Got to be honest, ‘E’ hasn’t proved to be the easiest instalment of My Music Lexicon. It’s not a completely fallow field, of course, but I’m trying to keep it honest so resisted the temptation to feign much interest in Echo and The Bunnymen, the Eurhythmics or even The Eagles.
`However, this exercise is meant to be not just about what I like but also what was important for me at a particular time or place. Which brings me to Eclection or, as you are quite possibly asking yourself: ‘Eh?’
So, who or what was Eclection and how are they/it relevant?
In previous instalments I’ve talked about how my musical tastes developed during my teens as I was exposed to new influences. Mostly, that exposure was achieved through the medium of the BBC which – always a respectful few steps off the pace, because it’s the BBC – began to reflect what was developing in the ‘real’ world.
For a long time the only popular music available on BBC television was the weekly dose of ‘Top Of The Pops’, which was fine when pop was nice and simple but became increasingly problematic – not to say bizarre – when ‘pop’ became a little more challenging. Trust me, if you’ve never seen a gaggle of miniskirted girls and boys in sensible sweaters shuffling around nervously to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown then you’ve never really lived.
When BBC2 started broadcasting, there was obviously a lot more airtime available, even if in the early days it was only on for a few hours a day and you basically needed a new aerial to pick it up. A lot of the new time was, as I recall it, devoted to the arts, which thankfully included modern music. There was a programme called ‘Colour Me Pop’ which went out weekly in the late evening and I clearly remember that the first edition I ever saw – in June 1968 – featured a group called Eclection.
I wasn’t at all familiar with their music, which was hardly surprising since they only ever released one album (and not until after this TV appearance) and they weren’t exactly TOTP material, but I do know that when I turned over to BBC2 with an innocent ear I really, really liked what I heard. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that that thirty minutes did as much to broaden my musical horizons than almost anything else. It was quite different to anything I had ever heard before.
What did they sound like? Well, according to Wikipedia, one reviwer described them as “”The combination of male-female harmonies, optimistic lyrics with shades of romantic psychedelia, folk-rock melodies, acoustic-electric six- and twelve-string guitar combinations, and stratospheric orchestration couldn’t help but bring to mind similar Californian folk-pop-rock of the mid-to-late 1960s”. That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.
But have a listen for yourself: I think this is lovely:
I was never a fan of the ‘concept album’ so I never really ‘got’ Genesis, Yes or the many other lesser lights of this early-seventies sub-genre of what was commonly referred to as ‘progressive rock’.
Of course there are honourable exceptions: I mean, how could you not ‘get’ The Who’s ‘Tommy’? (‘Quadrophenia’ not so much, though.) And Emerson, Lake and Palmer were – well, they were okay. And with the letter E not exactly awash with possible entires for my Music Lexicon, the fact that I actually saw them live, not once but twice, automatically puts them in the frame.
I knew of keyboard player Keith Emerson from his time with The Nice, whose ‘take’ on ‘America’ from West Side Story, which I liked very much (although less so the fact that it still resonates uncomfortably today). They were on TOTP and even in thse straitened circumstances he was quite the showman.
I would never have made the trek to the Isle of Wight in 1970 just to see ELP, but I well remember being quite close to the stage – a perk of working on one of the food stalls inside the arena – for what was, according to the MC, “their first debut performance ever’. They were sandwiched between Ten Years After and The Doors and, to be quite honest, the cannons were the best bit – even if they did set fire to the stage: which might have been the second-best bit.