Beatles Forever: Probably not the Worst song ever made

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When I originally made this post in 2017, I thought that it would be a fun, short little post between larger projects. But, having had my interest in the topic pique once again, I think it would be fair to give this song a reassessment.

Context

When I first wrote this post in 2017, I stated the following: ‘Music is subjective’. And I stand by that. Don’t feel ashamed because you like something that most of your friends do not. I have a somewhat eclectic music taste, but most of the stuff I listen to is rock. I like rock music, particularly classic, album-oriented, progressive, and post-punk/new wave stuff. That music is the stuff I am comfortable with. If you like pop, rap, R’n’B, then you do you.

When I originally covered this song, I found it to be of note because it was such a big failure from a band that has produced what I consider to be some of the best music of all time. That’s where my distaste, and my claim, originates. Could there be worst music out there? Probably. For me, though, this one is a stinker.

The Sons of The Beatles

Some people form bands based on the sound of their idols, and in many ways, they can equal or surpass the sound of the original. That is probably a good way to describe Electric Light Orchestra. The band, whom John Lennon termed ‘The Sons of The Beatles’ was formed in 1970 as a continuation of the sound of The Beatles, after Abbey Road and Let it Be.

I think that it is no stretch to say that ELO did a great job at this endeavour. The music that the band has made over 50 years now (which is only just hitting me now) is enshrined in rock history. Mr. Blue Sky? Classic. Livin’ Thing? Feel Good. All Over the World? Sublime.

Despite the success rate of ELO, however, they have inevitably had one or two duds. Arguably, their biggest dud was their 1983 album ‘Secret Messages’. This was my least favourite classic ELO album, because it is very uneven. The majority of the album is, to my mind, filler. There were no stand out songs on the original version of that album. Though there almost was…

MUBLA DEREHCTUB A

The original version of Secret Messages was meant to be a double album, like Out of the Blue. This never happened, and the album was cut down to a single LP. This meant that a lot of songs were cut, including ‘Beatles Forever’.

In subsequent years, Jeff Lynne lost and regained the rights to ELO, and has actually re-released Secret Messages, in a version of the originally intended double album. Having heard that version, its better, but its too long, and still has a lot of filler (check out my Reconstructed post). However, one of the songs, Beatles Forever, was absent. It was written, recorded, and put on the initial tracklist, but never released.

I actually have a theory as to why the double album never actually got released. And I think that it is primarily down to song quality overall, and the lack of decent singles on offer for CBS Records to promote. I believe that the quality of this song and its content was the reason this album was cut in half because this song is abysmal.

Beatles Forever: ‘I think its quite a good song, ’til I hear one of theirs’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZxY6haGeoE
Beatles Forever by Electric Light Orchestra

As I stated, this song has never been released. When I first heard ‘Beatles Forever’ there was only a rough quality version was recorded as a bootleg at a fan convention. When I first heard Beatles Forever, as a bad bootleg, I thought it was a demo. However, as of the 7th of September 2020, a new ‘remastered’ version found its way online.

Alongside the upload, by ‘The Beat Club’ (who I must give credit and special thanks for their upload) this song was considered to be ‘too fawning and sycophantic’ by Jeff Lynne. According to Kelly Grouchett, it was almost the lead single for ‘Secret Messages’ and was very almost nearly including in the 2018 re-release of said album, having been remastered, and then being mercifully, yet crudely, cut

Simply put, this song is abysmal. Jeff Lynne is a noted superfan of The Beatles, and this song is a love letter to them, which in and of itself is very well-intentioned and sweet.

This song, however, is so on the nose, that is becomes a parody of Jeff Lynne’s love for the band. I do think it is a parody of the band’s work, and a parody of Lynne, except he wrote it himself! And the tragedy is that this song could have worked, with better lyrics. Not like this, mind, but you could have written a song about The Beatles, without it being so on the nose. The instrumentation is fine, but the lyrics are the worst I have ever heard.

The Legacy of Beatles Forever

While this song was not officially released, you can listen to the song that spawned out of it. The music was reworked and released in 1984, as part of the soundtrack to the film ‘Electric Dreams’ as Video. Having listened to Video, it is an average song, but it is a much superior song compared to Beatles Forever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYrbCgDNR1Y

Jeff Lynne would work with George Harrison on his 1987 solo outing ‘Cloud Nine’, as well as join his supergroup ‘The Travelling Wilburys’, alongside Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison. In the mid-’90s, Lynne was asked to produce The Beatles Anthology trilogy, and two new songs by the band. He would also produce for Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Dhani Harrison (George’s son) for Harrison’s posthumous album ‘Brainwashed’.

In closing, to say that this is the worst song ever made is a large statement. On all technical levels, this song is not bad. However, as I have stated, for a song to be cut from an album, disowned by its creator, buried and almost forgotten, re-recorded as another song, leaked as bad bootlegs and low-quality CD rips, not to mention included and unincluded from an official release, makes the case that this is the worst song ever made.

But are we better off without it? Should it be officially released? In a perfect world, we would not have bad music to worry us. But it wouldn’t be an interesting world. I think we’re better off with this song than not.

More from If you ask Ben:

Tracklist: ELO

Secret Messages: Reconstructed

Was Mr Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra a hit or miss?

The Night the Light went on in Manchester

About the author

Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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