Electric Light Orchestra - Secret Messages as originally intended

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by peterpyser, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. Alcazarized

    Alcazarized Well-Known Member

    This thread is amazing. I discovered it a few months ago - just in time for the 2LP reissue, as it turns out. I'd had a vague idea that the album had originally been meant as a double album, and knew the extras from the 2001 reissue, but that was it. I look forward very much to ShardEnder's book. Although I'm a big fan of classic mid-70s ELO, I've always liked the 80s material, especially Balance of Power.

    Secret Messages was a disappointment as an album when I first discovered it, about twenty years ago, but it has grown on me and the expanded (if perhaps still incomplete) tracklisting is much better than the cut down original version. As others have said on here, there are some really good songs, but the album was let down by the final selection of songs (Buildings Have Eyes really should have been there; perhaps also Hello My Old Friend, although it's hard to see how that would have fitted a single disc without chopping out too much). Secret Messages (the song) is very good but maybe not the best 2nd single: the lyrical theme is perhaps not the most accessible to the casual listener. Danger Ahead might have been a better choice.

    On a related note, concerning what Jeff Lynne was up to in this period, does anyone know the story behind the Agnetha Fältskog song 'One Way Love', released in 1985...was this a leftover from something else, or was it written with Agnetha in mind?
     
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  2. First of all, welcome to the thread that just never ends! You made two points that I'd like to elaborate on...

    Although my understanding is that Jeff never intended for Secret Messages to contain an edited version of Hello My Old Friend (even when this wasn't sequenced as its closing track), the fact remains that a 4-minute version was prepared and can be found on the additional test pressing of planned b-sides, single mixes and alternate versions, as once confirmed to exist by none other than Rob Caiger. I don't have the complete list of contents for this acetate, but this was made closer to the middle of March, with known tracks including the aforementioned Hello My Old Friend, the full-length After All, a less processed mix of Secret Messages, plus something we're perhaps most unlikely to ever hear - a slower mix of Beatles Forever that features an extra verse. Unfortunately, the only copy of this particular disc is believed to be firmly locked away in the official vaults, so we can rule out these potentially fascinating versions surfacing any time soon.

    As for how Jeff came to write a song for Agnetha Fältskog, he first visited Polar Studios with the core quartet of ELO in the hope of getting to create something that emulated ABBA's distinctive sound, the result being a basic instrumental track jokingly called Some Russian because of its supposedly cold style. Further sessions there had to be abandoned due to the main room having a new 3M digital recording suite installed, so the group returned to the more familiar Musicland Studios, where this song evolved into The Way Life's Meant To Be. On the subsequent European leg of the Time Tour (specifically 6 February 1982 at the Johanneshovs Isstadion in Stockholm), Jeff was met backstage by Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and it was during the period he started considering a future career producing other artists that he remembered that encounter, sending a cassette tape of the virtually complete* One Way Love to Agnetha, who ironically chose this over another track she'd received from no less than Roy Wood!

    *Jeff would later do the same with Night Calls for Joe Cocker, though it's claimed the singer turned down further tracks because he preferred more of a collaborative approach than to be sent a tape containing guide vocals and instructions that were to be clearly followed.

    P.S. Here's a look at ELO in the company of future royalty:

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Alcazarized

    Alcazarized Well-Known Member

    Interesting - thank you! Would love to hear Jeff's demo of One Way Love one day...if it exists. It would be interesting to know how similar it is to the Eric Stewart-produced version which surfaced on Agnetha's 'Eyes of a Woman' album.

    Apparently Abba struggled slightly with that digital set up at Polar. If I remember correctly, their engineer Michael Tretow has said that the tracks for The Visitors recorded after its installation were harder to make sound 'warm' than those recorded earlier in the sessions on the analogue equipment.
     
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  4. c-eling

    c-eling Forum Resident

    Whatever they did they succeeded, Visitors and it's accompanying b-side turned out great :)
     
  5. rontoon

    rontoon Floydian Archivist

    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    I gave this another spin yesterday and its growing on me a bit. The main reason I was initially put off by this is because so much of it does not sound like it's from an ELO album. It's as if Jeff went out of his way to sound like other people/bands. Is Secret Messages Jeff Lyne's White Album? Tusk?
     
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  6. Chazzbo13

    Chazzbo13 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Johnstown, PA
    Overall, Secret Messages in it's new configuration, essentially doesn't really change it's status in my estimation. I've always felt that Jeff's post-Discovery/Xanadu material (excepting Armchair Theatre) offered stylistic changes without a ton of creativity. While I've always believed there were a few bright moments on each of the releases, the whole SM album is still (IMO) a bit of a drag...Yes, it's nice to have an upgrade on Hello My Old Friend...but Mandalay and Buildings Have Eyes are still non-players to me. They were right to have been left off the original single disc set. And this whole business with these interludes that have either been mishandled, or re-positioned...if anything, the entire intent of the presentation seems to now be up for debate or interpretation. Seriously? Someone dropped the ball here, and there seems to be no one true explanation.

    If SM foreshadows anything to me, it's the way Jeff tends to fall back on familiar themes and recycled musical ideas (see Alone In The Universe for the nadir of this process).
    I really wanted to find new love for the album with this release, but maybe I've just been listening too long...maybe I just don't "get it"...maybe I expect too much...all possible. Whether it's complacency or a drying of the creative well, this "new" release just keeps reminding me of what used to be...when it was more about the music, and less about "the product".
     
  7. Based on what I've read, the new 3M recorder being installed at Polar in early 1981 was operational after several tracks had already been completed for The Visitors, so Michael B. Tretow copied the later digital songs to analogue tape, which helped make the overall album sound more consistent.

    Although I happen to like both Mandalay and Buildings Have Eyes especially, I also feel they suffer from "one too many chorus repeats" syndrome...
     
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  8. Koabac

    Koabac Self-Titled

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    First, thank you so much, @ShardEnder for being the guide for this very interesting thread.

    Second, I went all digital a few years ago and just downloaded the new Secret Messages. I certainly don't want to ask you to do any WORK, but I'm curious if you could tell me which, if any, tracks off this new version are identical to the last deluxe version of SM that was released with bonus tracks or how one might build what YOU would consider to be the ultimate, "authentic" SM, in terms of what Jeff Lynne originally had in mind for the double album, using the tracks available from the new version, older versions, Flashback, Afterglow, etc. That tracklist may already appear in this thread, but it's gotten quite long, so even pointing me to the post where that information is available (if it is), would be greatly appreciated.

    At the moment, I've just placed this new version sitting in my large, completist "Jeff Lynne Playlist" right before the last bonus track deluxe version with some of the Flashback and Afterglow tracks dropped in here and there to make it what I had gathered was as close to the original double album as I could get (I have a few different "Beatles" version of varied quality and speed to place in there, as well). Without having to A-B every single track, though, I'm guessing I have some identical duplicate tracks in there.

    I don't know, maybe this might help some others out, as well, if they're looking to create an "ultimate" SM with what is available (and without actually going in and making edits and cuts to intros and connective tissue, which I don't really have the equipment or inclination to do) as possible.

    Thank you in advance and, again, thank you for one of the more informative and positive threads in recent memory. I'm greatly looking forward to your book. Break legs.
     
  9. I'm currently in the process of compiling a further update to my own Secret Messages "Deluxe Edition" that will use tracks sourced exclusively from officially available high resolution files. For all songs previously exclusive to Afterglow, I'll be upgrading to their 2018 counterparts. However, the original 11-track album typically sounds a little better in its 2015 HDtracks form, with the exception of Stranger, Four Little Diamonds, Train Of Gold and Rock 'N' Roll Is King, which either now have less glitches or the correct mixes (though I'd still need to edit in the slightly longer introduction to Four Little Diamonds from Afterglow). Apart from the obvious absence* of Beatles Forever, this configuration still misses as least one interlude I could think of. Also, it's annoying that I'll have to move some of the others around, but at least the overall listening experience is finally a lot more consistent than when I had to rely so much on that last disc of Afterglow!

    *Due to even the best quality copy of this still not being up to the standard of its intended parent album, I've decided to relegate Beatles Forever to the second disc of my expanded 2CD set. Besides, it works better this way because the latter half of the whole package isn't as short anymore. Every cloud...
     
  10. rontoon

    rontoon Floydian Archivist

    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    I second the motion and would love to see your tracklist when you're done. I have the 2015 HD Tracks release as well as this latest one. The only thing I don't have is Beatles Forever (other than what I see streaming on YouTube).

    Thanks in advance, SharkEnder. :righton:
     
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  11. lawrev

    lawrev Forum Resident

    I'm interesting in securing the most accurate version of the original album. That's it. Everything in order as is known, using the best available versions to make that a reality. Same with the acetates. If the SMS releases those online, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am securing those too!
     
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  12. Koabac

    Koabac Self-Titled

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Thank you, I'd love to see your updated list - and, yes, I would definitely include the various other versions of songs from this era as a "bonus disc" of sorts, placed on the playlist directly after the main SM version with the various other versions and mixes thata are different enough to be worthy of inclusion.
     
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  13. 'elo 'elo

    'elo 'elo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Liverpool
    Exactly!
     
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  14. Neonbeam

    Neonbeam All Art Was Once Contemporary

    Location:
    Berlin
    OMG! What's that Jeff is holding? A beer? A..... fag? Rock N Roll Is King, indeed! :evil:
     
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  15. lawrev

    lawrev Forum Resident

    This would have been taken shortly before the fateful band meeting wherein Jeff told the guys that SM would be two disks, thereby completing the record contract, and no tour to support the final album. Essentially, telling the guys during the tour that ELO was no more in a short period of time.
     
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  16. There wasn't a band meeting as such - I'm guessing you're referring to the backstage incident (again in Sweden) witnessed by several fans and journalists that took place just two days before Bev fell ill? Yes, I'll definitely be covering that in great detail by offering two very different yet equally official takes on the outcome...
     
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  17. TrekkiELO

    TrekkiELO Forum Resident

    There was a meeting called "The Meal" around the time that Jeff Lynne won his suit against Don Arden where he told band members they wouldn't get their fair share of royalty profits, this is one main reason for Kelly Groucutt's lawsuit and why ELO Part II/The Orchestra ultimately exists.
     
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  18. TrekkiELO

    TrekkiELO Forum Resident

    Yeah, the Afterglow liner notes by Ira Robbins of Trouser Press fame and also Casey Kasem's American Top 40 from April 2nd, 1983, right before "Der Kommissar" at #15 tell this story about where their warm up act After the Fire's drummer Pete King (RIP) drums for Bev Bevan who had kidney stones on The Time Tour in Germany!
     
  19. grimble

    grimble Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    Kelly was on a wage wasn’t he? And how can you tell someone they’re not going to get their ‘fair share’? And wasn’t the Don Arden suit after SM and therefore after Kelly left?

    Apart from that...
     
  20. TrekkiELO

    TrekkiELO Forum Resident

    Kelly Groucutt along with all the other former band members weren't just hired hands or session musicians, such players are not usually in the album credits and on back covers. When it's your lawsuit, especially if there's a settlement out of court, you can tell someone anything, that's where they put their trust!
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
  21. grimble

    grimble Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    Everyone apart from Jeff, Bev (and maybe Richard) were salaried and on a contract.
     
  22. TrekkiELO

    TrekkiELO Forum Resident

    Well, Kelly Groucutt must have had some sort of a case where songwriting goes, otherwise it wouldn't have gotten that far, again hired hands or session musicians usually don't get credit in the album credits/covers as full Electric Light Orchestra band members, just look at Steely Dan, Steve Miller Band, Fleetwood Mac and many more for comparisons!
     
  23. grimble

    grimble Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    I’m not disputing that they were bona fide band members, but they were also, to put it crudely, employees. They were paid an income for being in ELO.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  24. Chazzbo13

    Chazzbo13 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Johnstown, PA
    But I believe that to be the gist of the suit...band members defined their positions one way, and were never told otherwise until that particular point in time...if Kelly had believed he was simply a "staff member" all along, there would have been no real basis for the suit...
     
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  25. Beatmaniac

    Beatmaniac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Slidell, Louisiana
    Well, I just saw Jeff in Houston. What a show they put on... wow!!

    I would have loved some deeper cuts, but I mean it’s a comeback tour we all know that won’t happen.
     

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