Above is a maddeningly catchy Roy Wood song by the Move from 1971. If you’re unfamiliar with the Move, they began in the mid 60’s as a moddish, quirky R&B /psych-pop band. Their writer and driving force was the insanely talented mult-instrumentalist, Roy Wood. By the early 70’s, their work ranged from smart pop to bloated prog, sometimes within the same song. By that time Wood had brought in fellow Birmingham native Jeff Lyne to take on some of the singing and songwriting load. Then, Wood (allegedly) came up with the idea of forming a new band to further incorporate their love of classical music. Thus the Move became Electric Light Orchestra. Wood wrote most of the material for ELO’s first album before abruptly departing. Over the next few years Lynne developed as a singer, writer, and producer, and the ELO hit machine took off. Meanwhile, Roy Wood made some brilliant, hook-laden, and ridiculously quirky solo albums on which he played all instruments. He indulged his prog instincts in a band called Wizzard that I find pretty unlistenable. Pretty much all of his work was too nerdishly clever or downright strange to be very successful. To my ears, his infuence can be heard in ELO far past his departure in the kitschy, oddball, and bombastic arrangements. In fact, I’d argue that ELO (along with Queen) most successfully used classical influences because they understood that what they were doing was kitsch, and played that to the hilt. In contrast, most prog bands just took themselves far too seriously.
Below is another great one from a few years earlier, 1968 I think. I’m pretty sure I hear the origins of ELO in the mock-siren background vocals.