Electric Light Orchestra

There are very few conversations that you can have about musicians and bands that were ahead of their time without mentioning, at some point, Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO.

For those of you who may not know who ELO is, you will probably be surprised.  Their music has been used in movies, commercials, television programs as well as being covered by several other groups over the years.  So it is very likely that you have at least heard some of their work and just not realized it.

Founded in 1971 by two guys (Raymond Wood and Jeffery Lynne), they created a group with a sound not entirely unlike the “electronica” sound that you hear today, combining the sounds of violins and organs with the sounds of electric guitars and synthesizers.

Today you might listen to their work and think that this sound is nothing really that spectacular or special, but you have to stop and think for a moment about the time that the music was originally released and who it was that they had to compete with at that time during their formative years.

In July 1971 (1972 in the USA), when their 10538 Overture was released, they were competing against such rock legends at Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, The Bee Gees and various others.  Needless to say, one might think that they really did not have a chance right out of the gates… they had a lot of well established competition.  People were not really ready to listen to something  new, with a completely new sound.

The Overture peaked at number 9 that July, in the USA. So in spite of the odds, they found their market and their niche.  The rest, as they say, was history to be made.

The music did continue to get better and their world appeal increased but personally I think they peaked with the release of the album Time, in 1980.  I still think that it stands as one of their best works as a whole.  That is not to say their other albums were bad, it was just that with the others, there are songs I like and ones I did not.  You know, the ones that you fast-forward through, or skip if you are playing them on a CD.  With Time, I could listen to the entire album and not want to skip a single song.  My two favorites on that album would be Ticket to the moon and Hold on Tight… the later a fairly popular song even to this day.

The band kind of started to fall into disrepair after the release of Time, releasing Secret Messages in 1983 and Balance of Power in 1986.  I am sorry, but even though Secret Messages had a couple good songs on it (Rock and Roll is King and Four Little Diamonds), I feel that the entire album was a parody of themselves and a lame attempt to gain new momentum for the band, which was starting to break up about that time.  The album intentionally included back masked messages on some of the songs… a couple of them I heard, most I did not.   Balance of Power, however, was a noble attempt… they had a good sound and some catchy lyrics, but gone was the original sound of the ELO that I remembered.  It did not have the deep rich “Light Orchestra”  sound that they had become so well known for, having become mostly synth and guitars with no more strings or brass.  In addition, you would think that we should have suspected something was happening when they were no longer using their trademark “spaceship” logo on the front of that album.

In spite of a few attempts to reignite the spark they had, namely the formation of ELO Part Two, in the early nineties, it was apparent that the band was gone.  In 2000 or 2001 the album Zoom was released.  I had been expecting this for a while and was waiting in anticipation for this, not know at the time that the ONLY original member of ELO that woudl be in the band was going to be Lynne… Tandy did participate on one song, but I have a feeling that was because he felt some requirement to do so, nothing more.  The rest of the album had some good music, but I felt that it was more like going to see “The Beatles Experience” after having seen the real thing.  It was fun, and the music was alright, but it was just not the same.

ELO is gone… but I still have the CDs and a couple of the 8-track tapes, somewhere.  Like so many other things in our lives, it is sad to see something like this go.

My message to the remaining band members?  Do not try to put the band back together again.  Leave us with the memories we had.  OK?

Here are some pieces for you that may not be familiar with the work:

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