23 February 2010

The Out of the Blue Project

A long time ago a young and innocent boy of around eleven was wandering through a busy market when he happened across a stall selling records.  Now this wasn't a stall selling old records like the ones you see from time to time these days, no it was selling brand new records.  To be honest the boy had never really had an interest in music before, but a single glance in the direction of the record stall was about to change that.

Sitting bright and proud near the front of the stall was a record… a record with a cover like nothing he'd seen before.  Put quite simply it was a picture of a spaceship. A brilliantly detailed and marvelously colourful spaceship.  He approached the stall with trepidation, there were numerous adults milling around examining the myriad of other wares and as he drew closer he began to feel that he was stepping into their world.  He felt out of place, but the record called to him and a moment later he found himself reverently standing before it.

He wanted to lift it up and examine it,  to turn it over and look at the back cover, but he had no idea how much such things cost, it looked as if it would be very expensive and so he was worried he might not be allowed to, so he contented himself just looking at the front for a few minutes. 

The spaceship had large windows that hinted at a view of a fantastic interior, it had an open docking bay with a smaller ship floating outside, the smaller craft was obviously reasonably large in itself, which just emphasized the vastness of its mothership.  There were a million and one tiny details that made the boy's eyes bulge like saucers as he took  it all in as best he could. Eventually he overcame his nerves, he simply had to see more.     He carefully lifted it out of the rack and holding it with as much care as he could muster he started to examine it.  He turned it over and saw that the picture continued onto the back of the record.  Then with a slight shock the boy realized that it was a double sleeve, a gate-fold sleeve, like the two covers of a book and inside was yet another fantastic futuristic image that instantly absorbed him.

He decided right then that he simply had to own this wonderful work of art no matter how much it cost.

That small boy was of course me, and the record was of course Out of The Blue by The Electric Light Orchestra.

I'd never heard of ELO before and I'd certainly never heard this album.  In fact neither I nor my parents even owned a record player at that time.  But to me that was irrelevant, I needed to have this record just so that I could look at the cover.  My wonderful parents gave me the money to buy the record that day, why I am not sure. To buy a record when you have no way of playing it and when you have no idea what the band are like seems like a leap of faith but as it turned out it was faith well placed, because once I finally did get a record player to play the record, it turned out to be a musical work of art too which complemented perfectly that wonderful and inspiring cover.

And so here we are over 30 years later.  I still have that record, I still play it and even sometimes I'll spend a moment or two looking at the cover, in wonder just as I did when I was a boy.

A while back I posted a Life Tips 101 blog that said one of the things you could do to improve your life would be to spend some time tracking down a vinyl copy of Out of The Blue and I still believe that to be true.  The hunt and the satisfaction of completing it will provide you with one of those rare moments of happiness we all crave, and if you have any taste at all you'll also come to love the musical content of the album which should provide you with many more of those moments (it has for me).

As you may have noticed there is a slide show here on the blog showing various people holding that ever so fantastic album.  At first I just thought it would just be nice to see others who share a love for this record so I asked a few people if they could send me a snap.  But as is my way (I guess) small ideas often turn into bigger ideas and now the Out Of The Blue Project has begun I want to see how far it can go.  I want to see if I can find fans of this album from all over the world and get them to submit photos of themselves with it.   I've set myself the arbitrary target of 1000 photos.  It seems a large enough number to make an impressive collection but also an attainable one.  There will of course be an obligatory facebook group for people to submit their photos through and view the collection. 

There is of course one photograph that would be the proverbial cherry on the cake… and that would be a photo of the man himself Jeff Lynne with the album.  If the project goes well, who knows, he might get to hear about it, now wouldn't that be cool.

In a world where music has become generally antiseptic and disposable, I hope that we can show definitively that 'they don't make em like they used to' and that nobody ever made one quite like this one.

So come sign up and be a Wild West Hero.  Tell your friends, photograph yourself and your family with the album and post them up to the facebook group.  Bother your work buddies and get snaps of them too.  Try and find copies of the album in your local thrift store or market.  Can you get an unusual photo with the record, an action photo?  Is there anyone out there with the album on cassette? Get a photo, post that photo ?

Only with your help can this collection grow so please, please do what you can to help spread the word. In time hopefully it will become one of those self sustaining little internet oddities where people have come together for no good reason except simply for the fun of it… Out of the Blue.

CLICK HERE to visit the facebook group.