Electric Light Orchestra

Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) are a British rock group from Birmingham, England who released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001. ELO were formed to accommodate Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne's desire to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones. After Wood's departure following the band's debut record, Lynne wrote and arranged all of the group's original compositions and produced every album. Despite early singles success in the United Kingdom, the band were initially more successful in the United States, billed as "The English guys with the big fiddles". They soon gained a cult following despite lukewarm reviews back in their native United Kingdom. By the mid-1970s, they had become one of the biggest-selling acts in music. From 1972 to 1986, ELO accumulated 27 Top-40 hit singles in both the UK and the US. The group also scored 20 Top 20 UK hit singles, as well as 19 Top-20 hit singles in the US (as charted by Billboard Magazine). The band also holds the record for having the most Billboard Hot 100, Top 40 hits of any group in US chart history without ever having a number one single.


The 3 founding members: Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, Bev Bevan
In the late 1960s, Roy Wood -guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of The Move- had an idea to form a new band that would use violins, cellos, string basses, horns and woodwinds to give their music a classical sound. Jeff Lynne, frontman of fellow Birmingham group The Idle Race, was excited about the concept. In January 1970, when Carl Wayne left The Move, Lynne accepted Wood's second invitation to join the band on the condition that they focus their energy on the new project. On 12 July 1970, when Wood added multiple cellos to a Lynne-penned song intended to be a Move B-side, the new concept became a reality and "10538 Overture" became the first Electric Light Orchestra song. To help finance the fledgling band, two more Move albums were released during the lengthy ELO recordings. The resulting debut album, The Electric Light Orchestra, was released in 1971. It was released in the United States in 1972 as No Answer, the name being chosen because a record company secretary had tried to ring the UK company and get the name of the album; since they were unable to contact them they left a note saying "No Answer". "10538 Overture" became a UK top-ten hit. Lynne, Wood and Bev Bevan (drums, percussion) were the founding members of Electric Light Orchestra. They were joined by Bill Hunt (horns, keyboards) and Steve Woolam (violin) on the debut album and also by Wilfred Gibson (violin), Hugh McDowell (cello), Mike Edwards (cello), Andy Craig (cello) and Richard Tandy (bass). ELO's debut concert took place on 16 April 1972 at The Greyhound Pub in Croydon, U.K.

10538 Overture

Mr. Radio

However, tensions soon surfaced between Wood and Lynne due to problems with management. During the recordings for the band's second LP, Wood left the band taking cellist McDowell and horn player Hunt with him to form Wizzard. Despite predictions from the music press that the band would fold without Wood, who had been the driving force behind the creation of ELO, Lynne stepped up to lead the band, with Bev Bevan remaining on drums, joined by Wilfred Gibson on the violin, Richard Tandy (now on the Moog synthesiser), Mike de Albuquerque on bass and vocals and Mike Edwards and Colin Walker on cellos. The new line-up performed at the 1972 Reading Festival. Barcus Berry pick-ups, now sported by the band's string trio, allowed them to have proper amplification on stage for their instruments, which had previously been all but drowned out by all the sound of the other electrified instruments. The band released their second album, ELO 2 in 1973, which produced their first US chart single, a hugely elaborate version of the Chuck Berry classic "Roll Over Beethoven". ELO also made their first appearance on American Bandstand.


During the recording of the third album, Gibson was let go after a dispute and Walker left since touring was keeping him away from his family too much. Mik Kaminski joined as violinist, while remaining cellist Edwards finished the cello parts before McDowell returned to ELO from Wizzard. The resulting album, On the Third Day, was released in late 1973, with the American version featuring the popular single "Showdown."

Ocean Breakup/King Of The Universe

In the Hall of the Mountain King

For the band's fourth album, Eldorado, A Symphony, a concept album about a daydreamer, Lynne stopped overdubbing strings and hired an orchestra and choir instead. Louis Clark joined the band as string arranger. The first single of the album, "Can't Get It Out of My Head", became their first US Billboard charts Top 10 hit, and Eldorado, A Symphony became ELO's first gold album.

Laredo Tornado

Mister Kingdom

After the release of Eldorado, bassist and vocalist Kelly Groucutt and cellist Melvyn Gale joined, replacing de Albuquerque (who, like Walker before him, quit since the ELO tours were keeping him away from his family too long) and Edwards respectively. The line-up stabilised. ELO had become successful in the United States at this point and the group was a star attraction on the stadium and arena circuit with spectacular shows including massive flying saucer stage sets and vibrant light and laser displays, as well as regularly appearing on The Midnight Special (1973, 1975, 1976 & 1977) more than any other band in that show's history with four appearances.

Face the Music was released in 1975, producing the hit singles "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic". The opening instrumental "Fire On High", with its mix of strings and blazing acoustic guitars, saw heavy exposure as background music on CBS Sports Spectacular montages, though most viewers had no idea of the song's origins. "Fire On High" contains a backwards message in the beginning. When the song is played backwards, a message voiced by drummer Bev Bevan can be heard stating, "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back." That was  ostensibly Jeff Lynne's shot at backmasking hysteria, after false  occultist allegations were made against their song "Eldorado" by Fundamentalist Christianity members. The back cover of the record sleeve shows the members of the band with their faces pressed against a glass panel, supposedly watching the "electrocution" depicted on the front cover.

Fire On High

Face the Music album

With the album Face the Music, the band took to a decidedly more commercial pop rock sound. Later they embraced disco and electronica as well, consolidating their commercial success.

Prog Rock influenced albums

The Electric Light Orchestra / No Answer (US edition) (1971):
1. 10538 Overture
2. Look at Me Now
3. Nellie Takes Her Bow
4. The Battle of Marston Moor
5. First Movement
6. Mr. Radio
7. Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)
8. Queen of the Hours
9. Whisper in the Night

ELO 2 (1973):
1. In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)
2. Momma - Mama (US edition)
3. Roll Over Beethoven
4. From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)
5. Kuiama

US cover
On the Third Day (1973):
1. Ocean Breakup/King of the Universe
2. Bluebird Is Dead
3. Oh No Not Susan
4. New World Rising/Ocean Breakup (Reprise)
5. Showdown
6. Daybreaker
7. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
8. Dreaming of 4000
9. In the Hall of the Mountain King (Edvard Grieg) 

Eldorado (1974):
1. Eldorado Overture
2. Can't Get It Out of My Head
3. Boy Blue
4. Laredo Tornado
5. Poor Boy (The Greenwood)
6. Mister Kingdom
7. Nobody's Child
8. Illusions in G Major
9. Eldorado
10. Eldorado Finale