Today’s music video is Shangri-La and this song is performed here by the huge English band Electric Light Orchestra. (ELO)
This video was posted to You Tube by talos124
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been mentioning the ‘family tree’ history behind some bands and artists, and how it’s such a common thing, musicians who start with one band, end up in other bands, and who also then have solo careers across their lives.
The song I have featured today is from a band where the same thing has happened. Sometimes, a song becomes an overnight success, and you become aware of the band, or some of the members of that band, without knowing that they may have already have had long careers.
The ‘magic’ behind this band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was Jeff Lynne in the main, and while the song for today is from that band’s sixth studio album, released in 1976, this band had already been around since 1970, and before that, Jeff Lynne had been a member of three or four earlier bands dating back to 1963. In 1970, he was persuaded to join the hugely popular English band The Move by the leader of that band Roy Wood. The Move was now in the later parts of its distinguished career. Roy Wood had the nagging idea that he could introduce traditional stringed Instruments into modern rock music, and he wanted to see if it could be done. He interested both Jeff Lynne and fellow Move band member Bev Bevan in this idea, and Jeff Lyne said they should consider forming a new band, but only if they actually concentrated on doing exactly that. These three then left The Move, and gathered some Cellists and Violinists and practiced to get the sound right.
The band they formed was given the name Electric Light Orchestra, and they played some concerts and were well received. They then recorded an album, which was self titled, and it did fairly well, and one Single lifted from the album made it into the Top Ten.
A tour of Europe followed, one which proved disastrous, as the Cellos and violins could not be heard above the amplified sound of the main guitars.
Back in England, they started to record a second album. Part way through doing that, Roy Wood, left the band and formed Wizzard. This proved highly successful for him as Wizzard had two huge Number One Singles.
ELO was expected to fold without the talent of Roy Wood. However, Jeff Lynne, now the band’s leader, with Bev Bevan persevered with the sound they had. Jeff Lynne worked out the process of actually being able to hear the Cellos and violins at live concerts and the band was relatively successful, although with no major hits.
The band was in fact quite popular in the U.S. where they toured to packed houses, and they had more hits in the U.S. than in their home Country, the UK. They had three Top Ten Singles in the US, and while their albums sold well enough, they hardly made a huge impression on the albums charts.
All that ended with the release of their sixth Studio Album, A New World Record, released in mid 1976.
It was actually my sister who made me aware of the band, even though I knew of them from the songs being played on the radio, as early as Evil Woman, from their fourth album, and a pretty big hit for the band here in Australia, and three earlier songs from early albums, which were minor hits as well. The band slowly released Singles from this new album. The first of them was Livin’ Thing released almost at the same time as the album. It was also a big hit here in Australia, making it to Number Two on the National Chart, but this was not enough to persuade me to actually shell out my own money to buy the album. The next song from the album was Rockaria, which also made it into the Top Ten. These two hits were popular with my sister, who knew I was now collecting LP’s and she tried to persuade me to get the album they were from. I was home on leave at Christmas time, and she mentioned both songs to me. She mentioned that she thought the song Livin’ Thing was about a woman who had lost a baby, a popular thought at the time, although, later, Jeff Lynne mentioned that was not true and that the song was really about lost love. For the song Rockaria, it featured an opera singer, Mary Thomas, who sings the high parts of the song for the actual recording. During the take for the recording, she made a slight mistake, beginning early, and then realising, says ‘oops’, before starting to sing again. When Jeff Lynne played this back, he thought it was great and left it in for the recording. My sister just loved both of these songs, and she wondered why I seemed so ambivalent about them, considering I saw her again later, after I had got hold of the album, because of that song Telephone Line, and loved it. It was another of those ‘told you so’ occasions.
Then. almost six Months after the release of the album, and with three singles already lifted from the album, I hear the latest Single from the album, Telephone Line. This was just before the time the song was first released as a Single, and as was usually the case, I heard it first on late night radio, only this time in my car. I just loved the song, and it also went on to become a Top Ten Hit here in Australia.
Now, I did go out and get hold of the album, not really remembering what my sister had told me almost four Months earlier. As soon as I saw the track listing on the album, it came back to me, and I wondered why I had never been impressed enough to buy the album, because as I sat down and listened to the album on my stereo unit, I found I liked every song. However, when I flipped it over and played Side Two, I really sat up and took notice as the last track started to play.
That song was Shangri-La, the song I have featured today. It was just such a wonderful song. It also made me (again) wonder why some songs were released as Singles, when in most cases, I usually preferred another song on the album, and this highlighted just that thing for me, as it had so many times before (and since) with albums I had purchased. By now, Jeff Lynne was actually using large orchestral arrangements for studio recording purposes, and just a couple of violins and cellos for live concerts. In this song, the orchestra is quite obvious, and the opera singer Mary Thomas also has a small part near the end of the song.
As I found out later, this album was in fact a Monster, virtually all across the Planet. It was certified as Multi Platinum, and has sold more than 5 million copies.
This was also the first time that ELO used that space ship logo, which became their most recognisable thing for all later albums, and that was the prominent thing on the album cover, which is shown above.
As it was April before I did get hold of this wonderful album, I didn’t have long to wait until the release of their next album, the Double Album, Out Of The Blue, which was an even larger smash than this album was.
Jeff Lynne actually credited this album, A New World Record as the time his music and lyric writing skills actually started to come easier, and the music began to just flow.
The next album after Out Of The Blue was Discovery, which again was just as big as the earlier double album.
With each new album, I was on the doorstep of my favourite record shop to get hold of it as soon as possible.
At one time in the late 70’s ELO was the biggest band on Earth, a credit to Jeff Lynne, who persevered with something which was never going to be easy, and something he turned into an art form.