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Double concept albums and rock operas: inside the wild world of Eloy

Fifty years into their career, German proggers Eloy are still going strong. Fresh on the heels of their Joan Of Arc double concept album, founder member Frank Bornemann reveals all…

Adored by a huge fan base in their native Germany but very much a cult concern everywhere else, Eloy must surely be progressive rock’s greatest unsung heroes. Founded by singer/guitarist Frank Bornemann in Hannover in 1969, they emerged at a time when all eyes were on the English scene and the very notion of German prog rock was still in its infancy.

Against the odds and 50 years on, Eloy are very much alive and well and enjoying a fresh surge in popularity following the release of elaborate new concept piece The Vision, The Sword And The Pyre. Bornemann may now be in his seventies, but as he graces Prog with an impressively detailed history of his band’s five decades, his energy levels and unbridled enthusiasm for making adventurous music remain undimmed. That said, he does note that Eloy very nearly fell at the first hurdle.

“In Germany it was very, very hard at times, particularly in the very beginning,” he recalls. “There just weren’t that many bands in Germany that played their own music at that time. We started in 1969 and our first steps, well, let’s just say that it wasn’t a brilliant start. We made one album for Philips (1971’s Eloy) and it was a complete flop. So I changed the line-up and we tried harder to find our own style of music. We were influenced by some English bands, of course, like Genesis, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and so on, but we were determined to find our own thing, which wasn’t so easy in the beginning.”

The accepted wisdom about Germany’s contribution to the prog rock realm in the 70s is that the wildly experimental efforts of Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream and Amon Düül II were the only show in town. In truth, the Krautrock movement existed in parallel with a more recognisably prog-inclined splurge of bands, all of whom were somewhat overshadowed by their more consciously cool fellow countrymen and the heavyweights of the English prog scene, despite producing some extraordinary music along the way. Eloy’s second album Inside is a great example of how distinctive German prog swiftly became: released on Harvest Records in September 1973, it single-handedly confirmed that Germany had its own credible prog rock force, even if the world at large was to remain stoically immune.

“We had signed to Harvest and it was the home of Pink Floyd and Deep Purple and other famous groups, so I was very pleased about it!” Bornemann remembers with a chuckle. “Inside was the first step in a new direction. That one was released in the United States too and it was quite successful. And now we were doing okay in Germany. We played many, many concerts, and over time we became more and more popular at home.”

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