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Spotlight on: Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)

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Spotlight on: Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)

Electric Light Orchestra

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Formed:

1970 (Birmingham, England)

Genres:

Pop-rock, Prog rock, Rock and Roll, Disco

Principal Members:

Jeff Lynne (b. December 30, 1947, Birmingham, England): vocals, guitar, keyboards
Bev Bevan (b. November 25, 1944, Birmingham, England): drums
Kelly Groucutt (b. September 8, 1945, Coseley, Stratfordshire, England; d. February 19, 2009, Worcester, England): bass, backing vocals
Richard Tandy (b. March 26, 1948, Birmingham, England): keyboards, backing vocals
Mik Kaminski (b. Michael Kaminski, September 2, 1951, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England): violin
Hugh McDowell (b. July 31, 1953, Hampstead, London, England): cello
Melvyn Gale (b. January 15, 1952, London, England): cello

Claims to fame:

  • Merged classical, rock, and pop in a seamless way no rock act has done before or since
  • One of the Beatles' major stylistic heirs
  • Their innovative live show, featuring a full-size spaceship on stage, helped make them a legendary concert draw
  • Singer/songwriter Jeff Lynne is one of rock's great pop tunesmiths

Early years:

The British pop band The Move enjoyed several hits in their native country through 1970, many directly inspired by the experiments of The Beatles: "Blackberry Way," "Tonight," and "I Hear The Grass Grow," sometimes balanced with rather heavy power-pop numbers. Founder Roy Wood was growing dissatisfied with singer Carl Wayne, however, and envisioned a new project: a symphonic pop band that would "pick up where the Beatles left off." Wood enlisted fellow members Jeff Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan to add cellos to a planned Move b-side, "10538 Overture." The result was a hit, and the trio left The Move to form ELO.

Success:

Electric Light Orchestra (often abbreviated ELO) made a very baroque self-titled debut, but Wood, already growing restless, left to form the glam rock band Wizzard, leaving Lynne to go it alone with Bevan. Jeff fleshed out the band, even going so far as to add two cellists and a violinist, and forged ahead, making some inroads into the US with a very literal cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." After dabbling in prog rock, however, Lynne turned to pop, and the hits began to come: "Showdown," "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Evil Woman." The hits, along with an elaborate arena show, made ELO a 70s favorite.

Later years:

The group only became poppier and more popular, but it soon allied itself with the burgeoning disco movement, leading to their "Xanadu" duet with Olivia Newton-John and alienating the band's base. Even though ELO landed a few more hits, its time was largely over. Lynne, however, went on to become one of the great producers of the 80s and 90s, producing Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever," George Harrison's comeback "Cloud Nine," and Roy Orbison's comeback single "You Got It"; eventually all of the above joined Bob Dylan in the Traveling Wilburys. An abortive attempt at relaunching the ELO brand was attempted in 2001.

Other ELO members:

Roy Wood (1970-1972; vocals, guitar, bass, drums, cello, clarinet, bassoon, oboe, recorder)
Bill Hunt (1970-1972; drums)
Steve Woolam (1970-1971; violin)
Wilfred Gibson (1972–1973; violin)Colin Walker (1972–1973; cello)
Mike Edwards (1972-1974; cello)
Mike de Albuquerque (1972-1974; bass, vocals)

Other ELO facts and trivia:

  • The band's name is a pun on "pops" orchestras that play popular music; in Britain they're known as "light" orchestras
  • After hearing "Showdown," John Lennon began admiringly referring to the band as "Beatles Jr."
  • Parodied by Randy Newman in his 1979 song "The Story of a Rock and Roll Band"
  • Officially shortened to "ELO" in 1981
  • The group's self-titled debut album was named No Answer in the US due to a transatlantic miscommunication
  • Lynne started Jet, one of the decade's premiere artist-owned boutique labels
  • Lynne balked at using "Livin' Thing" in the movie Boogie Nights, until he saw the film and declared it "genius"

Recorded work:

Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Can't Get It Out of My Head" (1974)
  • "Evil Woman" (1970)
  • "Telephone Line" (1977)
  • "Don't Bring Me Down" (1979)
  • "Shine a Little Love" (1979)
  • "Xanadu" with Olivia Newton-John (1980)
  • "Hold on Tight" (1981)
Top 10 albums:
Pop:
  • Face The Music (1975)
  • A New World Record (1976)
  • Out of the Blue (1977)
  • Discovery (1979)
  • Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John (1980)
Other notable recordings: "Mr. Blue Sky," "Livin' Thing," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," "Turn to Stone," "Do Ya," "Strange Magic," "All Over The World," "I'm Alive," "Rock N' Roll Is King," "Calling America," "10538 Overture," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Showdown," "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle," "Daybreaker," "Bluebird is Dead," "Boy Blue," "Eldorado," "Illusions in G Major," "Rockaria!," "So Fine," "Tightrope," "It's Over," "Sweet is the Night," "Wild West Hero," "Confusion," "The Diary of Horace Wimp," "Last Train To London," "Don't Walk Away," "Twilight," "The Way Life's Meant To Be," "Rain is Falling," "Four Little Diamonds," "Stranger," "So Serious," "Alright," "Moment In Paradise"

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