Formed in 1970 by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, ELO was originally conceived as a rock band with classical instruments and sounds — an electrified light orchestra, hence its name. In other words, it was intended to bring the synthesis of Classical Music
and rock that the inchoate genre of Progressive Rock
promised to its logical conclusion. After the release of their first album in 1971, Wood left the band, leaving Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan. That didn't stop them, however. After recruiting some new members, ELO kept getting stronger throughout the 1970s
ELO's sound started changing considerably as time went on. After the release of the concept album Eldorado
, their songs started becoming less classical-sounding and more rock. Out of the Blue
, considered to be their best album, started bringing even more synths into their music, and Discovery
taking a (mostly) disco sound.
Sadly, ELO started to decline after the release of their second concept album, Time
. Secret Messages
was successful at first, but quickly fell off the charts. After three years, Balance of Power
was released and ELO was seemingly finished for good.
In 1989, Bev Bevan and Mik Kaminski created ELO Part II and released an eponymous album the same year. It was followed by Moment of Truth
in 1994. Bevan left in 1999 and sold his share of the ELO name to Jeff Lynne. The remaining members continued to perform and renamed themselves "The Orchestra". They released one more album No Rewind
in 2001. The band is still touring, as of 2012.
In 2001, Jeff Lynne released another ELO album, Zoom
. However, only Lynne and Richard Tandy, the band's primary keyboardist, were featured. Lynne reformed the band with some new members and started a new tour. The tour, however, was cut short, primarily due to the illness and death of Lynne's close friend, George Harrison
Their discography (with notable songs) includes:
- The Electric Light Orchestra (1971) * : "Mr. Radio", "10538 Overture"
- ELO 2 (1973): "Roll Over Beethoven", "Kuiama"
- On the Third Day (1973): "Daybreaker", "In the Hall of the Mountain King", "Showdown"
- Eldorado (1974): "Can't Get it Out of My Head", "Mr. Kingdom"
- Face the Music (1975): "Fire On High", "Evil Woman", "Strange Magic"
- A New World Record (1976): "So Fine", "Livin' Thing", "Do Ya", "Telephone Line"
- Out of the Blue (1977): "Turn to Stone", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Mr. Blue Sky"
- Discovery (1979): "Shine a Little Love", "Don't Bring Me Down"
- Xanadu (1980): "I'm Alive", "All Over the World", "Don't Walk Away", "Xanadu"
- Time (1981): "Twilight", "Hold On Tight"
- Secret Messages (1983): "Four Little Diamonds", "Rock 'n' Roll is King"
- Balance of Power (1986): "So Serious", "Calling America", "Endless Lies"
- Zoom (2001): "Alright", "Moment in Paradise"
This band shows examples of:
- Artifact Title: As time went on, the role of the string section decreased, rendering the "light orchestra" part of their name more and more moot. By the release of Time, the violins had disappeared entirely.
- Ascended Fanboy: Lead singer and Face of the Band Jeff Lynne conceived the band's idea with Roy Wood to be a sort of sequel to The Beatles, taking rock music in the direction "that The Beatles had left off." He later worked with former Beatles members on various projects, including The Traveling Wilburys and producing the "Threetles"* singles "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love".
- Bare Your Midriff: The alternative cover to "On The Third Day" by photographer Richard Avedon has ELO baring their belly buttons for the camera.
- Concept Album: Eldorado and Time. Side Three of Out of the Blue, the "Concerto for a Rainy Day," is a sort of mini-Concept Album on a larger non-concept release.
- Cool Shades: Is Jeff Lynne ever seen without them?
- Cover Version: Covered Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" on ELO 2 and a cover of Del Shannon's "Little Town Flirt" was added for the rerelease of Discovery. The song "Do Ya" was also a cover of an older version written by Jeff for The Move, a band he and Wood had been part of previously.
- And their epic version of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" VIOLIN SOLO!
- Crapsack World: A good number of songs in Time describe the far-off year 2095 in a vaguely depressing way; some of the problems might just be viewed from the lens of a none-too-happy visitor from 1981 ("The Way Life's Meant to Be", "Yours Truly 2095"), but other problems seem to concern things we might find a bit dystopian or environmentally unsound (e.g. some of the "news" items in "Here Is The News").
- Creator Backlash: Against Xanadu.
- Creator Breakdown: Balance of Power was Jeff Lynne's way of saying "I really don't want to keep this band going anymore."
- Earn Your Happy Ending: "The Diary of Horace Wimp."
- Epic Instrumental Opener: One of Jeff's favorite tropes. See also the openings for Eldorado and Time.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Mr. Blue Sky"
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Oh No Not Susan" got away with the word "fucking" during a time when the radio was censored heavily. This may have something to do with it being difficult to distinguish the word with all the double-tracking going on in the song's vocals.
- Greatest Hits Album: Several. For the interested, the most recent (and best) are probably the aptly-named Very Best Of... discs.
- Humiliation Conga: in 'Evil Woman'
- I Am the Band: Jeff Lynne, especially after the release of Zoom.
- Last Note Nightmare: Horace Wimp...Horace Wimp...Horace Wimp...
- Line-of-Sight Name: Their first album is known as No Answer in America, as that's what somebody told the people responsible after he tried calling to find out what the title was.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Calling America" and "So Serious"
- Not to mention "Tightrope," "Julie Don't Live Here Anymore," "Ordinary Dream"... Jeff Lynne loves this trope.
- Meaningless Meaningful Words: "Prologue." It sounds pretty profound, but good luck trying to make any sense of it.
- Missing Episode: From the Secret Messages sessions came the song "Beatles Forever". It was originally slated to be released as part of the album, but it was ultimately left off when the original concept of making the album a double album was canned. Subsequent re-releases of the album have not seen it released as a bonus track and is unlikely to ever see an official release, possibly due to Jeff Lynne's later involvement in projects involving former Beatles members causing him to look back on it as an Old Shame. Bootlegs do exist, though, thanks to an ELO Fan Club Convention that played the song once for its attendees.
- Money, Dear Boy: The only reason why ELO's songs are in commercials in the first place (although Jeff has admitted that he loves seeing his music in movies and TV).
- Motor Mouth: The bridge to "Turn To Stone."
- New Sound Album: While they had been experimenting with synthesizers and electronic music before, Discovery marked a very significant shift in the band's music.
- Old Shame: The soundtrack to Xanadu. Jeff Lynne eventually came to terms with that and released an album featuring some rerecorded Xanadu songs.
- The Pete Best: Roy Wood, one of Jeff's old bandmates from their previous band The Move, who left after the first album.
- Protest Song: "Kuiama" and "Laredo Tornado"
- Punny Name: Electric light plus light orchestra. Get it?
- The band's first logo was a parody of GE's then-current "lightbulb" logo.
- Record Producer: Jeff Lynne produced almost all of the band's albums himself, and would go on to produce many other artists.
- Robot Girl: "Yours Truly 2095"
- Rock Me, Amadeus!: Their covers of "Roll Over Beethoven" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King."
- Something Blues: "Birmingham Blues"
- Song Of Song Titles: "Beatles Forever" is crammed full of Beatles song titles.
- Spiritual Successor: John Lennon himself referred to ELO as The Son of the Beatles.
- Subliminal Seduction: After the band was accused of this, Face the Music and Secret Messages deliberately had backmasking put in as a joke.
- The music is reversible, but time is not! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!
- Revival By Commercialization
- Throw It In: The lead soprano on "Rockaria!" came in too early, but Jeff Lynne found it endearing enough to keep it on the finished track.
- What Could Have Been: Originally, Secret Messages was going to be a 2-disc album including the unreleased track "Beatles Forever". However, the band was advised against it, since their record company claimed it would be too expensive to produce.
- You Are Number Six: "10538 Overture"