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Electric Light Orchestra: Mr Blue Sky

British band, Electric Light Orchestra, plays an unusual mix of music, which has been described as progressive pop, symphonic rock and classical music, all rolled into one. Since forming in Birmingham in 1970, the band has enjoyed a long and successful career.

They have released a multitude of records, including 50 singles, 13 studio albums, 40 compilation albums, five live albums and 33 music videos. Between 1972 and 1986, they achieved more combined UK and US top 40 hits than any other group on the planet.

They had twenty top 20 singles in the UK and fifteen top 20 singles in the US charts during this period and they also won 19 Canadian, 21 American and 38 British music industry awards, selling 50 million records worldwide.

Electric Light Orchestra

 

Early years

The band formed in 1970, after Roy Wood, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of 1960s band The Move, decided it was time to try something new. He wanted to form a band that would use more unusual instruments, such as cellos, violins, woodwind instruments and horns, to play a classical rock sound.

Jeff Lynne, lead vocalist of fellow Birmingham band The Idle Race, was enthused by the idea and accepted Wood's invitation to join his new band. They called themselves the Electric Light Orchestra - a name taken from the popular light orchestras of the late 1960s.

Wood had been inspired by Denny Laine's Electric String Band and liked the concept of using traditional light orchestra instruments, combined with the more usual electric rock instruments, to create a unique sound. The name, Electric Light Orchestra, seemed ideal to describe what they were aiming to do musically.

 

Career highlights

Their first single was 10538 Overture, written by Lynne and released in 1972. They were joined by drummer Bev Bevan, the third founding member of ELO, for the recording. It reached a respectable number nine in the UK singles chart.

Their first live concert was at the Greyhound Pub in Croydon on 16th April 1972, when they were joined on stage by keyboard player Bill Hunt, cellists Mike Edwards, Hugh McDowell and Andy Craig, violinist Wilfred Gibson and bass player Richard Tandy.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Electric Light Orchestra released a succession of top 10 albums and singles, including two albums that reached number one in the UK charts: Discovery in 1979 and Time in 1981, both of which went platinum.

The band achieved global success, charting in Australia, the United States, Japan, Austria, Germany, Italy, Holland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden. They had several more platinum albums, including Eldorado in 1974, A New World Record in 1976 and Out of the Blue in 1977.

 

Mr Blue Sky

Their most famous single from Out of the Blue was Mr Blue Sky, written by Jeff Lynne and peaking at number six in the UK singles chart. Lynne described how he wrote the song while locked away in a Swiss chalet in self-imposed solitude.

He was struggling to write the band's follow-up to the best-selling New World Record. Staring at the dark, misty weather for two weeks, he wasn't feeling any inspiration. Then, one day, he woke up to brilliant sunshine and recalled thinking how beautiful the Alps looked.

He wrote Mr Blue Sky first, followed by thirteen other songs over a two-week period. The arrangement of Mr Blue Sky was called "Beatlesque" by the critics, who claimed it bore similarities to the Beatles' A Day in the Life, while its first four chords had been previously used on Yesterday.

The song was also said to contain a hidden message written by Lynne, who was apparently a fan of leaving secret messages in a number of his songs. It contains the words, "Please turn me over," because on the album, it's the final song on the disc.

 

New tour

The Electric Light Orchestra is still together and touring today. Despite two breaks in performing over the years, they reformed in 2012 and have been together since. Since 2014, they have been billed as Jeff Lynne's ELO, with the line-up including Richard Tandy and a backing orchestra.

They have just kicked off a tour of the United States, for the first time in more than 30 years, beginning at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Some of their singles from 1972 to 1978 are set to be re-released in September in a vinyl boxed set, while a new EP is also scheduled for release later this year.

The 15 singles on the forthcoming compilation, UK Singles Volume One: 1972-1978, will also include the original B-sides to every track. The recordings have been digitally remastered and will feature reproductions of the original singles' covers and labels.

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