Richard Tandy, ‘remarkable’ musician who helped shape ELO’s futuristic sound, dies aged 76

Accomplished musician was often credited as the band’s arranger and composer alongside frontman Jeff Lynne

Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 02 May 2024 13:17 BST
(Redferns)

Electric Light Orchestra keyboardist Richard Tandy, who blended Beatles-style pop with grand orchestral arrangements, has died aged 76, his bandmate Jeff Lynne announced.

The ELO frontman paid tribute to the “remarkable” musician in a post to Instagram, referring to Tandy as his long-time collaborator and “dear friend”.

“It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of my long-time collaborator and dear friend Richard Tandy,” Lynne wrote. “He was a remarkable musician and friend and I’ll cherish the lifetime of memories we had together.

“Sending all my love to Sheila and the Tandy family.”

Tandy was responsible for helping to shape the signature futuristic sound of the British rock band, best known for hits such as “Mr Blue Sky” and “Last Train To London”, with bombastic piano compositions that brought vim and vigour to their songs.

His riffs drove many of ELO’s most popular songs. The New York Times cited critic Donald A Guarisco, who wrote for the All Music Guide that it was Tandy’s “funky clavinet riff that duels with the group’s vocals during the chorus” of “Evil Woman”, turning it into a “multi-textured feast of pop hooks”.

Born in Birmingham, he joined ELO following the release of the band’s debut album, The Electric Light Orchestra, in 1971, having met drummer Bev Bevan at school.

(WireImage)

“The Greyhound was memorable; the first tune, ‘10538’, was good, but then all the changes between tunes became confusing and I guess it all got shambolic,” he recalled of his start with the band in a 1999 fanzine interview. “After that, as far as I was concerned, things just went from one good thing to another.”

He initially played bass, then took over as keyboardist after the departure of co-founder Roy Wood, who left to form Wizzard. He would go on to help shape their prog rock, futuristic sound with his performances on the Wurlitzer electronic piano, Minimoog synthesiser, the Clavinet, Mellotron and piano.

Tandy remained a core member of ELO through its ever-evolving lineups, alongside Lynne and Bevan, until the band split in 1986, and was the only member to return with Lynne for 2001’s Zoom, which also featured guest musicians George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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He played on every ELO album except 1971’s No Answer; the band have to date sold more than 50 million records worldwide and achieved 27 Top 40 singles. He and Lynne were reunited in 2012 to record a live set of ELO’s biggest hits at Lynne’s Bungalow Palace home recording studio, which aired on TV.

Tandy joined ELO again when Lynne reformed the band as Jeff Lynne’s ELO in 2014, performing an outdoor concert in London’s Hyde Park.

Tandy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017
Tandy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 (Redferns)

Asked why Tandy was the only original member he brought back, Lynne answered in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone: “Richard is my lifetime man in the group. He’d be in the studio with me when other people just wouldn’t be.

“It’s just my choice,” he continued. “He’s a great musician, a great piano player and I really enjoy his company.”

Tandy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band in 2017, alongside Lynne, Bevan and Wood, and was described then as Lynne’s “multi-instrumentalist, co-orchestrator and valued musical partner”.

“Tandy was crucial in ELO’s creation of a realm where rock and classical music could exist together,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shared in a post following the news of the musician’s death.

Tandy’s passing comes just a month after Lynne announced ELO’s final tour, dubbed The Over and Out Tour, which was scheduled to begin in North America in August this year. European and UK dates had yet to be announced.

His last show took place at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall in 2016, where he performed “Mr Blue Sky” for the final time.

He is survived by his second wife, Sheila.

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