As if they hadn’t done enough already, the Beatles introduced yet another new idea into the world of rock music by incorporating cellos, violins and other classical instruments into their songs. Inspired by the Fab Four’s pioneer spirit, Roy Wood, guitarist for The Move, formed a new band that would experiment exclusively with the fusion of rock and classical. The result was the Electric Light Orchestra, a prolific group that quickly became a staple of 70s radio and beyond, thanks to an impressive 27 Top-40 hits.
In 1971, Electric Light Orchestra–or ELO–released a self titled debut album, which included the UK Top 10 hit, “10538 Overture.” Most of the band made the united decision to replace Roy Wood with Jeff Lynne as the guiding spirit behind the music and their second album ELO 2 became a success in the US–including their much-embellished cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” which used some actual Beethoven music.
The ambitious Eldorado, released in 1974, featured a 30-piece string orchestra backing ELO and reached the Top 10; not too shabby for a concept album. The biggest single to come out of that album was “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” a lovely ballad. The following year’s Face the Music spawned another Top 10 hit with “Evil Woman,” that was also quite popular on the dance charts. The best performing album to date for the band was A New World Record which delivered a ton of hits like “Telephone Line” and “Living Thing.”
More hits followed in 1977, on the album, Out of the Blue, featuring songs such as “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Turn to Stone”. Two years later, their next endeavor, Discovery, took a decided turn towards disco, offering such dance hits as “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Shine a Little Love. And, when the new decade arrived, Jeff Lynne and company lent their musical talents to the film soundtrack of Xanadu. As it turned out, the music proved more popular than the film, and the album achieved double-platinum status.
More albums followed in the 80s, returning to the band’s pop roots and leaving disco behind (like we all did). After several Top 10 and 20 hit singles, the band officially split and Jeff Lynne concentrated on producing albums with famous musicians like Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. Under his management, ELO became hugely successful, defying naysayers who scoffed at the mixing of rock and classical music. It turns out, the fusion of the two was a beautiful thing.
If you owned a few of these classic records, or just count ELO as one of your favorite bands from the era, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this unique musical group.