Double it up

8:10 pm : Thursday, 27 December 2018  |  ,


In 1983 the Electric Light Orchestra released their album Secret Messages. Originally conceived as a eighteen-track double album, it was ultimately slimmed down to a single volume with a miserly ten tracks - or eleven if you bought the cassette or CD. This was allegedly due to the economic situation of the time. It was a fate that befell the band Squeeze too - their 1981 album East Side Story would have been a double, but wound up being a single album. Thank you Margaret Thatcher.

Only 35 years later do we finally get to taste the double album, on vinyl too. Never mind all this compact disc nonsense. Downloads? Now you are just taking the mick!

Seventeen tracks are present. OK, so one of the originally planned songs is absent from this release. Side two of the album was supposed to feature this horridly fawning number that was embarrassingly titled Beatles Forever. It's absence leaves that side of the album four minutes shorter than the others, but that's all very well. Believe me, it was a dreadful song. Lennon was shot in 1980, and in 1981 ELO paid tribute to him by incorporating a Lennon medley into their live set. Come 1982, it was no surprise that Jeff Lynne would take it upon himself to write a song about the band that ultimately gave ELO their sound. The song was shelved, and years later he would come to work with the three remaining Beatles. Is it any surprise that he grew to dislike that song? It is drearily slow, it essentially just name-checks various Beatles songs, and tells us how he wish he could write a song like they did. Ho-hum.

Nevertheless, it is most satisfying to see the long-awaited release of the song Hello My Old Friend - Jeff's tribute to his home town of Birmingham. Sad canals with green-black water, skinny dogs and beer crates - this song has it all. A near eight minute masterpiece which was criminally cut from the 1983 original. Jeff poured his all into this song - the most intriguing drum machine pattern of all time, early 70s Moog synth, full string section, kiddies singing Frère Jacques - you could not want for more! And it took a whole 35 years for it to finally reach the general pubic... er, public.

The best flipping Christmas present I have ever received.