to ask him to work with him on his next solo album Flaming Pie and Jeff ended up co-producing eight of the tracks on it.
When Jeff recorded his final ELO CD Zoom (released in 2001), he invited Ringo Starr and George Harrison to play on it. Ringo ended up contributing drums on two tracks (“Moment In Paradise” and “Easy Money”) and George Harrison played slide guitar on two tracks (“A Long Time Gone” and “All She Wanted”).
In 2001, after George Harrison died of cancer, his son Dhani and Jeff completed the production of George’s final album Brainwashed. The following year Jeff also performed at the tribute Concert For George.
As with Jeff, the individual members of The Beatles were “okay” with other Beatles-influenced (or “Beatlesque” if you will) bands , including the ones Elliott mentioned. For the most part I think it is safe to say that generally speaking they took their degree of influence as a compliment. In fact, they even worked with many such bands. A few examples follow:
Badfinger were signed by The Beatles Apple label as one of the original Apple bands in 1968 with Paul McCartney penning their first hit “Come And Get It.” Paul had also suggested they change their name from their former identity as The Iveys. The band went on to record with George Harrison on his All Things Must Pass album and also performed onstage during the famous 1972 Concert For Bangla Desh with George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Paul worked with Noel Gallagher of Oasis as both were part of the Smokin’ Mojo Filters – a supergroup put together by Paul Weller that assembled only to record “Come Together” for a 1995 charity album. Noel has acknowledged a very heavy Beatles influence in Oasis. Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, was a member of Oasis for a few years.
The Raspberries were an American power pop band in the seventies said to be very heavily influenced by The Beatles. Ringo has had former Raspberries member Eric Carmen participate as a member of his “All-Starr Band” (2000).
Elliott also mentions the 70′s band Klaatu who were rumored to secretly be The Beatles. A great write-up explaining the rationale behind this little falsehood can be read up on here.
The Marmalade, also mentioned in Elliott’s question, hailed from Scotland and had a U.K. #1 single with their cover of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” in 1969, remaining somewhat successful for a few years afterward but I’m not aware of any actual interaction with any of The Beatles.
I’m sure a lot more discussion can be added to this as Elliott has hit upon a fairly broad topic. Please feel free to add to this in the comments section. Thanks again, Elliott and everyone for reading this week’s #askNat!
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Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) Cloud Nine 2004 remaster of original 1987 George Harrison CD. Co-produced by Jeff Lynne.
2) Anthology 1 1995 2-CD compilation of Beatles alternates and extras between 1958 and 1965. Also features “Free As A Bird” co-produced by Jeff Lynne with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
3) Anthology 2 1996 2-CD compilation of Beatles alternates and extras between 1965 and 1968. Also features John Lennon composed “Real Love” co-produced by Jeff Lynne with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
4) Time Takes Time 1992 Ringo Starr CD with production work by Jeff Lynne
5) Zoom – 2001 last CD release from the Electric Light Orchestra featuring George Harrison and Ringo Starr