Thursday, September 09, 2010


Thanks to a bouncing bale of hay weighing some 1300 pounds (94 stone or about 600 kilograms), a band member on the first four E.L.O. albums has achieved immortality. Had the general public heard of cellist Mike Edwards before? No, but his death made the news and he's now near the top of anyone's list of strange ways of dying. "Turn to Stone?" Not exactly. More like "Hay...Can't Get it Out Of My Head."

It was bright sunlight, 12:30pm, when Edwards drove in his van towards Kingsbridge, hardly expecting a Monty Python ending. But this was the last straw; due to some farmer's neglect, a bale got loose, rolled down toward the road, took a final bounce off a hedge, went high in the air, and landed on Mike. He was so unknown at the time of his demise, that local authorities weren't sure how to find his nearest of kin, or whether he'd been married. They certainly didn't know he had been in E.L.O., and at the accident scene he probably looked like he was in The Strawbs.

Fans of the band were quick to remember and praise the quirky cellist, who was the clown prince of the Electric Light Orchestra, an eccentric little man who favored odd costumes, and stunts. One of his best remembered bits (which unfortunately doesn't appear to have been filmed) was his "exploding cello" routine, after running a grapefruit over the strings of his cello and doing other eccentric miming. It was a highlight of the band's act when they toured in support of "Eldorado," Mike's final album with the group. After four albums and this tour (which included a splashy appearance at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on November 8th, 1974, and went round the world through the first months of 1975), Edwards changed his name to Deva Pramada, adopted a Buddhist lifestyle, and went on to the obscure life of a cello teacher in rural England…until a meaningless God shouted "Hay" and lofted a practical joke at him leaving the zen practitioner in a deaditative state.

He does leave behind great musical memories, many students who are cello masters thanks to his teachings, work on four E.L.O. albums, and fodder for a lot of bad jokes. The news of his passing raised questions about the meaning of life and why it can end in so many unpredictable, and sometimes both horrifying and hay-larious ways.

Below: Mike's impressive cello solo from the "Eldorado" tour, and a complete set from E.L.O. done at Civic Hall, Guildford.

Edwards' "Cello Solo" from the Providence, Rhode Island ELO show, December 7, 1974. Remember Pearl Harbor Instant download or listen on line.
Mike Edwards and E.L.O. at Civic Hall, Guildford, U.K. May 7th 1972 Rapidly downloadable 50 minute set. Includes: 1. Overture, 2. Queen Of The Hours, 3. From The Sun To The World, 4. First Movement, 5. Dear Elaine, 6. Great Balls Of Fire, 7. In Old England Town


Anonymous said...

Indeed one of the strangest deaths in rock history.

Bev Bevan had various interesting things to say about Mike in his 1980 ELO biography. The exploding Cello routine indeed became a showstopper. Mike would mime the solo - Melvyn Gale would be just off the stage playing the live solo for Mike to mime to. The explosion would be triggered by a foot pedal and sure enough there was one night when Edwards and Gale were stranded when the pedal refused to work. Jeff Lynne apparently stood in the wings wondering why this Cello solo was going on and on and on...

Mike was clearly one of those talents who would be flamboyant and extroverted onstage but offstage was a quiet and private person. His departure came as a shock to the band. He announced he'd be leaving mid tour and said nothing more about it... the band thought he was kidding, probably letting off a little frustration. At the end of the tour when they landed back in England, Mike shook them all by the hand, said his goodbyes and quietly walked away... they never saw him again - well up to 1980 anyhow.

Anonymous said...

Correction to my post above - it was Hugh McDowell who played the parts Mike mimed to... I think Melvyn was his replacement!

Andy 7 said...

I saw ELO on their "On The Third Day Tour" and the opening acts were Franpton's Camel and Arthur Lee & Vindicator. Vindicator opened up with "Seven And Seven Is" and Camel did a lot of shit that ended up on "Frampton Comes Alive". Oh, to be young again!

Ted Hering said...

Looks like the link had expired.

Ill Folks said...

Hi Ted,

No, the link's still good:

You may have visited on a day when box net was acting hinky.