I CONFESS / Jonathan Meades turns on the Electric Light Orchestra

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The Independent Culture
I was dimly aware of ELO in the Seventies, but I only bought my first ELO tape in 1989 after I'd spent four weeks submerged in the Black Country culture for a documentary. It's my secret vice. Try playing their music in a room containing anyone over the age of eight and you can forget it. I listen to them in the car, and it's exhilarating. I am unashamed. Having missed out on them in my youth, it's not a case of nostalgia. I love their sheer mindlessness. It's low- level aesthetic bliss. They were the slickest pop group around: technical perfection and absolute vacuity. Apart from the basic falsetto voice and string sound, they are also winningly unoriginal.

I don't like rock, and I've always been suspicious of lower-middle- class youths from Beckenham playing black music. Serious pop music has always appalled me. It should be of the Moon / June variety. ELO never made the mistake of writing serious lyrics. Their tunes are a synthesis of pop's past. Influenced by the Phil Spector sound, Roy Wood manages to sound like Phil in the kitchen.

They didn't have sparkle or glam. And they looked like squaddies from Catterick wearing wigs. They always got it wrong - an infinite variety of cheesecloth and satin. There's a delicious anonymity about them. Their presiding genius Jeff Lynne - possessor of a very lively circa-1976 perm - now produces people like George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys. They all end up sounding like ELO. Strange that this should be fashionable. ELO were always so un-fashionable. Less street cred, more suburban avenue cred.

Jonathan Meades, whose latest novel is 'Pompey', was in the confessional with David Benedict