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#askNat – concerning Jeff Lynne and bands considered ‘Beatlesque’

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 Lennon introduces ELO's Showdown

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.

George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr, 1994

George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr, 1994

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!

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.

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

6) Beatles Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

21 people think this is FAB!

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  • spirou says:

    No list would be complete without mentioning the ultimate Beatles 2.0, a.k.a. XTC. In many people’s minds, XTC did the Beatles one better re: lyrics and arrangements. Of course, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have pretty much admitted that everything they recorded from Skylarking on (1986-2004) – including, of course, their Dukes of Stratosphear sixties pastiche albums – was a matter of them finally releasing their “inner Beatles”. Criminally underrated and underappreciated. Imagine Rubber Soul, Revolver, Pepper and Abbey Road being released to public indifference – that’s what happened to XTC. Luckily, their musical heritage has influenced dozens of bands and artists.

  • Pescador says:

    In addition to spirous’ XTC my initial idea was to point out that two british bands of the 70′s were quite beatlesque as well: 10cc and Pilot (and both can be connected to the Beatles, 10cc because Eric Stewart was working with McCartney later on, and Pilot were produced by Alan Parsons). But then, on a second thought, who wasn’t influenced by the Beatles back then? :) In my opinion much of the songwriting of the 70′s was heavily influenced by the Beatles, and it would turn out an endless story to name all those artists. Queen, Supertramp, America, Alan Parsons Project… they all had their specific sound, indeed, and wouldn’t be mistaken for the Beatles if you heard them on the radio, but the songwriting, their harmonies, their arrangements remind me much of the Beatles heritage. Don’t know whether I am right but that is how I feel.

  • Gary walker says:

    Loved the discussion about Klaatu. I have all of their albums. Dee Long was a big fan of the Beatles and even though nothing was intentional on the first album the Beatles influence is strongly heard in the music. The track Doctor Marvello is soooo close to John Lennon it is eerie. The whole album is laid out the way Sgt. Pepper was.

  • Happy Nat says:

    Good points everyone! Thank you!

  • Lennonista says:

    You mentioned Paul Weller, who was also heavily influenced by The Fabs. Though not as directly “Beatlesque” as other bands named above, The Jam were definitely the most fabbish of the punk bands, which is probably why they were always one of my very favorites. They even covered Rain… and their song Start is a total Taxman rip-off. Also, I remember everyone comparing Squeeze with The Beatles, probably because they wrote some great pop songs. And I have to echo what spirou said about XTC… seriously underrated!

  • Frank Cavaliere says:

    The two bands who I feel are the most ” Beatlesque ” are the Flamin’ Groovies ( with a touch of the Rolling Stones & the Byrds thrown in ) and the Spongetones ( check out their ” Beat & Torn ” CD / LP ).

  • Elliott Marx says:

    I feel rude being silent on a query I posted. But I don’t have much to add. I am glad that the Beatles had no issues with sound alike bands, there are many of them. Likewise there are many ways to sound Beatlesque: swooping up an octave on a bass guitar; putting an electric guitar through a Leslie (well putting anything other than a Hammond through a Leslie will do the trick;) a descending bass line on a static, gently picked acoustic; and Ringo’s fills are instantly identifiable. These are basic arrangement devices. It would be foolish to avoid these established sounds.

    Reflecting on my original question, I am reminded of some sardonic remarks George made about Oasis. I think that was the type of guy he was. I am glad that kind of comment is the oddity and not the norm. I dislike artistic fueds and discouragement.
    king about

  • KeyMaestro says:

    I think if you’re gonna use XTC as an example you should also mention Todd Rundgren. Utopia’s “Deface the Music” album is as close to “Beatlesque” as I can think of. This should be required listening! Ha! Todd also toured (I believe more than once) with Ringo’s All-Star Band.

    Also, since its technically still the holidays – check out The Butties – “12 Christmas Carols”. Its a mashup of traditional Christmas carols with Beatles songs and not only copies the sound and recording techniques of the songs they’re referencing, but seems to be in near-chronological order to the Beatles catalog. Its a fun listen.

    Great question, Elliott, and insightful comments! Thanks for another detailed and informative #askNat!

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    • spirou says:

      LOL, I’ve just listened to The Butties’ “Angels We Have Heard On High”, sung and played to “Rain”, on YouTube. Brilliant! They even include backward vocals at the end!


      And KeyMaestro is right about Rundgren, of course. It probably took him to tease The Beatles out of Andy, Colin and Dave at a time when their fight to perpetuate their own “sound” was threatening to kill their careers (however cool and original that sound was). Not a pleasant experience for the independent-minded Mr. Partridge, but in retrospect, a decision that paid off financially and creatively.

  • Elliott Marx says:

    I never would have thought that XTC would have been the stand out band of this thread. Spirou you are obviously a true fan. I grabbed Generals and Majors, and Skylarking when they came out and then settled on the Upsie Daisy best-of-collection. I am a very casual fan, though this year I went crazy for Andy’s new, wild collaboration with guitarist Mike Keneally; a very solid, if short collection. But, again

    I am intrigued by the premise that XTC made a conscious decision to change their sound in order to protect their career. Indeed, The Mayor of Simpleton is a radical departure from Making Plans for Nigel or No Thugs in Our House, but I am amazed that that evolution did not occur naturally; that it was caused by commercial drives. If they were so career oriented, the blaspheme of Dear God seems a queer choice as a single.

    I think what hurt them was Andy’s horrid stage fright. Well that is what I’ve always heard. Not touring certainly did them no favors.

    Early XTC is truly a unique sound – angular, jagged, slightly mysterious. There was a local band in the mid- 1990s who took many cues from that era XTC. If you have not heard The Sugarplastic, I encourage you to listen to their Geffen album Bang, The Earth is Round. I believe you would like it a great deal.


    • spirou says:

      I’m sorry if I gave the impression that XTC made a conscious effort to sound more Beatlesque to revive their career. In many interviews with Andy, Colin and Dave, they state rather clearly that their more poppy sound from the mid-eighties on was rather organic and haphazard. Andy was especially committed to forging and entrenching his own sound; however, that led to Mummer and The Big Express (both produced by him, I believe), which failed miserably with the buying public after their success with the English Settlement album. Virgin then told them that their next LP would have to be produced by an American (Rundgren was the only name they recognized!) and post significantly better sales numbers, or they would be out. At the same time, they managed to convince the bigwigs to part with a paltry sum to record two EP pastiches of sixties psychedelia, which Andy had been keen to do for many years. Of course, their alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear, outsold XTC! And Rundgren ran the show for Skylarking, changing Andy’s sound to make them more “appealing” to Americans, and succeeded.

      Long story short, XTC couldn’t argue with success! Andy went McCartney, and Colin channeled Gilbert and Sullivan. In other words, they both followed their inner light. :-) I also think Nonsuch and Apple Venus are their crowning achievements, as good as anything Tte Beatles put out.

      P.S. Andy hated Dear God (too succinct for such a broad subject); that’s why it was released as the B side to Colin’s “Grass”. But some DJ in L.A. played it, the colleges got hold of it, and the rest is history.

  • Elliott Marx says:

    Spiroou, your passion and knowledge is inspiring. Grass is a fine song, but Dear God is magnificent. I love stories where it was a rogue DJ who changed the course of a band’s fate. That scenario would be so unlikely to occur now.

  • Elliott Marx says:

    UPDATE -

    Since this thread was posted I have read Hunter Davies’ The Lennon Letters. Which is a compilation of Lennon’s correspondences, which run from the mundane (grocery lists) to detailed near manifestos on his political thoughts. At one point during the “Lost Weekend” Lennon offended Todd Rundgren. Rundgren complained in the press that Lennon was (worse than) a jerk.

    Lennon wrote a reply. As was typical, he was sarcastic, sardonic and tongue and cheek. But he refers to the fact that Rundgren had the ability to sound very Beatles like and that that in-and-of itself was not enough of a good thing. I feel that these have been long held thoughts and he finally had an excuse to state them publicly. It is just that Rundgren was the Beatles Xerox of the moment so he got the wrath.

    I will try to copy the relevant portion of the notes as well as I can – typos and spelling errors intact:

    6) So the Nazz use to do “like heavy rock” then SUDDENLY a “light pretty ballad”. How Original!

    7) Which gets me to the Beatles, “who had no other style than being the Beatles”!! That covers a lot of style man, including your own, TO DATE…

    Yes Godd (sic), the one thing those Beatles did was affect PEOPLES’ MINDS. Maybe you need another fix?

    Davies, Hunter; The John Lennon Letters (pg 265,) 2012

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thanks Elliott! Interesting and quite relevant addition to the thread. I admit I haven’t picked up my copy of The Lennon Letters yet but I have it on my list of books to pick up soon.

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