Maurice talks about Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1983 album Electric Universe…
By the fall of 1983 I was getting bored with R&B. Records like “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes, and “I Can’t Go for That” by Hall & Oates were turning me on. A year or two later it would be “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones. All four songs had a European flavor – pared-down, electronic, and yet very song-driven. This was the direction I felt that Earth, Wind & Fire should go. I wanted to take EW&F into a modern era, to capture the new wave sound out of Europe. It was a risk.
I knew the public had decided for itself what the Earth, Wind & Fire sound was. But I could not let our fans, or anyone else, dissuade me from moving into new musical horizons. A part of my motivation as well was that I heard Earth, Wind & Fire’s sound in a lot of songs on the radio.
I made a gutsy decision to not use horns on our next album. I wanted to create the power and syncopation of the brass instead with harder-edged synthesizers. To me it was a good idea for a creative shift, and I hoped that radio would respond.
Beyond the experimental musical goals of Electric Universe, lyrically the album was a commentary on the limits and pitfalls of technology, which is a core belief of mine.
In November of 1983, with much anticipation, Columbia released the first single from Electric Universe, “Magnetic.” It tanked spectacularly.
But the commercial disappointment of Electric Universe in particular gave music critics, some in the band, a chance to harshly criticize this new supposedly failed direction I had gone in. I had to take it all in stride, because in the climate of the 1980s music business, a miss was damn near like the end of the world.
With the failure of Electric Universe, I had to relearn a profound lesson: not to push, not to rush. If I had just slowed down and taken time to reflect, I believe I would have waited a year or two, maybe three, to spring a musical change like Electric Universe on the public. I had somehow gotten away from the core ideal that I was enough. It was a strong reminder of something I once heard: that spirituality is like an always-moving dimmer switch. Your light is either getting brighter or darker, moving back or forward. It does not stay static.
– Maurice White. My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire, by Maurice White with Herb Powell, 2016.
Here’s the track “Moonwalk” written by Donald O’Connor and David Porter.