Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sinking and Falling: Rain is Falling by Electric Light Orchestra

Purchase Rain is Falling, by ELO.

I always thought ELO was a space age band. The strings and the crystalline keys bring to mind the same kind of spaceships and endless starry sky landscapes of their album covers. The harmonies and the choir of voices sounded like a beautiful alien broadcast, reaching us from the end of some lost nebula. Jeff Lynne is one of my favorite voices in modern pop music. His production values are the sounds of bright places in the night sky.

When I was young, the strange notions of meaning in music came to me mostly in terms of the visuals that accompanied it on pre-MTV television. This is what I saw from performance, not the abstract visual imagery of a video. It was most often from shows like Solid Gold--MTV, while amazing, kind of took some of the wonder away, as the stories of the songs were there for you, no imagining necessary. David Bowie was creepy; I wished the Buck Owens could be my grandfather; KISS terrified me; Pat Benatar made me feel strange; in the same way, so did the Solid Gold dancers... And, ELO made me think of spacemen come down to Earth for a visit. To their celestial rock and operatic roll, I watched the skies for UFOs, scratchy vinyl whirling on my pawnshop turntable as accompaniment to my hopeful survey. I was eager for an encounter. I was sure anyone that reached out to us from afar would bring good news, and even better music.

And that sound: the lilting, moon-hop harmony and extra-terrestrial chorus, still takes me back to being wide-eyed and full of wonder, not just about music, but about the whole world. Beautiful sounds coming from the radio, my parent's vinyl collection, what ever I could pick up for a nickel-a-piece at yard sales, all of it provided the constant soundtrack to my life. But music has never sounded as sweet as it did back then, when I was just a junior astronaut, floating along in the vastness of my own universe,  Jeff Lynne and his Electric Light Orchestra my mission control, buzzing endless gentle guidance in my ears.


Looking back (and watching videos on youtube), I imagine this live version of ELO's mega-hit, "Livin' Thing", had something to do with my associating the band with aliens and space travel. Snazzy silk jumpsuits and a lighting scheme from a decidedly alternative-life-style-friendly Death Star...what else would I have deduced other than there was a whole weird universe out there, entirely different from my own ?

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