Since the age of 12 I have been a fan of The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). I bought their Time album (vinyl) with my 1981 Christmas money and to this day, if you were to leave me on a desert island with only one collection of sounds forevermore, this would be the one. It is a rock opera and every track details adventures in futuristic time travel.
Today I took a trip with my parents to view the home where the lead singer, writer and all round multi-talented musical genius, Jeff Lynne grew up. This was in Shard End, an insalubrious area in my home city of Birmingham. I wanted to gaze upon the house where his mother shouted at him to get up for his factory job one morning to which he replied “I am not going to work today, or any other day. I am going to concentrate on my music.” A wise decision.
We pulled up outside 368 Shard End Crescent for a couple of minutes and I took photographs from the car. A short while later the man of the house appeared at his lounge window and waved. Did he know why we were there? Is he used to regular adoration of his bricks and mortar? Not necessarily. Perhaps he frequently ponders why strangers make the pilgrimage to his door? We waved back before making a quick retreat in order to hand him back his privacy.
Shard End’s holy place is All Saints, a Church of England. It was built in 1955 and paid a visit by the Queen two days after its completion (it is unclear why she didn’t actually arrive 2 days earlier and formally open it). As Shard End is not the type of area to comfortably leave its church doors unlocked it was a little disappointing not to see inside. Though as my husband would say had he been present, “Seen one church, seen them all”.
The other notable building nearby is the Shard, the funky red and purple library. This version was not there in Jeff’s day, however it was a friendly place where we settled to a hot drink. “We don’t get much call for peppermint tea in Shard End” said the café proprietor as he knocked dust from its box in a bottom drawer for me. Perhaps they need to consider more than builder’s tea in case the Queen decides to drop by there one day too.
Jeff may live in California today but he has never dismissed his roots. “All over the World”, the 1980 single which peaked at number 11 in the UK singles charts gives Shard End a proud shout out:
It was a wet day today in Shard End so as a fitting tribute I add in “The Rain is Falling” from the Time album.