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Success causes ELO problems BandPs big production style turns aivay some ans A fc- i Bev Bevan (middle right) and ELO members. By Jim Farber When Bev Bevan, the Electric Light Orchestra's drummer and mouthpiece, moved into his sprawling mansion near Stratford-on-Avon in England, the trouble began. Newspapers warned of a pop star moving into the neighborhood, while citizens circulated petitions to get rid of him. Property values were ready to topple. "They thought there would be pop festivals on the lawn and drug parties all the time," Bevan says.
"Now, they've gotten to know me, and they see I'm quite a reasonable person." Everything about ELO seems eminently reasonable a model of blue-chip rock conservatism. Over the last few years, ELO has been among the more predictable best-selling bands, issuing a steady series of string-drenched pop tunes like "Telephone Line," from last year's double-platinum LP "Out of the Blue." Along the way, ELO has acquired a pompous image, surrounding itself with such spectacles as a rising spaceship stage that looks like an intergalactic Whopper. ELO has had to rely on props to provide that image, since the band members themselves remain relatively anonymous. THE FEELING OF impersonality is reinforced by ELO's thick, slick sound, which is continued (like any successful trademark) on "Discovery," the band's new Epic LP. Its single, "Don't Bring Me Down," is moving toward the Top 10, while the album is already platinum and selling like oil futures.
Bevan, 33, claims he is having problems with the bionic perfection of leader Jeff Lynne's production style. "I get bored with it, too. In the studio, it's very restricting to work with this band, but it has to be done. I've tried doing more drum fills to liven it up, but when you put the orchestra and choir on top, it starts to sound a mess, so I have to keep it real simple. I've gotten to the stage where I don't even enjoy recording anymore.
It's so mechanical." On the business side, ELO is barely a band at all. Bevan and Lynne hold ELO's recording contract, and on the new album, the group has been trimmed down to just four pieces, with a 40-piece orchestra and 30-mem-ber choir glopped on top, cutting out the string section that tours with the band. "IT MUST BE weird to be in ELO say, to be member of the string section," Bevan said. "There's no real group feel about this band, except live. Then it's a real seven-man band.
The strange thing is that Jeff and I don't really project that much onstage, and the string section shows a lot of the personality." It seems strange that the string section wasn't even mentioned on the cover of "Discovery." "The guys in the string section were upset about it," Bevan says apologetically. "I don't blame them. It's embarrassing for them." One wonders, with ELO's corporate calm, if Bevan is ever nostalgic for the crazy, TV-set-smashing, effigy-burning antics of the Move the mod Dadaist band in which he, Lynne and Roy Wood got their start. "The Move went through so many changes that it wasn't a particularly pleasant band to be in, personality-wise. We actually got to the point of fist fights several times.
I'm sure it showed through in the music." AS FAR AS ONSTAGE violence goes, Bevan claims, "Our manager dreamed that up. I really had to act the part. It was never in me to be nasty to people." Still, as standardized as ELO's sound isf, they've never lost their pop instincts, and it's only ELO's taste for the grandiose that has caused pop-loving New Wavers to overlook the band's finer moments. "The main thing, I think, is jealousy of our success," Bevan says. "Resentment is built up by people.
Real punk bands aren't going to like our music; I can understand that. But I can't understand why pop people wouldn't like us. People didn't resent the Beatles, and they were just a big pop group with a big production style." Jeff Lynne plans to pursue "the big sound" even further by getting into some John Williams-style movie soundtracks. "He was originally asked to do 'Midnight Bevan said. "And he's talking about some others now In Hollywood.
It seems the obvious next step for him." (C) 1979 King Features Syndicate Inc. Playback Clash survives punk rock ROBERT PALMER CBOWNEO PRINCE OF BLUE-EYED SOUL NEW ALBUM: "SECRETS" HIT SINGLE: "BAD CASE OF LOVIN' YOU" FOR FIVE YEARS HE'S BEEN THE "NEXT BEST THING" THAT'S NEVER QUITE HAPPENED. BORN 11949. BARTLEY, YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND. PALMER GREW UP ON THE ISLE mm).
OF MALTA AT 15 HE JOINE0 THE SEMI-PRO GRAPHIC DESIGN JOB TO FRONT ALAN BROWN'S BAND. IN 1968 PALMER JOINED THE JAZZ ROCK GROUP DADA.WHICH BECAME VINEGAR JOE. AFTER SHARING V.J. VOCAL CHORES WITH ELKIE BROOKS FOR 18 MONTHS. HE WENT SOLO IN 74.
HE'S GOT IT ALL: VOICE, MOVES, LOOKS. HIS ELEGANT ALBUMS HAVE BEEN CRITICALLY APPLAUDED AND BACKED BY THE LARGEST PROMOTION IN ISLAND RECORDS HISTORY. STILL THE WORLO WAITS FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP. COULD 79 BE THE YEAR FOR ROBERT PALMER? sion, economic tyranny by the rich, U.S.-sup-ported dictators around the world, prisons for the powerless and goodies like that. "Hate and War" the recognizes those two major political forces." "Police and Thieves" notes the irony that both criminal and protector can become feared elements in our society.
There are lighter songs, too. A clever song about adolescent anxieties called "What's My Name?" deals with a kid who sees himself as such a loser he can't even get into the ping pong club. All the songs are written by lead singers and guitarists Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, except the 1966 Bobby Fuller Four hit, "I Fought the Law." THE OFFICIAL COUNT is "Chicago 13" (Columbia). Watching the numbers on the group's album titles go up is sort of watching the McDonald's sign change to reflect the millions and then the billions of hamburgers sold. That isn't a bad comparison for other reasons, too.
Over the years, Chicago has managed to please a wide range of musical tastes bv not serving any of them too deeply. Joel McNally Is a nationally syndicated columnist who writes about recording artists and entertainers. By Joel McNally Cheerleaders for this New Wave stuff make me think of all my mother's warnings about pushers in trench coats hanging around the playground. Come on, they say. Just try a little.
You might like it. What can it hurt? What they are counting on is, before you know it, you'll be pinning your tongue to your cheek or something. But still, the first record by The Clash released in this country, "Give 'Em Enough Rope," got some good reviews from even grown-up music critics. So why not give a listen to their new one. "The Clash" (Epic)? I have to admit now that the mindless punk bands have self-destructed, there is at least some political purpose behind the better New Wave groups lijte The Clash.
The Clash came up with the novel idea that the way to make a political statement is to articulate it. AFTER LISTENING to this album, I have to say that even though they may not express themselves with the elegance and grace of us old folkies, at least their hate is in the right place. Set within some fierce rock 'n' roll, they have some things to say about political repres- 1 2 Sept. 2, 1979 Daytoo LeUiur "BAD CASE OF LOVIN' YOU" ROBERT PALMER 1978 ROCKSLAM MUSIC (BMI) USED BY PERMISSION HOT SUMMER NIGHT FEU. UKE A NET I'VE GOT TO FIND MY BABY YET I NEED YOU TO SOOTHE MY HEAD TURN MY BLUE HEART TO RED DOCTOR, DOCTOR GIVE ME THE NEWS IVE GOT A BAD CASE OF LOVIN' YOU NO PILL'S GONNA CURE MY ILL I'VE GOT A BAD CASE OF LOVIN' YOU A PRETTY FACE DONT MAKE NO PRETTY HEART I LEARNED THAT, BUDDY, FROM THE START YOU THINK I'M CUTE.
A LITTLE BIT SHY MOMMA, I AINT THAT KINO OF GUY.
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