Friday, August 19, 2016

Another Friendship Lost: Bev

The Move that I met in the infamous Continental Hyatt House hotel on the Sunset Strip in the autumn of 1969 were amost comically ill-assorted. Singer Carl Wayne, Mr. Showbiz, oozed self-delight and self-confidence. I wondered how the bug-eyed, outrageously hirsute guitarist and songwriter Roy Wood had managed to survive the group’s drive across the American Southwest without being shot or set afire by good old boys outraged by his appearance. He could hardly have been more shy, while Bev Bevan, the big, broad-shouldered, deep-voiced drummer, was irresistibly charming. After I wrote a rave review of their sublime Shazam! album for Rolling Stone a few months later, it was he who wrote a letter of appreciation on the group’s behalf. We began corresponding, a state of affairs about which I was tickled pink, as I’d been a Move fan since first hearing Flowers in the Rain years before.

When my girlfriend Patti and I visited England, Bev and his wife entertained us. He and his wife took us to dinner at a favourite restaurant of theirs, out in the wilds of Warkwickshire, and it was glorious. I didn’t cause his Aston-Martin to be damaged when I forgot that everything in UK motoring is backwards, and blithely swung the passenger door open right in front of an oncoming lorry. I’d never seen the blood drain from anyone’s face as it drained from Bev’s at that moment. Bev introduced me to Monty Python, and the mere audio of the How to Defend Yourself Against a Banana-Wielding Attacker sketch made me laugh so hard I thought I might split open. 

The Move faded away and was replaced by ELO, which I disliked almost from the get-go. Jeff Lynne’s music seemed strangely second-hand and contrived to me, as Bon Jovi’s would 15 years later, and I hated how he threw a wet blanket over Bev as a drummer on the grop's records, his playing on Shazam! having taken my breath away. But Bev and I became better and better friends. He and his wife spent a lot of time in LA to avoid UK taxes, and my new girlfriend, The Nib, and I had them over a lot. We played Boggle and savoured proper homemade American hamburgers, this in an era when I was still eating red meat. Bev and I drank much brandy together while the…girls chatted. He and his drum roadie came out to the San Fernando Valley to play touch football with me and my bandmates, The Pits. We watched the Super Bowl together. I regarded him as one of my closest friends.

He hired me to ghostwrite his autobiography. He’d read Ian Hunter’s Diary of a Rock Star, and found it crap. He wanted Bevan’s Illustrated History of ELO (the title I proposed) to feature much more stylish prose. I did my best to provide it. I used lots of $10 adjectives, and eschewed what he’d have called full stops and I periods, as nothing says erudition like a long torturous sentence. I inserted much snark, though it was still called sarcasm at the time. But then his prospective publisher advised him that they wanted the usual crapola. I gnashed my teeth and wondered about my kill fee. None would be forthcoming. If he didn’t get paid to appear in videos that wound up not being completed, in his view, it was unreasonable for me to expect payment for my work on a  book that wasn’t going to be published. We disagreed about that, and didn’t speak for 15 years.


I tried, after the publication of my own autobiography — a polysyllabic snarkfest that Rolling Stone described as “like Portnoy’s Complaint rewritten by Pete Townshend” — to revive our friendship. He commended me for having been forthright in my book about a lot of things a discreet gentile might have left undisclosed. But when I actually moved to the UK in 2002, and tried to invite myself up to the Midlands to see him, he didn’t seem to like the idea very much, and eventually I stopped trying.

10 comments:

  1. Jus to say; the real ELO was Roy Wood's. They were like the Velvets were from Warwickshire and the eponymous record is a cult treasure peddled and played at our Grammar school common room on a fanatical basis. Queen of the Hours babee! After this, ELO (this is not correct to start with as we always referred to them by the full title)were crap, crap, and more crap. Without the hirsute one it was like Venus in Furs sung by Perry Comotose.

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    Replies
    1. I must confess not to have liked the original version much either, Mick. I hadn't much liked Looking On either. But to each his onus. Thanks for reading.

      Delete
  2. I didn't like ELO much at the time, but now find myself quite enjoying some of their records as the camp, overwrought artefacts from a long-gone era that they are.

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  3. The original 5 man line-up was one of the best, most versatile bands ever. The first album is one of the best albums of that era, an album l play continuously to this day. "Looking On" is a great, but odd album. Admittedly it's an acquired taste.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The original 5 man line-up was one of the best, most versatile bands ever. The first album is one of the best albums of that era, an album l play continuously to this day. "Looking On" is a great, but odd album. Admittedly it's an acquired taste.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Agree. Bev's work on Shazam and other Move records was revelatory; in ELO, he was relegated to being a mere drummer.

    ReplyDelete
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