In 1979, I was nine years old, and besotted with two very similar, and very terrible, 45 RPM records: “Don’t Bring Me Down” by E.L.O. and “3 Dressed Up As A 9” by Trooper. I debated which of them to write about here. Trooper won points for being grade-A Canadian schlock; but lost points — fatal points — for being (I think) an extended insult about a woman’s looks. Please know that I did not realize this at the time; nine-year-old me was obsessed with math, and thought that “3 Dressed Up as a 9” was just a highly abstract and superbly winning numerical put-down. Which brings us back to the Electric Light Orchestra, and their idiotically catchy request that someone named Bruce — or rather, Bruuuuuuuuce! — refrain from bringing them down. You won’t be surprised that people often tell me, “But E.L.O. had so many better songs!” But what if I told you that one of the people who’ve mocked me for digging “Don’t Bring Me Down” so deeply was E.L.O. frontman Jeff Lynne himself?
It all went down like this: a few years ago, I got invited to a Fancy Hollywood Dinner Party thrown by a Fancy Hollywood Director who may have directed “The Goonies.” I was the first guest to arrive, and this Fancy Hollywood Director (who may have also directed the first, and best, Superman movie) rewarded my punctuality by offering me a few puffs on a medical-grade spliff. Not wanting to be a bad guest, I accepted said puffs, and immediately took up residence in the far reaches of outer space for the evening. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that every other person at the party was a famous person whom I admired greatly, and with whom I was unable to converse because (and this still pains me to recall) I was doob-mute. My fellow guests included at least one member of “Monty Python”; the widow of a Beatle (not that one, the other one); and Jeff Lynne, to whom I muttered over cold cucumber soup, “Your song ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ was my… my… my first favourite record.” To which Jeff Lynne muttered, “Strange choice” then sauntered away to the bathroom. Now, I’m normally quite sensitive to social slights under the best of circumstances, but throw a little pot into the mix (did I mention that I was extremely high?) and I become a skinless, quivering vessel of interpersonal vulnerability. Hence, Lynne’s remark cut me to quick.
I spent the rest of the party planning my move to a small island in a far-flung archipelago, where I would live out my days as my maker intended: like a lonely jerk. Only at the end of the evening did I regain my wits (and my sobriety) enough to notice that the post-dinner conversation had turned to, of all subjects, the word “cunt”. The Brits in attendance agreed that it was their favourite swear word, and no big deal; the Yanks insisted it was the one curse that retained nuclear capability, and therefore required careful handling. Our hostess, the wife of the Famous Hollywood Director, turned to me and said, “Tim, you’ve been awfully quiet tonight, what do you think?” I thought for a second, and exclaimed — and remember, these were the first words I had uttered in over three hours — “I think I gotta go. Good night, cunts!” And then I got in my car and drove away. I haven’t seen Jeff Lynne since. And the Famous Hollywood Director hasn’t invited me back to his home, and probably never will. Why would he? I’m just a 3 dressed up as a 9, and if Bruce wants to bring me down, I’m sure both he and Jeff Lynne have their reasons.