Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs

Electric Light Orchestra Songs

Photo: By Paul Carless [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Our Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs reviews the music of one of the most exciting bands in classic rock history. Electric Light Orchestra has always been a band that has been hard to define according to genre. At times, they were astonishingly progressive, yet they always seemed to be aiming for hit singles in the same manner as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In other words, they were a band of substance, originality, and integrity that celebrated the pop song’s art.

Electric Light Orchestra released their first album in 1971 entitled Electric Light Orchestra. The band’s follow-up album was appropriately titled ELO 2. The band used a clever title for their third record, On The Third Day. As time passed, the band began celebrating success on the pop charts, starting with their 1975 album Face The Music, which contained the mega single “Evil Woman.” The band’s follow up album A New World Record was a monster album that contained hit after hit as so did the follow up Out Of The Blue two record set.

Electric Light Orchestra released thirteen studio albums over the course of their career. Our Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs is a subjective viewpoint of what we believe were the best songs the band released during their extraordinary career.

# 10 – Can’t Get It Out Of My Head

Before Electric Light Orchestra exploded onto the scene with their 1975 Face The Music album, they enjoyed minor success with a series of albums in the early 1970’s. One of the band’s earliest hits was the sentimental grooving ballad “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.” The song was released on the 1974 album entitled Eldorado. “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” was a top 10 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number nine.

The band on the album featured Jeff Lynne on lead & backing vocals, acoustic-electric & guitars, and bass, Bev Bevan on drums, Richard Tandy on keyboards, Mike de Albuquerque on bass, Mike Edwards and Hugh McDowell on cello, and Mik Kaminski on violin. The song “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” was composed by Jeff Lynne.

# 9 – Showdown

The great rocking track “Showdown” was released on the band’s third album, On The Third Day. The record was released in 1973. Over the years, the song “Showdown” became one of the band’s most exciting songs in concert. Released in 1973, The song “Showdown” did not appear on the original UK version of the album. However, it was issued on the U.S. version of the record. The Beatles influenced Jeff Lynne in so many ways. It seems that the concept of releasing different versions of albums in both the United States and the United Kingdom, as The Beatles did, was echoed by Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra.

The album featured Jeff Lynne on lead & backing vocals, electric & guitars, and bass, Bev Bevan on drums, Richard Tandy on keyboards, Mike de Albuquerque on bass, Mike Edwards and Hugh McDowell on cello, and Mik Kaminski on violin, with a guest appearance by T. Rex guitarist Mark Bolan.

# 8 – 10538 Overture

The mighty sound of the Electric Light Orchestra was showcased early in the band’s career with the great track “10538 Overture.” This excellent piece of music was released on the band’s debut album. It stood as the opening song on the album. Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan had formed the band Electric Light Orchestra as the follow-up band to their group The Move, which they disbanded to create ELO.

Progressive music became a very popular musical format in 1972. Some would argue that the early 1970s were the peak moment in Progressive Rock. Bands like Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer enjoyed great success. It was obvious that Progressive Rock had a considerable influence on the formation of the Electric Light Orchestra and the move from the Move!

# 7 – Fire On High

The opening track on the legendary 1975 Face The Music LP became one of the most-heard songs in the mid-1970s due to its use on CBS Sports Spectacular.  From the song’s creepy opening to the sports-themed glass-sounding mighty guitar riff, it has remained one of the most interesting and exciting Electric Light Orchestra songs in the band’s catalog.

The track opens with a unique feature where, when played in reverse, a deep, altered voice, identified as ELO drummer Bev Bevan, delivers a message: “The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!” This was Jeff Lynne’s response to the panic over backmasking, sparked by accusations from some fundamentalist Christian groups that their song “Eldorado” contained satanic messages. The album’s beginning also includes elements from Handel’s “Messiah.”

Although the song is largely instrumental, the title is subtly integrated towards the end, whispered by a background choir. The opening part of the composition draws inspiration from the “Dies Irae,”

The significant piece “Fire On High” defined the Electric Light Orchestra’s attempt to merge classical and rock music into one song. It was a concept defined in the roots of Progressive music, but the Electric Light Orchestra brought an original sound to the crossing of genres.

# 6 – Living Thing/Sweet Talking Woman

Continuing with our list of top 10 Electric Light Orchestra songs, we turn to one of the band’s most successful albums. The previous year’s album, Face The Music, helped the band find a much larger fan base because of the success of the song “Evil Woman.” In 1976, Electric Light Orchestra would become a household name with the release of their fabulous album, A New World Record. The album would spawn a pair of singles that would become some of the biggest hits of their career. The album’s first single was entitled “Living Thing.” The song became a top 20 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It reached the top 10 in many countries worldwide, hitting number one in South Africa.

1976 was a fantastic year for music. The year saw the debut albums from Boston and Heart. Queen was also having incredible success with their Night At The Opera album. The Eagles released Hotel California, David Bowie released Station To Station, Stevie Wonder released Songs In The Key Of Life and The Rolling Stones issued the classic Black and Blue album.

# 5 – Night In The City

The stunning Electric Light Orchestra song “Night In The City” was never released as a single, but the song’s chorus and verses, bridge, innovative introductions, and ending made for one fun ride. Fans may be surprised that we listed this one at number five on our top 10 Electric Light Orchestra songs list, but take a listen, and I think we will win the argument rather easily. This one hails from the album Out Of The Blue.

# 4 – Evil Woman

“Evil Woman” was the song that put Electric Light Orchestra on the map. Jeff Lynne took a simple three-chord progression that Led Zeppelin utilized at the end of “Stairway To Heaven” and added his own touch, melody, and production to score a huge hit. In 1975, ELO had arrived. I love the dramatic and theatrical opening. The song “Evil Woman” was the band’s first platinum-selling record in the United States. It was also their second straight top 10 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Lynne mentioned that this track was the fastest he had ever composed, taking just 30 minutes, and was initially intended as just an additional track for the band’s Face the Music album.

# 3 – Telephone Line

Jeff Lynne’s “Telephone Line” was perfect pop music surrounded by incredible production and originality that made Jeff Lynne one of rock and roll’s greatest treasures. Every genre of music seems to be represented in this classic song. From Doo Wop to pop to progressive. It’s all there.

The song “Telephone Line” was released on the New World Record album in 1976. It was the fourth single to be released from the record. What was so surprising about the song was that even as the fourth single released from the album, it reached the US Billboard Top 10, peaking at number seven. “Telephone Line” was the band’s first number one single, reaching the top spots in Canada and New Zealand.

# 2 – Mr. Blue Sky

ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” opens up with a bouncing piano groove at the song’s beginning, one of the coolest rock and pop licks you have ever heard. “Mr Blue Sky” was a hit when it was first released in 1977, but the song’s popularity has continued to grow. The song was issued on the Out Of The Blue album. The song was released as the second single from the album behind the album’s debut single “Turn To Stone.” “Mr. Blue Sky” would become the band’s biggest-selling single, having sold over three million records in the United States alone.

# 1 – One Summer Dream

Our choice for the number one slot on our top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs list may surprise the occasional ELO fan, but we stand by our choice. This jaw-dropping, emotionally filled piece of music closed the Face The Music album. This is as beautiful as popular music gets. The song stands as the band’s most underrated song and easily one of the most unheralded gems of the 1970s. It deserves so much more recognition than it ever got.

Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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  1. Avatar Todd B February 8, 2024

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