I was sad to hear of the death of Kelly Groucutt, who had a fatal heart attack on February 19. If I have to explain to you who he was, you obviously weren’t a member of the Electric Light Orchestra Appreciation Society 1978-79.
He played bass for ELO between 1974 and 1983 ie. the classic line-up; he also sang lead on a couple of songs, including the exquisite Sweet Is The Night. I loved ELO – they were my first “favourite band”, after an early crush on glam rock, and I am not ashamed to say that it was my dad who got me into them. (He also got me into Monty Python and Tony Hancock – nice strike rate.) I played New World Record and Out Of The Blue until I had learned every word and examined every detail of the aribrushed sleeve images. Perhaps more importantly, I taught myself how to draw each of the band’s eight members off by heart. Kelly Groucutt was as important to me as any other hairy member of ELO. I knew that they were a sum of their beardy parts. Rather poetically, Kelly was completely bald in later life as you’ll see from his website, where, rather poignantly, he’d started to pen his life story but only got to the end of Chapter Two. I can’t claim to have followed his solo career, or his work with various ELO reincarnations, such as ELO II and The Orchestra, but his passing is significant to me. He was only 63, and looked good on it (I discover he leaves behind four children and two grandchildren). I shall now go and play Out Of The Blue and listen more carefully to the basslines – and to his vocals on Sweet Is The Night.
Sweet, sweet is the night
Now you are near
Dark, dark were the days
Here, as a fitting tribute, is my drawing of Kelly Groucutt from my diary in 1978: