Happy New Year. I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season. I don’t say that because I am avoiding the word Christmas. I simply say that because I view the time between Thanksgiving and New Year as an extended time of celebration. It can be hectic and frustrating but it can also be extremely rewarding. I can honestly say that this season has been a great one for me. I pray that 2016 will continue to bring blessings.
Today I begin my new posting schedule so I will be attempting to be nostalgic. One of the definitions of nostalgia that found on the internet describes it as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” A good number of my posts seem to take on that tone but I want to make Friday the day that I deliberately think that way. That being said, I want to discuss the album that elicits the strongest feelings and memories.
Electric Light Orchestra (commonly called ELO) released Time thirty-five years ago this year. It came out in August of 1981, roughly one month before I started 6th grade. I know that I have discussed this particular time in my life quite a bit. Those of you who have been following my online ramblings (here and in other places) may be tired of reading about it. For that, I apologize. I’m not sorry though. We all have certain moments in our life that deeply affected us and I think it is normal to revisit them. I cannot help but do so when I listen to this album.
By 1979 Jeff Lynne had taken a detour from the lush, often experimental, sound that he crafted with the Electric Light Orchestra. Discovery had been successful and led straight into the Xanadu soundtrack, but Lynne was focusing more on straight pop tunes and was even dabbling in disco. The songs were still hits and the records were still selling but many people lamented the fact that Jeff Lynne had apparently sold out. Time, while not a true return to the “classic” sound, was more experimental and progressive than what Lynne had been writing.
I received a copy of Time for Christmas in 1981. It was given to me by my good friend Paul, who had turned me on to E.L.O. We would listen to Out Of The Blue, Discovery, and the soundtrack to Xanadu on 8-track whenever I went over to his house. I believe that they were his sister’s albums but thirty-five years has made me less sure of that. Perhaps he can chime in and either confirm or deny that little bit of information. What I do remember was being totally blown away but what I heard when I first dropped the needle on Time. I was already familiar with a lot of Lynne’s stuff and I was especially fond of his quirky side. Jungle (from Out Of The Blue) is still one of my favorite songs. I even liked the disco stuff. It sounded good on the speakers at the skating rink and by 1980 EVERYONE had dabbled in it. Even KISS took the detour. I knew pop music and I didn’t mind it.
I don’t know what I was expecting but I was taken aback (in a good way) by the robotic voice (courtesy a vocoder) and the spaceship sounds that came from the speakers as Prologue played and I began a journal that continues thirty-five years later. I am sure that I could pick this album apart and do extensive research to identify all of the different influences that went into it. Someone has probably done it. I realize that there is very little that is truly original but I can honestly say that I had never heard anything like it back then and I would be hard pressed to find much that sounds like it today. There are a lot of bands and artists that say Time influenced them and occasionally I hear something that makes me think, “I bet they listened to E.L.O.”
I know that I am a fan and I may look at this album with much bias. I admit it. However, I do believe that it may be one of the most unique albums ever recorded. It is a mix of weird, computerized synth-pop and progressive rock. It even has a little rockabilly and reggae thrown in for good measure. It was the first “concept album” I ever heard and in my opinion, it is still the best. It is the album that eventually led me to The Beatles. It is the album that made me realize that pop music could be more than the forgettable tunes that played on the radio in the background. It was the first collection of songs, outside of church music, that touched me on a deeper level. This wasn’t just music…it was something else.
All of these years later I am sitting here at my computer, listening to Jeff Lynne sing in my headphones, and I am still trying to find the words to describe exactly what this album does to me. I don’t know how many of you can relate to that. Do you have songs or albums that transport you to another place when you hear them? Maybe I’m weird that way. It’s true that I hear things now that I didn’t hear when I was eleven. Some of the lyrics have taken on different meanings but I am still left with that same sense of awe whenever I give it a spin. What about you? What are songs? What are your albums? Let me know.
Grace and peace.