Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
British pop band formed in 1971 by Jeff Lynne (b 30 December 1947), guitar, vocals; and Roy Wood (b 8 November 1946) from the ashes of the Move, adding Bev Bevan (b 25 November 1946), drums; all from Birmingham. Originally they tackled the style of late Beatles experiments fusing classical instruments to a rock rhythm section, and had some problems with sound balance in the live act. Their first album Electric Light Orchestra late '71 (aka Queen Of The Hours) included a top ten UK hit '10538 Overture'. Wood quit in 1972; ELO II included a cover of Chuck Berry's 'Roll Over Beethoven' for a second top ten hit (of 13 '72-81, six in USA '75-81); On The Third Day '73 was followed by Eldorado '74, Face The Music '75 with hit 'Evil Woman'.
Their international breakthrough album was A New World Record '76, with hit singles including 'Livin' Thing' and 'Telephone Line'; it reached no. 6 UK/5 USA in album charts. They kept the banner of 'progressive rock' flying; the albums were wildly unfashionable but commercially successful: Olé ELO '76 was a compilation; Three Light Years '78 a boxed set of reissues; other albums included Out Of The Blue '77, Discovery '79, Time '81; there were more compilations and reissues, The Light Shines On (two volumes) etc. Xanadu '80 was an soundtrack with Olivia Newton-John and others; the film did poorly but the album sold well. A rockabilly-styled 'Hold On Tight' was a top ten single USA/UK '81, but the repertoire was of no real distinction (cumbersome concepts 'Wild West Hero', 'The Diary Of Horace Wimp') despite Lynne's ability to write catchy pop singles ('Mr Blue Sky', 'Last Train To London'); after Secret Messages he regained some credibility working with Dave Edmunds '83-4.
The band employed various musicians; they used synthesized sounds at first but could then afford to hire a real orchestra. In 1983 Bevan left to play with Black Sabbath. The bassist at the band's peak 1974-83 was Kelly Groucutt (b 8 September 1945, Staffordshire; d 19 February 2009 of a heart attack).
A new edition of ELO came back '86 with shows for Birmingham charities; a new album Balance Of Power had a harder, stripped-down sound, including the single 'Calling America'. Lynn helped re-start Roy Orbison's career just before Orbison died, produced his Mystery Girl '89 and joining the Traveling Wilburys with Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and George Harrison; he made solo album Armchair Theatre on Reprise and The Traveling Wilburys Volume 3 '90. Moment Of Truth '91 without Lynne had Bevan with a new lineup as ELO 2. Four-CD The Return Of The Manticore '97 on Essential compiled remastered, re-recorded and unreleased material, but like Churchill's proverbial pudding, it had no theme.