Q Magazine

R.I.P. Richard Tandy, Longtime Electric Light Orchestra Keyboardist, Dead at 76

Tandy also played harpsichord on The Move's 'Blackberry Way' and contributed to albums by Dave Edmunds, the Everly Brothers, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

wills q template
Source: Facebook / Jeff Lynne

Tandy joined Electric Light Orchestra on their second album, appropriately titled "ELO II"

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

Richard Tandy, the man whose gift for playing a variety of different keyboards – from piano and organ to Minimoog and Mellotron – can be heard on the majority of the albums released by Electric Light Orchestra, has died at the age of 76.

Tandy’s death was announced by ELO co-founder Jeff Lynne, who posted the news on social media, saying, “It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of my long-time collaborator and dear friend Richard Tandy. He was a remarkable musician and friend and I'll cherish the lifetime of memories we had together. Sending all my love to Sheila and the Tandy family."

Article continues below advertisement
wills q template
Source: Facebook / Jeff Lynne

Jeff Lynne called Tandy "a remarkable musician and friend," adding, "I’ll cherish the lifetime of memories we had together."

Born on March 26, 1948 in Birmingham, Tandy started taking piano lessons when he was nine years old, but when rock and roll came calling, he decided to pick up a guitar and learn to play that instrument as well. “No lessons,” he clarified in a 1994 interview. “Just hours of strumming.”

One of his first groups was called The Chantelles, a jazz/blues combo, but by 1968 he’d joined the touring lineup of The Move, which led him to join them in the studio to play harpsichord on their single “Blackberry Way.” (This was not his first encounter with the band’s drummer, Bev Bevan – the twosome had both attended Moseley School in Birmingham – nor would it be his last.) Not much later, Tandy joined the Ugly's, playing on their 1969 single, "I've Seen the Light."

By 1972, Tandy had been invited to join the first live line-up of Electric Light Orchestra, albeit as bassist rather than keyboardist, but it didn’t take long – we’re talking less than a year – for that situation to change. Although he didn’t play on the band’s self-titled debut, he made his studio performance with ELO on their second album, appropriately titled ELO 2, and he would go on to appear in some capacity on every subsequent album by the band save one: 2015’s Alone in the Universe. As such, he can be heard of all of the band's biggest hits, including - but in no way limited to - "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Evil Woman," "Livin' Thing," "Telephone Line," "Mr. Blue Sky," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," and, yes, even "Xanadu," with Olivia Newton-John.

Article continues below advertisement

In an interview with BBC Radio after Tandy's passing, Bevan said of his late bandmate, "He was a really dedicated musician. He really studied his craft. His real forte was in the studio. He was Jeff Lynne's right-hand man and was with Jeff all the time in the studio. I couldn't drag them out."

This bond between Tandy and Lynne is evident by the way Tandy popped up as a player on many of the projects Lynne produced outside of ELO, including songs by Dave Edmunds ("Information"), the Everly Brothers ("The Story of Me"), George Harrison ("Cheer Down"), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ("Two Gunslingers"), and Julianna Raye ("I'll Get You Back").

"I remember working with Richard in Jeff’s home studio in Birmingham," Raye told Q in an email. "Aside from his wonderful musicianship, I remember him as a dear friend of Jeff’s and a good hearted human. I’m sad to hear of his loss and sending well wishes to all who knew and loved him."

Tandy also contributed to Lynne's debut solo album, Armchair Theater, returning to acoustic guitar for the singles "Every Little Thing" and "Lift Me Up."

Article continues below advertisement

Tandy's solo endeavors were comparatively limited, although he did re-team with Dave Morgan - his former Ugly's bandmate - for the 1986 concept album EarthRise, which Morgan reissued in a special edition in 2013. When Lynne decided to revive ELO - as a name, if not necessarily as the same band - after an extended hiatus in 2001, Tandy was there, and while he didn't contribute heavily to the new studio albums that would gradually emerge, he did return to the road with Lynne, most notably performing for their 2014 Hyde Park performance.

Appropriately, the final (Jeff Lynne's) ELO song to which Tandy contributed was a track on the band's 2019 album From Out of Nowhere entitled "One More Time." Indeed, insofar as Q can determine, this was actually the last recorded song by any artist to feature Tandy, which makes it doubly poignant.

Article continues below advertisement

Never miss a story — sign up for the Q newsletter for the latest music news on all your favorite artists, all in one place.


Subscribe to our newsletter

your info will be used in accordance with our privacy policy

Read More