ELO's Bev Bevan Talks Rock Hall Induction, Jeff Lynne Rift - Rolling Stone
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ELO’s Bev Bevan Talks Rock Hall Induction, Jeff Lynne Rift

Drummer discusses possible reunion with former bandmates and looks back on infamous 1983 Black Sabbath tour that inspired ‘Spinal Tap’

ELO drummer Bev Bevan talks about the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and his desire to reunite with Jeff Lynne.

The 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will bring together many bandmates that haven’t shared a stage in a long, long time. Journey might reunite with estranged frontman Steve Perry, Yes (now touring in two competing camps) may put their differences aside and stage a massive prog-rock jam session, and Pearl Jam will stand behind the podium with their original drummer, Dave Krusen. Then there’s Electric Light Orchestra. Jeff Lynne and keyboardist Richard Tandy continue to tour together, but multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood left their ranks shortly after the release of their 1971 debut and hasn’t been back since. Drummer Bev Bevan was around from their inception all the way through 1986’s Balance of Power, but after Lynne dissolved the band in the late 1980s, he began touring with new musicians as ELO Part II. The spinoff group led to a massive legal battle between Lynne and Bevan, and they haven’t spoken in three decades.

Days after the news hit about ELO entering the Hall of Fame, we phoned up Bevan to hear his thoughts on the honor, the possibility of a reunion and his desire to finally make peace with Jeff Lynne. As long as he was on the phone, we couldn’t resist asking a few questions about Black Sabbath’s infamous 1983 Born Again tour. Bevan took over for Bill Ward on that tour as the drummer, and it was such a fiasco it basically inspired Spinal Tap the following year.

What was your first reaction to the news?

I was chuffed, just thrilled. I guess everybody is when they get it. I can’t imagine anyone not being. I thought it was fantastic. I had a lot of friends calling me, texting me, emailing me to say congratulations. It’s been really good.

How did you hear about it?

My agent Ashley [Yeates] called. I was walking my two golden retrievers, Oscar and Bailey, around the sports field and he called and said it was announced and was all over Facebook and stuff. That was a nice way to hear. It was great.

Have you heard anything from the Hall of Fame itself?

No. Nothing at all. I don’t even know if they know how to contact me. I’ve seen the date mentioned and I hope to hear some more.

You’re going, right?

As far as I know, yeah. I’d love to. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’d like to be there.

For the rest of your life now you are Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bev Bevan.

Nobody has actually said that before. That sounds great.

Bands often reunite and perform at the Hall of Fame. Is that going to happen? Is that possible?

Jeff’s been going out as Jeff Lynne’s ELO, doing great business. He’s got his version of ELO all up and running. I’d love to get up there, even to do one song. I’d love to. Probably same with Roy.

Do you think it’s likely? Do you think he’ll want to play with you?

I really can’t answer that. I honestly don’t know. I’ll find out over the coming weeks.

At the very least, it’s a nice opportunity to shake his hand and clear the air.

I’d be very happy to do that. Absolutely.

What do you want to say to him?

[Laughs] I guess we’ll have to play that by ear. It’s a way off. I hope we shake hands. I definitely do hope that happens.

The dispute was just a legal issue over the name, right?

Yeah, but I’m really not allowed to talk about that. I don’t think he is either. We came to an agreement and one of the things is we just don’t talk about it.

Fair enough. I would think at this point in time, it would make sense to just make peace.

Yeah. I’d like to think so. I think I’m certainly at an age now where I don’t want to bear grudges or have enemies. I just want to make friends. I’d be pleased to do it.

Do you think Roy Wood is going to go?

I don’t know. I’ll try and find out. I will find out.

Do you think just bringing in you, Jeff, Roy and Richard Tandy is the right move?

Yeah. Jeff, myself and Mr. Tandy worked on every record from the first one in 1971 to Balance of Power in 1986. Although Roy Wood was only on the first one and a bit on the second record, him and Jeff, it was their idea. That’s fair.

Will you be upset if Jeff refuses to play with you and you have to watch him play with the current lineup?

I might just do my own sing-along then, watch and enjoy.

So you won’t be too offended if he doesn’t play with you?

No. No. But it would be nice. Even if I just got up and played one song or played tambourine or something, I don’t care. But it would be nice to join in. Also, I’m really hoping Steve Perry sings with Journey. He’s one of my favorite singers. It’s such a shame he seems to have gone away. He was so, so good.

Have you ever been to an induction ceremony before?

No. Never. I’ve seen them on TV, but I’ve certainly never been to one. I’ve been to similar ones in this country, different award presentation type things, but nothing as grand as that.

What’s this mean to you on a personal level?

It means a lot. I fell in love with music when I was at school at 15. A lot of those heroes of those days, the first rock & rollers, Elvis and the Everly Brothers and Ray Charles and Chuck Berry, they’ve been all been inducted. In later years, it was the Beatles and the other British bands that came through. To join those names is just fantastic.

It’s you guys, Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Yes, Journey and Tupac. Are you fans of any of those people?

In the early days of ELO we used to tour a lot with Journey. They are great guys. They are one of my favorite American bands. I’m certainly a fan of Joan Baez. I’ve never met the lady. I love everybody that’s included.

They usually do a big all-star jam at the end. Can you think of any song that would work for all you guys?

[Laughs] That’s a good question. It’s a tough one. I don’t know. ELO used to do a version of “Roll Over Beethoven.” Maybe that would work. I can imagine Joan Baez singing “Roll Over Beethoven,” absolutely.

ELO seems to have more respect now than ever. You guys weren’t really critical darlings in the 1970s, but that’s really changed.

I think you’re right. We weren’t the critics’ favorite in the day, but over the years we seem to get a lot more respect than we did in the 1970s.

How do you explain that? What changed?

I don’t know. It hasn’t happened with just ELO. I played in Black Sabbath for a couple of years, and they used to get some bad reviews. Another good friend of mine is Robert Plant. They used to get some bad reviews too, but now they don’t. People seem to realize just how good they were.

Speaking of Black Sabbath, I’ve always been fascinated by the Born Again tour of 1983, where you played drums. It’s always been described as this psychotically dysfunctional thing where everything just went wrong. Has it all been exaggerated?

I’m pretty sure it inspired the Spinal Tap thing with Stonehenge. We rehearsed with this Stonehenge and they got all the dimensions wrong. It was the opposite [of Spinal Tap] where instead of being tiny, it was so big it wouldn’t fit on the stage. The first gig we did was, I think, Toronto. It was this massive arena, but we couldn’t fit it in. We had to dump half of it. But I had a lovely time on the tour, and Ian Gillan had a good time. It was the only Black Sabbath either of us ever did, but we still had a ball. We loved it.

It was a weird show. There was a midget, right?

[Laughs] Well, I think that was [manager] Don Arden’s idea. He thought it would be great to have a midget dressed as a little red devil. We used to start the show with him jumping down from my drum riser and then down to the next level and down to the next level. I think that he was making twice the money of any of the road crew, so they used to play tricks on him where they’d turn all the lights out right before he jumped and you’d hear this terrible thump. This poor little midget would be writhing around the floor in agony.

What happened to the Stonehenge set? It belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I think they just dumped it somewhere in America on the side of the road. It was massive. It would have rotted away by now. It obviously wasn’t real stone or anything. It just fell to bits somewhere.

How did you feel the first time you saw Spinal Tap?

It’s one of my favorite movies. It’s got so many real moments. It’s based on so many rock & rollers. I thought it was great. Tony Iommi thought it was great too.

So the Born Again tour was still a fun time despite everything?

Yeah. We did great business. There’s a live CD of Black Sabbath when we headlined the Reading festival in England to about 50,000 people. It sounds good. I play it back sometimes and think, “Wow, this band could really rock.”

The album cover has been called the ugliest album cover in rock history.

I think I agree with that [laughs]. Again, I think that was Don Arden’s idea as well. It went along with the midget, really. As album sleeves go, I’m struggling to think of one as well.

Have you heard the new ELO album?

I don’t have it, but I’ve heard tracks on the radio. It’s terrific. Jeff has always been a great musician and great producer and great songwriter. Yes, of course, it’s good.

Does it feel weird that they’re on tour now without you?

Well, Jeff took a long time to come to the decision to start touring again. He went years without touring. But he’s written so many great songs, so it’s only right he’s out there playing his music. And because we had a fallout I wasn’t included, and it’s Jeff Lynne’s ELO. That’s fair enough.

It’s basically just him playing on the album. It’s almost a solo album.

Some musicians love to do that. It’s been so long since I’ve seen him, but he just loved being in the studio. There was nothing he loved more. I guess that’s what he loves to do do this day.


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