By Martin Kinch

February 2010

Martin Kinch: Hello Rick, and thanks for your time answering a few questions.

Rick Pannell: It's a pleasure Martin

Martin: So where were you born and brought up

Rick: I'm a Birmingham boy

Martin: Were you always interested in music

Rick: From Saturday BBC radio 'Uncle Mac'

Martin: Who were your music heroes as you were growing up

Rick: Nina Simone, Ravi Shankar, Joni Mitchell

Martin: A lot of the die hard ELO fans will recognise your name as you were a sound engineer for the band back in the 70s, When did you start working for them and how did you get the job

Rick: I started in Spring 1973. There was a musical equipment shop in Birmingham called 'Wasp'. It was the hub of 'interchange' for many bands and 'roadies

Martin: Were you aware of the band before you got the job

Rick: Yes, but mainly the 'roadies' that worked for them

Martin: Had you worked with any other bands/artists before that

Rick: My first band was 'Craig'. We launched Carl Palmer ( ELP ) into the rock world.

Martin: I believe Craig released a couple of singles on the Fontana label, were you with the band at the time of those releases

Rick: I was part of 'Craig' from inception to break-up. The singles were: 'A little bit of soap' and 'I must be mad'.

Craig - I Must Be Mad (Fontana - 1966)

Martin: Did they get any airplay on the radio

Rick: Not really. Our London Manager Larry Paige had a success with the Troggs at the same time and we missed out

Martin: I think they are quite collectable now, have you got copies

Rick: I've got a few…not for sale. 'I must be mad' has become highly collectable in the Psychedelic music scene

Martin: Did you record any albums

Rick: No. At the time we were more a live act than experienced in the Recording Studio

Martin: Did you keep in touch with Carl Palmer

Rick: Yes, I spoke to him a few months ago and he's back in Birmingham.

Martin: Did you become a fan of ELP

Rick: Not really

Martin: So were you still in a band when the ELO job came along

Rick: I gave up playing with the band 'Galliard' to engineer ELO.

Martin: Tell me a bit more about Galliard, What did you play

Rick: I played guitar and sitar. Geoff Brown was lead singer. We were musically more adventurous with keyboard and Brass, introducing Elizabethan ( hence the name) and Classical styles with touches of jazz. A fusion you could say

Martin: Did you release any albums and singles

Rick: We released 2 albums: Strange Pleasure and New Dawn and we also released a single of
'I wrapped her in ribbons'

Galliard -
I wrapped her in ribbons (From the album Strange Pleasure)

Martin: Did it cross your mind that they might make it big after you left

Rick: I wanted them to succeed. The real dilemma for me was giving up performing, though mixing a band can be a performance of power!

Martin: What did the guys say when you told them you were leaving - Did they carry on for much longer after you left

Rick: The band was already trying different styles. They carried on for a number of years under different names.

Martin: The albums were released on CD a few years ago - Did you get them and was it good to hear the albums again with CD quality

Rick: I received them from bass player Andy only a few years ago. Great sound but I can still hear my mistakes!

Martin: Did you write any of the songs

Rick: No

Martin: Do you still see any old the old band members

Rick: Yes Andy Abbott. Geoff Brown moved into the computer world like me and was behind the Games success Lara Croft. He now lives in California.

Martin: The early days of ELO are well known for their sound problems on stage, was this a big problem that you had to deal with as soon as you started and what instruments gave you the biggest problems

Rick: Yes- feedback from the Contact Mics on the Cellos and Violin and also the Mellotron could be temperamental after rough handling.

Martin: Did it take you a while to get the sound they wanted or did you get it sorted pretty quick

Rick: I built amplifiers for the strings with graphic equalisers before they were available. This enabled troublesome frequencies to be reduced. My background was electronics.

Martin: Can you remember the first gig you worked on

Rick: A BBC recording at the 'Paris studios' in London

Martin: So you were thrown in at the deep end then!
If it's the one that was recorded on 19/04/1973 then it was released on CD a few years ago and it does sound great

Rick: Yes, that was the one, though I only mixed for the stage and audience. That was important though to give the band a good 'feel'.

Martin: Was it done like a normal gig or could they stop and start again if there was a problem

Rick: It was straight through in front of a live audience

Martin: Was the sound at the gigs all your responsibility or was there a team of people working on it

Rick: The sound and production was my responsibility. The quality and performance of the sound reinforcement equipment was the responsibility of the hire company.

Martin: You must have been quite nervous at the start

Rick: I joined before the first USA tour. The band were very supportive.

Jeff Lynne, Bev Bevan, Mike De Albuquerque,
Rick Pannell,
Richard Tandy, Mike Edwards, and Mik Kaminski

Martin: Were some venues easier to get a good sound from

Rick: Let me change that to - some venues were impossible to get a good sound such as Birmingham Town Hall
(before renovation)

Martin: Soon after you started to work for ELO they began to get big and started to play in bigger venues, Were the bigger places harder work than the smaller ones

Rick: The big stadiums could lack atmosphere, though the sound was more straight forward than odd shaped theatres.

Martin: So as a sound engineer, what else is involved apart from getting the best sound from a band, do you have to look after everyone's instruments between dates, tune up guitars, cellos, violins etc

Rick: All of the bands electronics was my responsibility including hair driers. It was a privilege to re-string and tune Jeff's guitars.

Martin: So you didn't have to set up Mike Edward's exploding cello then

Rick: Mikes exploding Cello was a special of course. Miraculously mending itself for every performance.

Martin: I would think that life on the road is a good laugh, have you got any favourite funny stories from your days with ELO

Rick: A tour in Spain, spring 1975. A tour fraught with problems especially after the professionalism of the USA.
After a food stop with no service and poor food we did a 'run out' without paying.

Martin: You actually often appeared on promo films and on 'Top of the pops' etc with the band playing a cello, how did that come about

Rick: The band lost Cello players in the early years. I stood in on Top of the Pops when Colin Walker suddenly left the band.

Electric Light Orchestra - Showdown on Top of the Pops with Rick on cello

Martin: Did you ever have to play it live or couldn't you play it

Rick: I didn't play it live, but as a guitar player I could make it look convincing.

Martin: There's some great stuff on Youtube including a time when you were interviewed with the rest of the band by a German TV presenter, I can't help but feel a bit sorry for him when I see it, had you all had a few beers

Rick: No Beers for a change. The 'in' sayings from the time, like ' say no more' from Monty Python, reference to Mik Kaminski's love of betting on horses and the Sporting life paper were beyond the hip, long haired presenter's knowledge.

Interview with The Electric Light Orchestra on Szene 74 - German TV 1974

Martin: So was there a lot of drinking and parties and all that going on

Rick: I must have missed them.

Martin: I assume there wasn't a shortage of young ladies hanging around either

Rick: No, but sound engineers are low down the rankings.

Martin: Were you all good mates, did you go out socially away from work

Rick: The 'Birmingham boys' would socialise occasionally.

Martin: Did you have any favourite people connected with the band

Rick: Jasper Carrot was a good friend in his Folk singing days

Martin: And who did you get on with most in the band

Rick: Mik Kaminski. I put him at ease for his audition and then shared rooms with him on early tours.

Martin: I imagine Jeff to be a perfectionist - was he good company and was he easy to work with

Rick: Jeff was natural and easy to get on with. I had to become a skilled football player on a holiday break with him in Cornwall.

Martin: Were you an actual fan of ELO, would you have gone to the gigs and bought the records had you not been working with them

Rick: Of course!

Martin: Working with Jeff Lynne in the early years, Did it surprise you at how big ELO became

Rick: Not really. Jeff and others put a lot of work into ELO.

Jeff Lynne, Rick, Hugh McDowell, and Bev Bevan on German TV

Martin: There's been a lot written and said about the band's manager Don Arden, did you have much to do with him,What are your thoughts about him

Rick: Don delegated his son David to interact with me. I got on well with David and had fun with him so kept my opinions of his father private.

Martin: Did you work with the band when they were in the studio as well

: Until I fell asleep in the early hours.

Martin: So who was Ted Blight

Rick: I guess that was me!! The Cellist that appears from time to time.

Martin: Is that you in the blurred photo of the 'On the third day' album

Rick: Yes, in a velvet jacket.

Martin: Have you got any favourite ELO songs

Rick: That is probably 10538 overture for its originality.

Martin: Well, I must admit that it is also my favourite too,
I know Roy Wood had left by the time you started working with ELO, but did you ever get to meet him at all,
You still shared the same management and record labels

Rick: Roy came to ELO's gig at Birmingham Town Hall.

Martin: Have you seen him since then

Rick: I’ve met him recently at a number of his shows at ‘The Robin ‘ in Bilston. Always friendly.

Martin: What did you think of his band

Rick: Such a dynamic show and a sell-out

Martin: Did you ever see Wizzard back in the 70s - I believe they had similar sound problems to ELO to start with

Rick: I didn't get to see Wizzard, probably because I was away with ELO so much

Martin: Did you ever meet up with Jeff Lynne again after you stopped working for the band

Rick: No

Martin: So as a Brummie you must have been aware of bands like The Move and Idle Race - Did you ever go and see them live or anyone else from the 'Brumbeat' scene

Rick: Yes , I particularly remember seeing the Vikings. when pubs were popular venues for groups .

Martin: Do you have a favourite period or year with ELO

Rick: The Eldorado album period

Record Company executive with Mike Edwards (centre) and Rick on the right

Martin: It sounds like a great job to have, why did you leave

Rick: I left the band so not to have a Divorce!
The previous sound engineer suffered a Divorce (away from home for 7 or 8 months of the year).

Martin: Can you remember when it was that you left, What was the last tour

Rick: It was summer 1977 after a big USA tour.

Martin: Was it a shock to them or did they know you were thinking about it

Rick: The signs were there that the band would only last another tour. It was probably a surprise that I left before the big world tour.

Martin: So though it stopped you getting a divorce, did you have any regrets at leaving. Especially soon after you left they went on to do the Out of the blue tour and album which I would think was the biggest thing they had done,

Rick: I had to shut off from the rock world to make a break without regret.

Martin: OK, So what job did you do after that

Rick: I went back into electronics and the fast developing computer world at a University.

Martin: Did you follow their career at all afterwards

Rick: Only in the media.

Martin: Did you ever go and see them live after you'd left

Rick: I saw ELO part II

Martin: Did you keep in touch with any of them

Rick: Yes, Kelly and Mik.

Martin: Were you surprised that Jeff went on to work with The Beatles / Roy Orbison and many more of the world's biggest artists

Rick: Not surprised as they were inspirational artists.

Martin: A few years after ELO split up in 1986, Bev Bevan got a band together called ELO Part 2,
You said you went to see them, what do you think about a band carrying on without the main singer/songwriter

Rick: I saw them once at Wolverhampton but a band without new popular material has a limited life.

Martin: 2009 saw the death of ELO bassist Kelly Groucutt, what are your memories of being with him

Rick: Kelly was very warm hearted. I saw him a number of times in the Midlands and he visited my home.

Martin: Are you still in the music business at all

Rick: No

Martin: Have you worked with any other well known artists

Rick: I worked with Lynsey De Paul and Widowmaker who both came under the Arden's management.

Martin: Do you regard the work you did with ELO as just another job, or will it always be something special to you

Rick: A special period.

Rick with ELO keyboard player Richard Tandy (Photo © and thanks to Melvyn Gale)

Martin: Is it still something you talk about down the pub

Rick: With video material and modern internet media interest I'm re-living it again. It's more the virtual pub these days.

Martin: Does anyone recognise you if an old clip of Showdown is shown on the old TOTP repeats

Rick: Yes. Staff at the University where I worked.

Martin: Well Rick, many thanks for your time doing this, I hope it hasn't been too painful

Rick: Not painful once I had found the old Diaries

Martin: Cheers Rick

Rick: Thanks Martin

This interview is © Martin Kinch 2009 and may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission

On July 1st 2010, Rick met up with a couple of his old 'Craig' bandmates - Carl Palmer and Len Cox.
They met at The Ikon Gallery in Birmingham for the launch of Andrew Cross’s film 'The Solo'
which features the music of Carl Palmer.
The film is showing at the Ikon until July 25th.
For more information click here

Rick Pannell, Carl Palmer, and Len Cox - July 2010

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