Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Look At Me Now” — Electric Light Orchestra (1971)

Someone is waiting, lurking in the trees
The spirit of her is walking back to me
Ah, look at me now, feeling emotion…

What happens when the Reaper himself is betrayed by a beating heart? Eleanor Rigby-styled orchestrations never felt so chilling before…

Electric Light Orchestra continued the baroque pop trend that began in the mid-60s and ran with it like no one’s business, crafting dozens of symphonic-rock hits and radio classics throughout the 70s and into the early 80s. But there was something really unique about the collaboration between Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood, who formed ELO after the dissolution of their previous band The Move. Roy was a multi-instrumentalist who, along with standard guitar and bass duties, also played oboe, clarinet, recorder, even the krumhorn on their self-titled debut album from 1971. He brought a strong classical sensibility to that record that was never really followed-up upon with subsequent releases, as Wood left the band soon after.

As much as I love ELO, I wonder what Wood might have contributed, especially if it would have resulted in wonderfully sinister (yet undeniably catchy) tracks like Look At Me Now, a delightfully haunting song that combines the dignified strings of a chamber quartet with exotic Middle Eastern tones, a combination which musically seems wildly thrilling and offputtingly discordant all at once. Yet it works, giving the song an otherworldly presence that feels like the on-screen accompaniment to a high-flying Terry Gilliam fantasy movie.

The subject matter, however, is dark and creepy enough to merit its inclusion in our list of Halloween songs. Open to interpretation, of course, but clearly the song deals with a girl’s murder in a forest. I always read the narrative in its simplest form: The King has an affair with the girl, and eventually decides to dispose of her, ordering his executioner to drag her out into the wild and do the deed. The executioner does so, cutting off her head, as he has done entirely too many times in his Lord’s service. And yet this time, instead of his usual chilly detachment, some measure of emotion permeates his coldness. He feels something for her. Pity perhaps, remorse even, maybe love? Who knows… but whatever it is, it haunts him, and he curses himself for it.

And then perhaps, he follows after her…

Look at me now so cold and yet so brave
Weave me some wings to take me to her grave
Ah, look at me now, feeling emotion