The Sunday Dozen: Electric Light Orchestra

I’ve had a long and somewhat odd relationship with ELO. I saw them twice during my misspent youth and thought they were awesome. As I entered my music snob phase, I considered them sell-outs to the prog rock cause. I failed to realize that they were the original pop-prog band, which over time has become one of my favorite genres.

My love for ELO was renewed by Dr. A. I figured if she liked them, they had to be good. She was right, I was wrong. She’ll like hearing that.

I decided it was best to admit my years as an ELO apostate at the top of this post. I missed out on some great music. The good news is that the music was there waiting for me to come back to it. One could even say I faced the music.

As I did some cursory research on the band, I stumbled on some kids who just discovered the lush wonders of ELO. One who will remain nameless and unlinked to even asked: Is it just me or do ELO sound like The Beatles?

In a word: Yes.

The Beatles music, especially Sgt. Pepper, influenced Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne to move on from The Move and form Electric Light Orchestra. Wood left the band after the first album leaving it in the capable hands of Jeff Lynne.

The ELO Dozen consists of original songs. I save the covers for lagniappe.

I also decided to rule out songs from the two Jeff Lynne’s ELO albums. They’re swell but I had to draw the line somewhere. As I’ve said before, the dozens are a cruel mistress.

As ELO are one of the greatest singles band in rock history, I focused on the hits. Jeff Lynne had an uncanny knack for writing catchy and chart-ready songs. Make that chart-ready songs with complex arrangements.

As always, the list is in chronological order and reflects my own personal taste. I make no pretense to being an ELO expert. It’s all about the music. Let’s face it.

The strings on Showdown always send shivers down my spine. Do I need a rock and roll doctor? Never mind. That’s a Little Feat tune.

I saw ELO on the Eldorado tour. It remains my favorite of their albums. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head is one of Lynne’s loveliest songs. I once suggested to Art Neville that Aaron should cover the song. I received a quizzical look in return. Oh well, what the hell.

Boy Blue is one of ELO’s finest tunes. Who among us doesn’t love the pizzicato on this song?

Richard Tandy’s piano introduction to Evil Woman is the stuff of musical legend.

Strange Magic is a strangely beautiful song that I strangely enough used as a Saturday Odds & Odds theme song last year. I’ll skip the obvious Strangers In The Night joke because Frank hated that song and so do I.

I played A New World Record the other day. I was in training for this post. Every time I hear Telephone Line, I say the same thing: That is such a Macca song. Not a bad thing at all.

Livin’ Thing is an insanely catchy song with a swell chorus: “It’s a livin’ thing. It’s a terrible thing to lose. It’s a givin’ thing. What a terrible thing to lose.”

One of Jeff Lynne’s strengths as a lyricist is to put everyday phrases to good use in his songs. Turn To Stone is one of the best examples of that gift.

Sweet Talkin’ Woman is one of the highlights of my second favorite ELO album, Out Of The Blue. It’s sweet and it talks. What’s not to love?

Mr. Blue Sky is my favorite ELO song. It was the centerpiece of a 2006 episode of Dr. Who, Love & Monsters, during the tenancy of David Tennant as the Doctor.

There’s a more recent animated video that brings out the song’s Lennon-esque qualities.

I’ve always thought of Don’t Bring Me Down as a rockabilly song with a string section. It flat out rocks.

Alright is the opening track on ELO’s first album in 15 years. It’s more than alright, it’s excellent.

That concludes the Electric Light Orchestra Dozen. It’s time to zoom on to some lagniappe.

Roll Over Beethoven was the band’s first radio hit. It’s a perfect melding of Berry and Beethoven and proof of Jeff Lynne’s brilliance as an arranger and producer.

Do Ya is a remake of one of Jeff Lynne’s songs from his days with The Move. I also dig Todd Rundgren’s version. Notice that I call it a remake, not a cover since the songwriter re-recorded¬† his own tune.

Jeff Lynne was the primary songwriter of one of the Traveling Wilburys’ finest songs:

Finally, representing Jeff Lynne’s ELO, From Out Of Nowhere:

I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Fun is the essence of ELO’s music.

The last word goes to Jeff Lynne:

2 thoughts on “The Sunday Dozen: Electric Light Orchestra

  1. The high/low end filtering and then fading them both out at the beginning of Lynne’s vocal on “Telephone Line” is one of the best production tricks ever recorded.

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