Sunday, February 27, 2011


Yes, they are the band whose tune you're tapping your foot to, but haven't the faintest clue who wrote it.  Whether or not you're man enough to admit it, it's hard to argue that Electric Light Orchestra, or simply ELO, wasn't one of the great pop-rock bands of all-time.  With 27 Top 40 hit singles in both the UK and the U.S.,  ELO holds the record for having the most Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hits of any band in U.S. chart history (without ever having a number one single).  Black Eyed-who??  Yet, for reasons unknown to this author, ELO's legacy has failed to be taken seriously except for a niche of audiophiles, music dorks and "superfans" (I guess the spaceship theme didn't help the cause).  Hell, most people born after 1980 probably have never even heard of the band, let alone their prodigious front man, Jeff Lynne.  Lynne, who was sporting the beard, bushy hair, and aviators well before the popularity of the "L" train, single-handedly composed and arranged every one of ELO's infinite catalog of hits.  It's no wonder that he was sought out by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr to work on their respective solo releases at one time or another.  In fact, Lynne was instrumental in helping to arrange and record both "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" for the Beatles' Anthology.  Take that George Martin!

But back to ELO.  I think it's time they seriously considered re-forming and re-touring.  If history has taught us anything, bands go through waves of popularity and if you don't exploit those waves at the right times, you run the risk of falling into the much-dreaded void of rock obscurity.  Take for example, Kiss and Eagles, both of whom famously reunited in the mid-90's and hit it big.  Listening to much of their material as of late, I think ELO has a chance at redemption; a chance to reclaim the respect they once enjoyed.  Why you ask?  Because, first and foremost, their songs are "poppy" as hell.  But more importantly, I think they exude that certain degree of kitsch that would undoubtedly appeal to the younger gens.

But despite their endless incarnations and offshoots, the surviving members of ELO have failed to tour since the early '80's.   The closest we got to a "reunion" tour (in reality, Lynne was the only true member) was in 2001; however, the illness/passing of his close friend George Harrison caused a much distressed Lynne to cancel the tour indefinitely.  So, here we are, roughly 10 years later, and I'm rallying the troops for a comeback.   Why not try a limited schedule and test the market?  Radio City perhaps?  Strike that -- do it right: bring out the full orchestra and play Carnegie Hall.  If Trey can do it, I'd be damned if they couldn't either!

Jeff Lynne fact #47:  He co-wrote the Tom Petty mega-hit, "Into the Great Wide Open."

ELO, "Showdown" Rockpalast (1974)


WeightStaff said...

Great writeup. I don't know nearly enough about ELO.

The song you posted sounded really familiar...and I realized what I was hearing in it was Neil Young's 'Lotta Love'. Check it out:


WeightStaff said...

classic neil footage -- that rare period when he was sporting the short hair.

when you said it sounded familiar, i thought maybe it evoked memories of this classic movie scene:


Anonymous said...

Jeff Lynne will always be a head scratch-er for me. I dont get it? yes he was sought after by the greatest recording artists of our time, and yes he was intimately involved with some great recordings over the past 30-40 years...but...his signature sound kills those records. that overproduced layered guitars, synthesized keys steals all of the rawness and rootsiness from those tracks. Those Tom Petty albums would have been classics if they were recorded as Wildflower was recorded, or better yet, stripped down and live. George Harrison's records sound dated today, and thats not because of the songs but the production.

just my opinion.

im still convinced ive seen J.Lynn at various BBKINGBLUESCLUB shows.

Anonymous said...

that clip is great. wanna feel real bad about yourself...Lynne was 27 here.

WeightStaff said...

"We're gonna play Electric Light Orchestra from last year, Showdown, which I thought was a great record and I was expecting it to be #1 but I don't think UA [United Artists] got their fingers out and pushed it. And it's a nice group -- I call them 'Son of Beatles' -- although they're doing things we never did, obviously. But I remember a statement they made when they first formed was to carry on from where the Beatles left off with Walrus, and they certainly did."

-- John Lennon on ELO (9/28/74)

and the sound clip to prove it: