Friday, December 12, 2014

Electric Light Orchestra, The #28 Artist of the Seventies*

Roy Wood, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with the Move in Birmingham, England, wanted to form a new group that would feature violins, cellos, horns and woodwinds to create popular songs with classical orchestration.   Jeff Lynne, leader of another group in Birmingham, The Idle Race, became interested in the concept and, when Carl Wayne left the Move in 1970, Lynne replaced him.  Drummer Bev Bevan, Bill Hunt (horns, keyboards) and Steve Woolam (violin) joined them to work on the project.  The new band was to become known as the Electric Light Orchestra, but to help get them off the ground, two more albums were released as the Move.

Electric Light Orchestra finished recording their self-titled album (entitled No Answer in the U.S.), which they released in 1971.  The single "10538 Overture" was a #5 hit in France and #9 in the U.K. 

ELO performed for the first time on April 16, 1972 at the Greyhound Pub in Croydon, England with a lineup that also included Wilfred Gibson on violin, Andy Craig, Mike Edwards, Hugh McDowell on cello, and bassist Richard Tandy.  Wood and Lynne, however, began to disagree on the direction of the group, so Wood left the group after the first album.  Wood took McDowell and Hunt with him to form the group Wizzard.  Tandy began playing keyboards in replacement of Hunt, with ELO adding Mike de Albuquerque on bass and vocals, and Mike Edwards and Colin Walker on cello.

This was the lineup in place for the 1972 Reading Festival.  In 1973, the group released the album Electric Light Orchestra II.  The single "Roll Over Beethoven" was the first song by the group to receive widespread airplay--it reached #6 in the U.K. but only #42 in the United States.  Looks like some people in the U.S. dropped the ball on this one, as it is one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

While recording their next album, the group let Gibson go, and Walker left as well.  The group hired Mik Kaminski to play violin.  Later in the year, ELO followed with the release On the Third Day.  The group released the single "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle", which peaked at #22 in the U.K.  Nevertheless, it is another solid track.

McDowell returned to the group for a tour of the United States.  In 1974, the Electric Light Orchestra released the album Eldorado.  The great song "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" rose to #5 in France and #9 in the U.S.

Eldorado went Gold, a first for the group, and the ball was rolling.  After the album, bassist and vocalist Kelly Groucutt replaced de Albuquerque and Melvyn Gale took over from Edwards on cello.  ELO appeared on The Midnight Special four times (1973, 1975, 1976 & 1977), more than any other group in the show's history.

In 1975, ELO released the album Face the Music.  The single "Evil Woman" went all the way to #2 in France, #6 in Canada, and #10 in the United States, the U.K., and Ireland.

The group toured to promote the album, playing 68 dates in 76 days.  ELO pulled another hit from Face the Music, as "Strange Magic" hit #10 in France and #14 in the U.S.  This enabled the album to go Gold.

The band released the compilation album OlĂ© ELO, which also was certified Gold.  In 1976, the Electric Light Orchestra released the album A New World Record.  The single "Livin' Thing" roared to #2 in Australia, #3 in Austria, #4 in the U.K. and the Netherlands, #5 in Germany, #6 in Ireland, # 8 in Canada, and #9 in France.  The United States was the only country in the world that didn't put "Livin' Thing" in the Top 10 at #13, making it another Top Unknown/Underrated Song of the Rock Era*.

A New World Record proved to be one of the best albums of the group's career, selling over one million copies.  "Do Ya" was a re-recording of a song the Move had done, and, at #24, another underrated song. 

The single "Telephone Line" rose to #7 in the U.S., #8 in the U.K., #9 in Canada, and #10 in Australia.

The single "Rockaria!" was only released in selected countries, and given the inefficient program directors in the U.S. at the time, that seems logical.  It of course became another hit for ELO--#7 in Austria, #9 in the U.K. and #10 in Australia. 

A New World Record became a #1 album in Australia and Sweden, and #5 in the U.S.  Had program directors and Billboard magazine paid more attention to the album sales, they would have recognized that A New World Record had quality written all over it.  This is a great track from the album--"Tightrope".

In 1977, ELO released the album Out of the Blue, which also went Platinum.  The single "Turn To Stone" hit #1 in Canada, #9 in France, and #13 in the United States.

A subsequent tour of 92 shows featured an enormous set and a giant space ship with fog machines and a laser display.  ELO played before 80,000 people at Cleveland Stadium in Ohio.  The group also played eight sold-out nights at Wembley Arena in London, a record to that point.  The tour was the highest-grossing tour in history up to that time.  The single "Mr. Blue Sky" went to #6 in the U.K. and #8 in the Netherlands, and is a fan favorite.

The song "Wild West Hero" is another top song on the album--#6 in the U.K. and #9 in Ireland.

The single "Sweet Talkin' Woman" rose to #6 in the U.K., Canada, and Ireland, and #17 in the United States, yet another Top Unknown/Underrated Song of the Rock Era*.

The Electric Light Orchestra released the album ELO's Greatest Hits in 1979, and the album has now topped four million in sales.

In 1979, ELO released the album Discovery.  "Shine A Little Love" was the lead single, going to #1 in Canada, #2 in France, #4 in Ireland, #6 in the U.K., and #7 in the United States. 

Discovery has now topped two million in sales.  "Don't Bring Me Down" become one of ELO's biggest career international hits--#2 in Canada and Austria, #3 in the U.K., #4 in the U.S., #5 in Germany and the Netherlands, and #6 in Australia and Ireland.

The third single, "Confusion" hit #5 in Austria and the Netherlands, and #6 in Germany and France.
Last Train To London by ELO on Grooveshark
ELO pulled another hit from Discovery, "Last Train To London".  It got as high as #3 in France but only a very underrated #39 in the United States.

The group continued with great success into the 80's, essentially disbanding in 1986.  They reformed shortly afterwards with different combinations, and the classic lineup reformed in 2000 to release one final studio album in 2001.

ELO sold over 9.5 million albums in the decade.  They scored 18 hits, with five reaching the Top 10. 

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