The band ELO received a great compliment in 1979 when Randy Newman wrote a song called “The Story of a Rock and Roll Band” expressing his admiration for them. In the song, he specifically mentioned his love for their songs “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Turn to Stone,” and “Telephone Line.” ELO, which was formed in 1971 by Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan, used cellos and violins to give their music a classical sound. (Wild 5)
After the release of their first record, Roy Wood left The Electric Light Orchestra. However, it was Jeff Lynne who proposed the idea for the band while in conversation with Wood. Lynne suggested forming a band that incorporated real strings. At that time, they were both members of The Move but decided to create this experimental side project. Thus, they named it The Electric Light Orchestra. Born on December 30, 1947 in Birmingham, United Kingdom, Jeff Lynne played a crucial role as one of the most significant members of the band.
During his school years, Lynne developed a passion for music and received a guitar from his father when he turned fifteen. Reflecting on the origin of the band’s name, Lynne recalls how initially people found ‘ELO’ quite strange and puzzling: “At the time, people thought ‘ELO’ was pretty bad. It was like ‘The Electric Light what?’. The name was as wacky as the idea really.”
Despite being made of plastic and having only one string, he dedicated himself to practicing it constantly. (Petersdorff 3) Jeff was a devoted fan of the Beatles. “Lynne is asked if he now admits to being a Beatles fan. I confess,’ Lynne says with a laugh. I’m dead guilty of being a Beatles fan.'” (Wild 10) Another member who played a vital role in the band was Bev Bevan. Born Beverly Bevan in Birmingham, U.K. on November 25, 1945, he formed his first professional band, named Denny Lain and the Diplomats, in 1963. Following a brief retirement from music to pursue a career as a furniture salesman, he went on to join Carl Wayne and the Vikings and eventually became a part of The Move, contributing to the creation of ELO. (Petersdorff 4) Richard Tandy also played a significant role as the third important member of ELO.
Tandy was born on March 26, 1948 in Birmingham, U.K. At Moseley Grammar School, he learned to play bass and guitar. His first gig was at Solihull Civic Hall when he was fifteen. He played in several bands before joining ELO. (Petersdorff 5) “Richard Tandy was on keyboards, and he became my right-hand man on most of the ELO stuff.” (Wild 11) The Electric Light Orchestra, which lasted about thirty years and had as many as eighteen members, released their first single in 1971. It was titled 10538 Overture in the United Kingdom but due to a miscommunication, it was titled No Answer in the U.S. (Petersdorff 5) In 1974, they released their record, Eldorado.
“One day my dad said to me, ‘No wonder your bloody tunes are no good.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘because they’ve got no tune.’ So the next record I made was Eldorado, which I did to try and make him love it. And he did love it.'” (Wild 13) The album achieved a gold disk. (Landt 6) ELO undertook numerous tours in both the UK and the US. Their most notable tour was The Big Night in February 1978, which became the highest-grossing tour of that time. The tour featured a colossal laser-lit spaceship that opened up to reveal the band performing inside. (Landt 11) ELO was honored with the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the annual Ivor Novello Awards lunch in May 1979. (landt 13) Additionally, in December 1979, “Don’t Bring Me Down” reached the third position on the UK charts and eighth on the US charts.
It was their largest single in the United States. During the song, when Lynne sang the word “groos,” many people mistakenly heard it as “Bruce.” “No, Lynne is not singing “Bruce” in the background vocals for the album’s energetic rocker, Don’t Bring Me Down.” “No, it’s ‘groos’ – just a word I created in the studio to fill in this gap. Everyone loved it, so I kept it in.” Our excellent engineer at Musicland, Mack, said, ‘How did you know that?’ He informed me that ‘groos’ sounded like the German word for greetings.’ However, everyone heard it as ‘Bruce,’ and during all the shows, I ended up singing it that way too.” (Wild 14) In 1980, ELO composed songs for the film Xanadu.
The soundtrack achieved the #2 position on the charts in both the UK and the US. However, the film itself was a commercial failure (Landt 15). The last live performance by the group took place in July 1986. According to Wild (20), their final studio album released in 1986, “Balance of Power,” was a notable album that expressed a sense of melancholy and seemingly anticipated the impending dissolution of the Orchestra. Subsequently, Jeff Lynne departed from the group in 1988. In 1991, the remaining members reunited as ELO Part II, but without Jeff Lynne (Landt 20).