That kind of sounds like something the Doctor would say, doesn’t it? Except it’s lyrics from an ELO song. I’ve talked before about how my introduction to ELO was very much a byproduct of my early sci-fi fandom; why, just for giggles, I once remixed an ELO song to add the Blaster Beam (you know, That Instrument from the soundtrack of the first Star Trek movie), because the song was kind of a musical sci-fi short story in and of itself, and to make up for the fact that ELO could have been – but wasn’t – asked to contribute music to the Star Wars Holiday Special. So we’ve got our Star Wars and Star Trek connections there, what about Doctor Who?
As it turns out, the Doctor has been in ELO’s orbit for quite a long time, going all the way back to this so-serious-it’s-hilarious posed photo of early ’70s Doctor Who star Jon Pertwee meeting ELO co-founder Roy Wood, who left the band early in the process of recording the second album and was probably making a BBC appearances for Top of the Pops or somesuch while promoting Wizzard, his post-ELO project. And, of course, there’s literally a whole 2006 Doctor Who episode revolving around a character who has two primary forces in his life – his love for ELO, and his propensity for continually being somewhere close by when the Doctor is
wreaking havoc setting history straight.
Doctor Who fandom and ELO fandom (yes, there’s a fandom) have a lot in common. Since both entities were inactive from the late 20th century through the early 21st – with each attempting comebacks that became one-offs before another lengthy absence (whether you’re talking the 1996 Paul McGann movie or 2001’s Zoom) – there’s a sort of “Old Testament vs. New Testament” rivalry in each fandom. Me, I’m just happy that Doctor Who is back in production, and that ELO – even if it’s just Jeff Lynne multitracking himself into the wee hours of the morning – is still making new music. And touring! Someday the touring iteration of ELO might accidentally get close enough for me to be able to see them live. But for now, the lenticular cover of the LP edition of ELO’s new album fills out the “ELO wall” down here in my cave nicely.
I just didn’t expect these two things I love to collide.
This year’s big project for the BBC’s annual Children In Need charity telethon is an all-star album of covers of various songs, performed by big names that are big primarily for acting reasons, not for musical reasons. Former Doctor Who David Tennant covers a Proclaimers song, and current Doctor Jodie Whittaker tackles a Coldplay cover. There are other performers I admire quite a bit in the mix, including Suranne Jones and Himesh Patel, so yeah, I’ve got my copy of Got It Covered on pre-order. (In fact, Amazon just told me…not to expect it until January. Wow? I guess that means it’s selling pretty darn well in the UK if I’m having trouble getting a physical CD in the States.) As always, the proceeds from the Children In Need telethon and spinoff projects like this album go to charity. I’m totally on board with that. So are a lot of other people, and you know, it beats the pants off of the bizarro Doctor Who/EastEnders Dimensions In Time crossover that was filmed for inclusion in 1993’s Children In Need telethon.
But…apparently there’s a problem, according to Forbes:
Jeff Lynne’s ELO (or simply ELO, or Electric Light Orchestra, for those who were there from the beginning) is back at No. 1 on the U.K. albums chart with their latest album From Out of Nowhere, which debuts atop the list…though its arrival is met with some controversy.
Early this frame, the Official Charts Company reported that another new release was headed straight to the top of the ranking and that it wasn’t even a close race. BBC Children in Need: Got It Covered, a collection of covers of popular songs by famous actors (such as Olivia Colman, David Tennant and Helena Bonham Carter) recorded and sold to raise money to benefit children’s causes, was predicted to win the week, but just a day ago, the chart compilers changed their thinking, upsetting many in the process.
Apparently, BBC Children in Need: Got It Covered counts as a compilation by various artists, not a proper album, so it isn’t eligible for the main chart (according to U.K. rules). The set may have been the best-performing title this week, but it was robbed of a chance to rule in proper fashion, though it was still a major success when it comes to bringing in much-needed funds.
While some Doctor Who fans, and fans of the other talents who performed songs for Got It Covered, are bagging on ELO’s somewhat surprising chart-topping success in the UK, claiming it’s an illegitimate “win”, I’m stuck squarely in the middle. It’s great for modern ELO to land at the top of the charts…I just didn’t expect it to be perceived as happening at the expense of two Doctors and others who have been guest stars on Doctor Who. Can’t I just be happy that lots of people are snatching up and enjoying both albums?
In the meantime, the less-complainy, more-talented side of each fandom is forging ahead and adding their own touch to things, whether it’s adding more (and more realistic) strings to ELO’s latest tunes, or bringing the final scene of B&W-era Doctor Who into full color. (If anyone in the UK already had a color TV in 1969, imagine how much a sudden transition at the end of an episode would’ve freaked them out.) It’s all good, and now I apparently just have to wait until January to get Got It Covered…