Mark Spicer deposited “The Electric Light Orchestra and the Anxiety of the Beatles’ Influence.” in the group Society for Music Theory – Popular Music Interest Group (SMT PMIG) on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
This chapter focuses on the work of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), a group that emerged in the immediate wake of the Beatles and whose anxiety of influence towards the Beatles is especially apparent. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, for example, was paralyzed by his anxiety of influence, but Jeff Lynne, ELO’s leader and main composer, saw the high bar set by the Beatles as a challenge that aspired him to new creative heights as a songwriter and in the recording studio. Taking such experimental—one might say “symphonic”—late Beatles tracks as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day in the Life” and “I Am the Walrus” as their point of departure, ELO’s distinctive sound was forged by bringing orchestral instruments into the mix not merely as sweeteners but as full-fledged members of the rock ensemble. Yet close analysis of selected tracks from throughout ELO’s output in the 1970s and early 1980s reveals that strategic intertextual references to the Beatles abound in their songs, so much so that it is impossible to understand fully the significance of these ELO songs without considering the precursor Beatles tracks that served as their point of intertextual origin.