Significant Songs (81)

Telephone Line

Imagine if the Beatles had progressed further. They might have teamed up with the Beach Boys, and created an unusual, very English sound. It would have involved clear crisp vocals, great guitar work, delicious harmonies, and the use of violins, cellos, and electronic oddities like the vocoder, and the synthesizer. There would have been a ‘crescendo’ sound, and a refreshingly unique take on vocal construction, with a nod to the past.

If you can imagine all this, then you have ELO. (Electric Light Orchestra)

Between 1971 and 1986, ELO released eleven albums, achieving great success in the UK, and elsewhere. The writer of most of the songs, guitarist, lead vocalist, and front man, Jeff Lynne, established himself as one of the foremost talents in British pop music during this time. Although they never reached number one on either side of the Atlantic, they sold over fifty million records, and were constantly in the UK and Billboard charts throughout their long career. Originally a mixture of British groups The Move, and The Idle Race, they formed as ELO with both Roy Wood and Lynne, as well as Bev Bevan on drums, as early as 1970. After a change of line-up, with various members coming and going, they hit their stride in 1975, with the release of the album ‘Face The Music’.

A year later, and their album ‘A New World Record’, saw them go to new heights, with more strings, additional orchestral arrangements, and a new batch of songs that captured the imagination. By 1979, they were filling venues all over Europe, and were the biggest-selling group in the UK that year. In 1986, Bevan left the band to join Black Sabbath, and ELO as we knew it was more or less over. Despite occasional attempts to re-form and tour, the original spark was gone, and we are left with only the legacy of their success.

They released so many songs that I like, it is hard to choose. I have settled on one of the less over-produced numbers, proving that they could render a tender love song as well as a huge pop hit.


16 thoughts on “Significant Songs (81)

  1. I was never going to go out and buy any ELO albums but having a look on youtube I’m surprised how much of their stuff I’m aware of.

    I did try and find a video a few years ago… I was talking to a friend about pop videos and one sticks in my mind. Its an animation of a ship or shipwreck floating down a stormy River Thames with the orchestra playing on deck.

    I’ve no idea of the song, the year or even if it was ELO but just remember (for one reason or another) being impressed with the animation.

    If you or your readers know the video, I’d like to see it again.




  2. I love ELO and I’d also have a hard time choosing one of their songs. Perhaps ‘The rain is falling…’ although I quite like their big numbers and I’ve heard that ‘Mr Blue Sky’ is a favourite with many musicians. Although Telephone Line is a great choice.


  3. The name of ELO continues to pop up every now and again; they made quite a mark on music’s history.
    BUT, the Beatles, when they sang, did not sound very British – if they had gotten together with the Beach Boys – they might have come up with music that was neither British or American, but a whole different sound entirely. It’s fun to try and imagine!!


    1. Interesting that you did not feel that the Beatles sounded English. I can even detect their Liverpool accents, particularly with Paul McCartney. I like to imagine that fusion of UK/US sound, and often felt that ELO almost created it. Thanks GP.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good gloriously sunny south east England morning – I am outside making the most of it, struggling to see what I’m writing so forgive any typos – my husband was a dedicated ELO admirer. Yr Significant Songs series is a great unifier of personal memory and popular culture. Brilliant. X


    1. Thanks Pippa. It always interests me how these song posts are received. Some are more or less overlooked, others hit nerves, or take people on trips to the past. Just how it should be, of course.x


  5. I’ll be digging out the vinyl again Pete, I immediately thought of Horace Wimp and Mr Blue Sky when you mentioned ELO.Telephone Line brilliant track, I’m transported back to my childhood round at the Brewster’s house listening with an older Richard who had a crush on my sister and so put up with a younger me to gain favour.


    1. Isn’t it just great how music can take you back to a specific time period and place?
      I think that’s why I like to do these posts so much. You were a kid at the Brewster’s, I was struggling to earn a living running the family off-licence. The song is the constant.
      Cheers Eddy.


  6. Hello Pete, this was a great choice to post about as it brought back so many memories for me. What a wonderful group belting out all those great songs. Back then there were no cell phones in every hand. We actually had to use the telephone. Sadly, most of the telephone booths are long gone, which makes me sort of sad. But, I must keep up with the times, I suppose…

    I shall be humming this tune all evening and loving every minute of my walk down memory lane.

    Take care from Laura


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