Performer: Electric Light Orchestra
Songwriter: Jeff Lynne
Original Release: single
Definitive Version: Evil Woman single, 1975. The live version on the B side, which uses keyboards instead of the horns, also includes an instrumental Do Ya segue.
I liked Evil Woman as much as the next person—and there were a lot—when it hit the airwaves in 1975. At that time I was buying 45s almost exclusively; they were 69 cents apiece, so why not? But Marty was really the ELO fan of our duo.
I don’t remember how or even when Marty and I met or why we became friends, like I can with others. I’m pretty sure I met him when we were in third grade, and I’m more certain we became friends in fourth grade, the only time—literally the only time—we were in the same class together.
Marty’s family moved into a house down the street from where we lived. His house was the second house away from Greensview School, and because the closest house on the corner actually faced Greensview and not Darcann, Marty’s house was pretty much across the street from Danny’s house, where most of the kids on the street congregated. That made for easy play time.
So that’s probably how it started, particularly because he and I were trapped in Mrs. Huff’s fourth-grade class. I would suspect there was much bonding going on there as we battled the forces of evil therein. (All you need to know about Mrs. Huff is that word got back to the folks about potential bad behavior, so I was made to go see a shrink and take preliminary intelligence testing. I tested as a genius, but that’s possibly a story for another time.)
Anyway, like at our house, the play area at Marty’s was the basement, so that’s where Marty and I would hang out—if we weren’t outside running around, which was frequent early on. Marty and I were mostly outdoor kids, but we could play inside with the best of them.
We both had vivid imaginations—if Marty isn’t a writer, or at least employed by Marvel as an artist, I’d be disappointed. We’d make up stories and act them out in the privacy of Marty’s basement. We must have come up with two or three dozen—all very elaborate with complex plot twists and turns—but as far as I recall, we completed only one during this time. We were more dreamers and thinkers than doers, or lazy bums as Dad used to call us.
Actually, Marty and I had to play together in secret a lot, because Dad, and Mom through Dad, kept a lid on the amount of time I spent with Marty. (My guess is after the non-goodbye I had with Mark, they didn’t want to enforce another full-on ban.) So it would be that I’d go to play at someone else’s house, and—guess what?—Marty just would happen to show up, too. Imagine the odds!
After Dad moved out of the house, briefly, for the first time during sixth grade, that was the end of the ban. Apparently, Mom and Dad had more on their minds than whom I ran around with, so Marty and I saw each other all the time.
We had a lot in common—his parents were going through a divorce pretty much at the same time as mine were starting down that road—and we naturally gravitated toward what the other person was into. I was big into baseball cards, of course. Marty dabbled and got more into them. Marty was a big comic book fan—Spiderman—and I’d read them over at his house. We both liked riding our bikes to the nearby pharmacy to buy Zotz and Gold Nugget bubblegum, comic books and cards.
My music at the time was America and CSN, primarily. Marty was into ELO and Elton John, the latter due mostly to his older brother. But I found ELO an easy addition to my catalog—particularly after Evil Woman and Strange Magic. Because of that, ELO dominated the record player that Marty had in the basement. We had Face the Music in heavy rotation and Ole, ELO and then New World Record, which we must have listened to every day for, like, four months running.
We were in the basement playing Sorry, one of our favorite board games, when I decided to flip over the Evil Woman single and give this song a spin. I remember feeling chills the first time I heard this song. It made me think of Logan’s Run, Marty’s favorite movie, which meant, of course, that it was one of mine, and a comic book series that we read and re-read religiously.
Now that I think about it, that’s an apt comparison: Both are futuristic, antiseptic and a bit cold and foreboding. In many ways that’s the way we both looked at the future through the prism of leaving grade school to head to junior high with our families in disrepair. A dark song fit the times like a Sandman’s suit.